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Questions reveal the underlying needs of your trade show visitors

Barry Siskind


Your trade show presentation should be all about individuals. When visitors attend a show or conference the last thing they want is to be grouped into a homogeneous mass and treated identically.

You have undoubtedly gone to great expense to develop a brand message that accurately reflects your values as a corporation. One that clearly represents the experience your customers will enjoy doing business with you. But, all that hard work is in jeopardy if the front-line people, your staff who meets customers at a trade show, can’t walk the talk.

The answer of course is to ensure that each of your front-line staff understands your brand and is trained to ensure that the right messages are passed along. The first task they face is to understand the visitor who has approached the trade show booth. If this person is approached and then inundated with all sorts of product information that may or may not apply to them they instantly feel pressured and reluctant to move forward. However, when your booth staff takes the time to uncover the unique perspectives of each visitor prior to providing information it ensures that the interaction has meaning for both parties.

For years I have been suggesting that booth staff develop a list of questions in advance. The six questions I use form an easy to remember acronym &ndash ACTION.

The actions questions are as follows:

A = Authority
Does this visitor have the buying authority or can they influence the buying decision?
C = Capability
How closely does this visitor fit into the profile of someone who will ultimately buy your product or service?
T = Time
Is there a close relationship between your selling cycle and the visitor’s buying cycle?
I = Identity
Have you developed a formal mechanism for recording contact information?
O = Obstacles
Why could or would this visitor not want to do business with us?
N = Need
Do they need this product or service?

Acronyms are fine. They give you a structure to use so that your staff asks similar questions of each booth visitors.

The trick then is to develop the questions that work for you. Ask yourself:

1. What are the key criteria I need to understand this visitor’s perspective?

2. How can I train my staff to ask the appropriate questions of each booth visitor?

3. What do I need to develop to ensure that they record information that I can use for follow up?

If you can not work with the ACTION questions, then hone them to fit your unique situation.

One last tip. When you train your staff to ask questions, it’s important that they are comfortable with the words. Asking them to memorize a pre-set question doesn’t work. However, teaching the rationale behind each questions and encouraging them to develop questions they can ask comfortably and honestly is a better bet.

Uncovering visitor’s needs and perspectives is at the heart of your booth staff’s job. It is the single most important thing they do. It ensures that they have understood the booth visitor properly and can introduce benefits of your brand in a meaningful way. It leaves the visitor with the right impression and a positive experience which is what your brand is all about.