Why is a Tradeshow Prospect Like a Horse?

May 30, 2011 09:53 PM

Trade show Tips from Danny Orleans

Lesson 5 – Why is a tradeshow prospect like a horse?

"I don’t get it," the booth staffer says to me. "You attract 30 people to the booth every 30 minutes. They watch your fabulous presentation and learn about our products and company. But very few talk to me afterward or ask me about our products. What’s up with that?"

      I answered, "You missed my pre-show training session and you obviously don’t own a horse."

      "A what?" he replied, with a very confused look on his face.

      I repeated, "A horse. You don’t own one."

      "No. But what does horse ownership have to do with people not asking questions about our products?"

      "Well, I’m sure you’ve heard the expression about leading a horse to water. It’s true for trade show attendees too. Any company can spend money on a new exhibit, a big rotating sign, cool giveaways, a live presenter, or a fancy flat screen. All of that effort and expense won’t get most attendees to take that big step from the aisle to the booth to interact with the sales force. In the trade show environment, most potential customers need you to break the ice and engage them with the right questions."

      "And what are the ‘right questions’?" he asked, cockily.

      "Well, my presentation serves as the ice-breaker – stopping crowds of people in front of your booth. That’s the hardest part. But after I’m done, it’s easy for you now to begin a conversation and ask some open-ended questions.

      "What do you mean?"

      "Questions that can’t be answered by YES or NO. Questions that will encourage a prospect to talk about him or herself will help you qualify them as a potential customer. Based on their answer, you’ll know whether or not your products and services will be a good fit for them."  


      Examples of a few great open-ended questions for the trade show setting include:

1. So, what brings you to the show?

2. What challenges are you facing now?

3. Tell me about your company.

4. Tell me about your role and responsibilities at your company.

5. What types of solutions are you searching for at the show?


So just like a horse, you can lead a trade show attendee to a booth, but you can’t make him "drink." You have to converse with him first. The Trade Show Survey determined that 90% of the sales attributed to a lead generated at a trade show were because of the staff working the booth. So, once a crowd has gathered around your booth, identify a prospect by their badge. Then use your interpersonal skills to engage him or her in conversation to learn about their strengths, challenges and position in the industry. Use open-ended questions and soon you’ll have them "drinking" -- and eating -- right out of your hand!


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