The most effective trade show booth staffs don’t wait for attendees to approach them—like an excellent host at a party, they step up to greet everyone and make them feel at home. This can take place inside the booth or—even better—at the booth’s perimeter as an invitation to enter.
The objective is to get the visitor to enter and talk—at least long enough for your staff to determine whether or not they’re a member of your target audience. So what do you say to get the ball rolling?
Although the right question will be different for every company, here are six types of exhibit qualification questions that are guaranteed to get the job done:
1. Identify the visitor's needs and challenges. A question such as: “Are you looking for a better way to manage your internal operations?” will give you more information as to the visitor's level of interest and viability as a potential client than broader questions such as “What do you do?” and “How big is your company?”
Not that these questions aren’t important—it’s just that they can wait until after you’ve moved from engaging to qualifying.
2. Highlight a product benefit or differentiator. Instead of asking attendees if they use your product, lead with a benefit statement that reinforces a key selling point. Start a conversation with a question like “How would our product’s lifetime warranty reduce your headaches?” This type of question promotes an important product differentiator. The answer will tell you if the attendee is one of your current customers and reveal if the attendee is facing challenges related to their current supplier.
3. Conduct market research. Some questions both engage attendees and give you insights into market trends. This is especially helpful for companies introducing a new or improved product. Consider a company that is selling a new type of energy efficient window at a builder’s show. By asking “How often do your clients request energy efficient windows?” the exhibit staff can engage, identify the best prospects, and learn more about the market for their product.
4. Target larger customers. Although you can identify “A” leads by asking attendees about the size of their customer base or their yearly revenue, this direct approach can be off-putting to attendees who don’t want to reveal that level of information. Instead, ask about an activity that only applies to a large customer to identify your best prospects in a more subtle way. “Would your company be interested in participating in a high-volume sales rebate program?” is a natural segue to a conversation that includes the company’s purchasing power.
5. Weed out the tire kickers and tchotchke collectors. A certain percentage of booth traffic is just there for the freebies. That’s OK, you just don’t want to spend a lot of time with them. A qualifying question that cuts to the chase and establishes the attendee's interest level helps you politely move the giveaway collectors along.
When attendees are asked a direct question such as “Would you like to learn more about our premium ultra-durable paints or would you like our free paint can opener?” some will choose the giveaway and move on. This gives staff an opportunity to focus on the attendees that have a real interest in the product.
6. Promote a show offer. Show offers are a great way to find motivated buyers and generate trade show ROI. Collateral and signage alone may not be enough to tell attendees about your limited-time-only deal. “Would you like to get $100 worth of free product?” is sure to stop attendees in their tracks, especially the attendees ready to do business. Be prepared to reinforce the value message with product quality information.
No matter what engagement questions you use, be sure that all exhibit staffers are briefed on the questions you’d like them to use—and the answers to be on the lookout for. You might even use role play to practice communicating your messages in a way that comes across as casual conversation.
Consider your engagement questions a way to exchange valuable information and you’ll get your customer relationship off to a great start.