When it comes time to choose which employees will staff the booth at your next trade show, do you automatically call the sales department? If so, maybe you’d better think again. Just because someone is good at sales doesn’t mean they’ll be a natural in the trade show environment. Often, sales people forget that they don’t have time to do a complete sales pitch on every prospect that enters the booth.

So what makes a good booth staffer?
  • Approachable, outgoing, people-oriented
  • Professional: experienced at trade shows (no time for a “learning curve”)
  • Comfortable engaging people
  • Able to qualify before selling
  • Knowledgeable about company and products
  • Good communicator (with a clear, simple message)
  • Good listener
  • Enthusiastic (but not overpowering!)
  • Good attitude
  • Familiar with the competition
  • Polite to “lookers,” yet won’t waste time

You definitely don’t want to use trade shows as a “reward” for performance contests. Anyone who thinks trade shows are a vacation has certainly never worked one!

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
At one show, a booth staffer (whose company shall remain nameless) literally took me by the hand and pulled me into their booth. Not wanting to be rude, I kept looking for a polite way to slip away. First, I was trapped in what felt like a late-night infomercial (remember the … “but wait! There’s more!” routines?). Finally, after about five minutes of frustration, I let them scan my badge so I could leave. Not surprisingly, their follow-up was just as bad. Their local rep called and left a message saying she was following up on my request for information, but didn’t tell me what company she was with or where she got my name. I figured it out when the information packet arrived the next day with her name in the letter, which was addressed to “Mary Arnold.” Now how did they get Mary when they actually scanned my badge?

Many exhibitors seem to be overly aggressive on the last day. Is it perhaps because they suddenly realize that they weren’t going to meet their goal for leads? When you work hard before the show, as well as during it, you have nothing to fear.

So Which One Are You?
There’s an old saying that reads: “You can take a willing person and make them capable, but you can’t take a capable person and make them willing.” How true that thought is for trade show booth staffers! I’ve seen the most talented salespeople fall flat on their faces at shows, simply because they weren’t prepared for how different the selling environment is on the show floor. Worse yet, sometimes they are poisoned before they arrive by others who have worked the show and hated it. Working the show becomes a burden, not an opportunity.

On the other hand, sometimes those who aren’t the most likely candidates find their element in the booth. They may not have the smoothest sales pitch, but they are genuinely excited about the product and treat all visitors with respect. Their eagerness and excitement are contagious, making the sales look easy.

Which kind of staffer would you rather take to your next show? If your sales force is full of “negative Nellies” as far as booth duty is concerned, maybe you need to look to those more willing, and then teach them to be capable.