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I’ve been around long enough to have rented the original Video Arts training film, starring John Cleese, called ‘How not to exhibit Your Self. I trained hundreds of salespeople using the film, it is as entertaining as it is on the button about the mistakes sales people make at exhibitions. It is a very entertaining film that makes you cringe with embarrassment knowing you’ve committed the same errors at some time in your career.
After all these years it would great to see that sales people and business owners have learned the lessons contained in the film. Evidence would suggest that many still commit the same stupid mistakes.
The distressing thing about making the mistakes I’ve spotted at exhibitions large and small over the last couple of years is that they cost the people who have invested in a stand lost leads, lost credibility, lost business and lost profit.
Costly mistakes – not in any particular order of importance!
Not being welcoming
Too many people aren’t welcoming enough on their stands. They stand with their backs to potential customers who walk past whilst salespeople are busy talking to each other, not paying attention or looking out for people who would like to engage in conversation.
Some attendees aren’t necessarily assertive enough to march right up to you on the stand and ask for details of your latest product or service. They’ll linger a little off the stand, trying to work out what you do and if they want to engage or not. If you and your stand look more hostile than welcoming they’ll move on to one that is!
Look for opportunities to engage with visitors and make them feel more comfortable talking to you, rather than driving them away.
Building the stand late or breaking down the stand early
This a mistakes I think I have seen at every exhibition I’ve ever been to.
I realise that exhibitions can be tiring and not it’s not everyone’s idea of how they want to spend their day. But – how could they know that their best prospect would not be first through the door in the morning or last to arrive before the published closing time?
Think of the impression it could make on visitors, other exhibitors and even the show organisers to see a stand being built or broken down during the published opening times. At the very best most people will think they are not really interested in winning business, they might even equate arriving late or leaving early with the standard of service they would get if they became a customer. After all punctuality is a business courtesy that shows you can deliver as promised.
Being over concerned with titles
Far too many exhibitions stare at visitors name badges in order to find out their job titles, trying to work out if they are worth talking to or not.
Prospects know what you are doing and they tire of it very quickly. You might as well be saying “Excuse me. Do you mind if I stare at your name badge in a really weird kind of way? I’m just looking at your job title to find out whether you’re worth talking to or not. If so, great! I’ll be really nice to you. If not, move along. And don’t think you’re taking one of our boiled sweets or entering our business card draw either”.
Experienced exhibition visitors, including me, will go to exhibitions and either not fill in the correct details on the name badge because we don’t want to be leapt upon by every salesperson, or give a more junior job title – because we know that salespeople won’t bother us if we do. How many of those prospects are you missing out on by being over concerned with name badges?
Eating on the stand
You will have spotted this at most exhibitions you have attended and probably wondered why anyone would want to eat or drink in front of a potential customer? Would you go to see them at their offices, and then pull out a pre-packed sandwich from your case and eat it in front of them? The last thing an interested prospect is going to do is try to engage with a salesperson with a mouth full of cheese and tomato!
We have already established that exhibitions can be tiring, but sitting down does not show you in a good light. If you really have to do (on the stand), then make sure your stand is designed so you can sit on bar stools, rather than anything at normal ‘chair’ height. If you’re sitting down, the unconscious message you’re sending to prospects is that they have to disturb you to speak to you. So they probably won’t bother.
Texting or using your mobile
Don’t engage in long texts, social media messages or worse actually making calls. The message you are transmitting is that you are not interested or that other people are more important than giving all your attention to your stand and visitors to the exhibition.
Ok, so mobile phones hadn’t been invented when the “How not to exhibit yourself” was first released, you can have that costly mistake on me!
Your company or maybe even you personally will have invested time, energy and money in any exhibition you attend. Exhibitions and business shows can be a great way to build new relationships and win more business – if you avoid the above costly yet oh so common mistakes.