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Marc Goldberg's Articles

Staff Training: Why Bother

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Some companies train their staff - other do not. Why? 

  • They don’t view it as necessary. After all, their staff knows how to sell. They sell the company’s products and services everyday. Why train them again? The time the spend in training, they could be out in the field selling and making the company some money

  • .t hey don’t see the difference between field selling and tradeshow selling. Because they have no appreciation for the uniqueness of the selling situation at a tradeshow, they don’t see the need for specific preparation. 

  • The technical staff is very competent. They know all about the product. They can demonstrate the product.  What else do they need? 

  • They don’t want to take the time.  They want to schedule their personnel to show up just in time to work the show.  Having them come in the day before is a waste of time and resources.   

  • They don’t want to incur additional expense. By having their staff arrive the night before the show, they might incur additional hotel and meal expenses, in addition to the cost of conducting the preshow training.  They haven’t connected the value of a prepared staff compared to one that just shows up. 

  • They spend all their resources on exhibit property, giveaways, live entertainment and have nothing left for staff preparation. Exhibitors that don’t value staff preparation are the one that feel that if you have committed to a new exhibit, bought giveaways or promotional products and have an attraction, what else do you need?   

Staff preparation is important because:

  •  It is a people-to-people medium where the quality of communication is critical.  There is nothing in an exhibit that can sell other than the people. Everything in the exhibit, including the exhibit property, are tools for the staff to use to engage, qualify, conduct a needs analysis, communicate and message and obtain a commitment from the show visitor.

  • The manner in which we communicate on a daily basis need to be different to be effective on the show floor. Staff needs to be prepared to transition their thinking and skills.   A staffer has less that 5 minutes with a prospect compared to 45 minutes to an hour in the field.  The style and approach to communications are different and time is necessary to transition these skills so that the staffer can adequately perform.

  • For staff who are involved in sales, beginning a conversation with a total stranger is often uncomfortable. Most sales personnel have their calls tee’d up for them via telemarketing or some other lead generating activity. At a tradeshow it is one cold call after another until you find a “suspect” that qualifies as a “prospect”. The staff lack all the visual clues that might exist in an office visit. So training offers some thoughts on what to say and how to begin a dialog with someone you know nothing about. Technical staff who are typically involved with product more than daily face-to-face communications, need skill preparation to ensure a level of comfort so that the on-the-floor conversation take place at all. Training and preparation are required to provide information about the audience - what are the demographics at this show - what characteristics are they seeking in a prospect - what qualifies a visitor.

  • Training is important to orient the staff to the event. Because exhibiting is creating an event in the mind of the attendee. Without knowing the strategy and thinking behind the exhibit and the graphics, the demonstrations, the live presentation, the promotional products, collateral materials, the staffer is just taking up space. Training has two dimensions: One is the orientation, the other is the skill development. It is the orientation to new products or product messages that might be different than ones they are communicating on a daily basis. And the skill development needed to fine-tune their communication skills.

  • Training is important because most staffers come from different internal organizations or from different geographic regions. They need to work as a TEAM on the show floor. Training provides the best opportunity to meet one another and to understand how to work as a whole.

How can staff training affect your ROI?

  • Only the staff can sell in an exhibit. And revenue produces ROI. A trained staff can affect program enormously. If the objective at the show is to demonstrate new product to 20% of the attendees, then training the staff on how to conduct an effective demonstration will enhance the exhibitor’s ability to generate a ROI.

  • If obtaining feedback after the demonstration is also an objective, then training the staff in interviewing skills and methods for capturing visitor information will enhance the exhibitor’s ROI. If increasing name awareness is the show objective, then having staff that can effectively communicate a clear, and concise message to as many show attendees as possible, not just current customers, will enhance ROI. Only training and preparation can create an economic environment from one that is show and tell.

What about those staff who have “been there - done that” 

  • Think in terms of skill preparation, not training.  

  • Play upon the competitive nature of a sales staff and make it work by rewarding those that achieve established objectives. 

  • Make the selection of staff selective- turn it into a reward rather than a perceived punishment. 

  • Create bonuses for working together even if not in their territory.

  • Create a plan for the person who generated the lead to benefit when the sales is closed by another.

  • Don’t attempt to teach booth selling, but focus on transitioningwhat the staff does well already to the trade show environment.

  • Use the “know it all’s” as assistants in the training as discussion leaders, through role plays, etc.

Booth etiquette - Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do what you would do in the office of a prospect. A sales person   would never think of eating their lunch in their prospect’s
    office  so  why do it in an exhibit?

  • Avoid what you know is bad decorum - , drinking, talking to other staff, and using the phone

  • Acknowledge everyone’s presence whether they are qualifiable or not.  What visitors want most of an exhibitor is to be noticed and acknowledged. If you ignore them they will tell others of their treatment.

  • You have one opportunity to make an impression - be certain it is a good one.

  • Exhibiting is a group selling experience. It’s OK to talk with several people at one time, but remember to close on the person that was there first, and then go on to others.

  • Staff are depending upon one another to be there for their shift, so schedule appointments during times you are not assigned for booth duty.

  • Remember the 80/20 rule.  The visitor talks 80% of the time and we only talk 20% of the time so that we have time to hear their needs.

  • Don’t allow visitors to “hit and run” you for either literature or promotional products.  There has to be a “trade” - your item for information that will further the sale.

  • Say “Thank you” even if you cannot help them.  They took their time to see if you could fill their needs. Sometime in the future you might be able to fill their needs and they will remember those two little words “Thank you” for taking the time to stop.

  • Stand erect, with both feet on the floor spread about the width of your shoulders with your hands at your sides showing an open, friendly and confident stance.  Leaning on product or property or sitting down shows a lack of interest.

  • It is demeaning to adults to be given a list of do’s and don’ts. Coach the same information in question form or in a positive statement. Rather than saying “Don’t talk on the phone in the booth” say “ As an attendee, what message would you pick up from a staffer using a phone while on booth duty?”

  • Staff training sets the stage - it provides the needed information to the staff so that they can perform in a confident manner. Adults find change and different environments uncomfortable. Through training we can provide a comfort level that will ensure better performance for we have eliminated the unknown and provide them with a comfortable environment in which to work. 

© 2011 by Marc Goldberg