The success of your trade show booth depends a lot on your booth staff. They need focused trade show training to make sure they work to your best advantage at each show. Train your staff to engage with visitors then identify and convert qualified leads, and they’ll be worth their weight in any currency you can think of.
Your Trade Show Booth Staff Are a Major Asset
Never underestimate the importance of your exhibit staff. They’re your brand ambassadors and a key to your success at every show you attend. This means good training and preparation are essential. Your booth staff should have excellent presentation skills and speaking skills, and be well-versed in business etiquette too.
Trade-show-specific staff training is important even if your booth staff are already trained salespeople. This is because the rhythm of the sales cycle is different at a show compared to sales in the field. In the conventional sales process, a rep can spend an entire day working with a single client. At a trade show, one of your booth staff could talk to three or four different visitors in half an hour. Every visitor is a potential lead, and at busy shows you might be faced with a constant stream of traffic. Every member of the team must know their role.
Train Your Trade Show Staff to Succeed
A good staff training program should start with executive buy-in, meaning support for your team needs to come from the top. Your team will work harder—and training is most effective—if they know management respects and values their efforts.
Sometimes training a great booth team means taking a new, unfamiliar approach. According to trade show trainer and The Hill Group president Matt Hill, “A lot of technical people never thought their jobs involved anything but answering questions or talking to each other. We get them to look at the strategy of the trade show. The basic strategy of going to a trade show is to get face time with people who might become customers. It’s really quite that clean and simple.”
In other words, even your techies need trade show training, not just the dedicated sales staff. When you’re assigning booth roles, you’ll naturally fit each person to a role that best suits their skills. Still, everyone should be ready to engage and converse with booth visitors.
Set Firm Guidelines for Booth Behavior
According to Matt Hill, visitors expect prompt attention when they arrive at your trade show booth. Ideally, a team member should engage a new visitor within 15 to 20 seconds to avoid losing them. You never know when the next big client is going to pass by, so every on-duty member of your team should always be friendly and ready to engage. Nobody should be texting or talking on their phone, eating, or leaning against display cabinets.
It’s handy to create a simple list of “do” and “don’t” behaviors to ensure your staff make a good impression. For instance, as well as being ready to engage new visitors, trade show staff members should be well-groomed and appropriately dressed.
Establish Clear Event Goals and Roles
For your booth staff to be good at their jobs, they need to know exactly what those jobs are. They should have clear job descriptions and well-defined goals. Ideally, they should also have clear guidelines on how to do their jobs.
Most importantly, the staff on your sales floor need specific skills training in how to talk to visitors and how to start and direct conversations. These things are too important to leave to chance and improvisation.
Having well-defined goals is important for your success, because it helps you decide what you need to focus on at the show. The same is true for your staff. If they have clear goals, they’ll work more productively, with a greater degree of focus.
Many exhibitors make the mistake of going for bulk data collection, thinking that the more leads they get, the better. This isn’t always true. If you collect massive amounts of data, all you’re doing is making more work because you have to sift through that big pile to find qualified leads.
Instead, it’s better to focus on identifying qualified leads in the first place, meaning people who express legitimate interest in your company. Your staff can then quickly engage with visitors, ask a few careful questions to find the qualified leads, and handle each new contact appropriately.
Keep Them Motivated
Good training is an important foundation, but trade shows are hard work. Your staff will find it challenging to keep the momentum going over a multi-day event. Make sure you implement some ideas to help them stay motivated for the duration.
- Make their training as thorough as possible – They’ll work more effectively and enjoy the work more if they feel prepared.
- Give them feedback throughout the event – If they have specific goals to meet, keep them updated on their progress.
- Listen to their feedback – If they have suggestions for changing things, give those ideas serious consideration.
- Give staff a say in how the booth is run – They’re the ones working the floor; they’ll have useful ideas on how to streamline things.
- Make sure everyone gets regular breaks and that nobody has to work the booth alone.
One of the most important qualities for exhibit staff is enthusiasm for the work. Natural enthusiasm is best, but it doesn’t hurt to offer incentives to sweeten the deal! Matt Hill’s favorite trick is to hand out $2 bills whenever he sees someone doing a great job. Another option might be to give out gift cards to top performers each day, or as random “spot prizes” for staff members who have successful visitor interactions. Incentives don’t have to be highly priced to make someone feel valued. The recognition itself is a great motivator.
Prepare Your Team for Success
Trade shows are an awesome way to support your company’s marketing efforts and drive sales. But remember that you’re only as good as your team is. No matter how amazing your booth is, it can’t pick up the slack if your team is under-prepared. Make sure they’re well-trained, highly motivated, and ready to succeed.