By James Rook, MD of Nimlok Ltd
Most people expect me to say that your stand and engagement tools are THE most important consideration when it comes to increasing exhibiting ROI. After all, that’s what we live and breathe for as a business. But in 20 years of observing exhibitor behaviour I surprise many by stating, that while brilliant stand design and clever engagement tools can deliver a significant improvement in exhibitor results, the biggest potential lies in your team.
How they act, how they approach potential customers, how they use the stand engagement tools and how the treat the post show follow up will ultimately play the biggest part. A tool is only as good as the person who is wielding it. You need to have confidence as a star exhibition manager that your efforts won’t be wasted by one of the most common issues we see – a divided sales and marketing approach that leaves both parties unsatisfied.
All your hard work can fall at the final hurdle if your team doesn’t pull through for you, so I’ve written this 9 point guide to ensure your team fly.
Nobody wants to be an afterthought. Shared responsibility for the event ROI can only be truly shared if your sales team feel listened too.
Think of your sales team as the end users of your stand as well as the visitor.
Ask them about the challenges they face before you even start to brief the stand design and the visitor experience.
Consider whether your sales team could best advise the qualification questions for lead forms, or highlight the aspects of your proposition that take too long to explain. They could even help to prioritize messages/products based on their experience of what’s having the biggest impact on sales calls.
Whatever their challenges, consulting them beforehand ensures that you nail the exhibition brief. This will mean that the engagement tools can be designed to directly support their needs in order to meet your objectives.
Shape and share your objectives with your team as early as you can. Far too many sales teams don’t draw a direct correlation between their exhibiting efforts and their sales results so ensure your objectives and theirs are aligned.
This won’t always be as simple as ‘just’ taking leads. It’s important that your sales team understands your game plan and the aspects of the sales process on the stand.
Book a few meetings during the planning process to make sure that everybody knows why you’re exhibiting and how it will help the business to thrive.
Reinforce these messages with an early morning stand briefing for every day of your show.
Debriefs allow team members to discuss what works and what doesn’t when engaging with visitors.
This helps make the next day an even greater success and ensures staff stay on target.
Make your teams lives’ easier by decreasing the paperwork around lead generation. Paperwork detracts away from the meaningful conversations that your team could be having. Work with your team to find the best way of capturing the information needed for your CRM while enabling fast and free flowing conversation.
Take the time to fully explain the lead nurture and follow up campaign that hinges on the accurate gathering of the data you have asked for. It’s vital that they fully understand its importance in generating their leads well into the future.
From using radio buttons/sliding scale tools in electronic lead generation forms to paper forms with tick boxes, there’s much that can be done to speed up the process.
When designing a lead form have the sales team consider the follow up and the gems of information that will help them quickly reconnect the prospect to their stand encounter.
If using technology, ensure the routine is practiced during the stand briefing, not live with that all important first visitor.
What would your brand look like if it were a person? Asking yourself this question will help to understand what your team should wear at events. Don’t be afraid to be bold and make this campaign specific too.
Dress codes not only avoid the potential embarrassment of your team not knowing what to wear, but it also links the team to the brand and the tools around them on your stand.
At an event, your stand staff ARE your brand. Your stand team’s dress code should ooze professionalism and match your brand values but this isn’t always a shirt and tie.
Sometimes it’s as simple as making sure that you’re all wearing complementary clothes – such as shirts that are a certain colour, and that you all wear branded name badges. It must be clear to a visitor that you part of the on stand team and there to be approached.
It’s important to recognise that even expert sales teams may not be experts at selling on an exhibition stand.
They may be experts in face-to-face sales when they have time on their side, with hours to explain how your business can help a pre-qualified prospect. But at an exhibition, it’s a very different story.
With fast-paced visitor interaction, your sales team have much less time to get your message across in a loud, distracting environment.
Help your team to condense their elevator pitch and think about the messages and collateral that will help them in this process. Remember its often just as important to quickly qualify someone out and move then on, as it is to hook their interest.
Exhibition stands are demanding and high pressure work environments.
For stand staff, they’re asked to work longer, harder and faster than they normally would. Usually in front of their boss too.
Although some can ride on the exhibition buzz to keep them going, it’s important to make sure you can keep the team energized and motivated.
To keep motivation and positivity levels high, schedule regular staff breaks away from the stand. This will also help you insist that drinks, food or phones should be banned on stand as they can send all the wrong messages.
Setting personal and team goals such as make 10 appointments or conduct demo’s is also a great way to focus the team. Introduce some healthy competition too by offer a prize for those who meet their goals and something extra special for the highest achiever.
Have your team arrive early for the show to give everybody a tour of the stand.
This time allows the team to rehearse the experience that they’ll be giving to visitors.
Not only will this help them to feel more comfortable, but also helps to reiterate your objectives and show how the tools can help your team to succeed.
Understand the skill set of your team and assign them relevant roles.
For example, if a particular member is a product expert, let them run demonstrations. Devolve responsibility as much as possible to increase accountability across the team.
Using appropriate skill sets will help you engage visitors more efficiently.
As well as being your sales team, it’s worth remembering that they are also your brand ambassadors. They should already have social media channels that they use to help support their lead generation.
After all, it’s your team members that each have a relationship with their customers and prospects.
Ask your team to connect with visitors on LinkedIn, posts news of what they’ll be showcasing at the event and to tweet from their business Twitter account to spread the word.
Doing this will boost stand visits and aid follow up.