When you’re the salesperson working the company booth at a trade show, you’re probably looking at the crowd a little bit like a lion looks at a pack of zebras: hungrily, and thinking strategically about which ones to target first. And while you’re not trying to gobble up your prospects in a literal sense, you are there to hunt for new opportunities and close open deals, which can make that swarming mass of people seem simultaneously daunting and ripe for the picking.
We’ve talked a bit about how to use visual storytelling and conversational presenting at trade shows to draw new people in and pitch your product in a memorable way. But how do you take those people who have shown they’re interested and have traveled further down the funnel, and successfully convert them into clients?
Presentation, Visualization, Conversation: Where the Magic Happens
One of the most common flubs salespeople can make is believing that the pitch is over once the presentation ends. Sure, you know that you have a relationship to maintain, more information to share, and next steps to provide. But many sales folks view that part of the interaction as a hand-off; an approach that leaves the act of taking next steps squarely on the shoulders of the prospect. Theoretically, you’ll follow up later, and probably in a very similar way to everyone else they meet on the trade show floor. That’s not going to help you solidify your value to them, or guarantee a sale.
By employing visual storytelling and conversational presenting, you’ve already built a super solid foundation on which to construct your prospect’s path to customer-hood. You’ve given them the opportunity to convey specific pain points and learn how your product can address their unique challenges. You’ve also gone beyond catching their attention, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to do further work to keep it. After you’ve presented your pitch (with eye-catching images and storytelling, of course), you still have to help your prospects visualize their future with your product. You still have to help them understand how it will transform their business. And you still have to present the evidence to back up your case. These three elements — presentation, visualization, and conversation — are the holy trinity of closing every deal. But it’s here that a second, and potentially fatal, mistake is often made: relying on repetition.
At this critical juncture, it’s your responsibility to encourage people towards deeper phases of the buyer’s journey, but you’re not going to be able to do that by simply regurgitating exactly what they’ve already heard, and seen, in your initial meetings. While new dialogues should be a continuation of your original pitch to them, prospects will quickly notice if additional communications with you are stuck on replay. They’ll know you haven’t bothered to invest more of your time and energy into them — and if that’s the case, why should they spend any effort on you?
How to Start the Dialogue That Closes the Deal
Obviously, the outcome you want from interfacing with prospects at trade shows is not for them to fall off your radar — or worse, move forward with a competitor. You’ve already put an enormous amount of energy into crafting a customized pitch presentation for them, but you need to design your post-trade show interactions and decks with just as much care, if not more. The key is dialogue; collaborative conversation that’s deftly underscored by relevant, visual, story-based presentations. Giving your audience a chance to lead while you listen, is an incredible way to demonstrate your worth (and your product’s). As you move forward, remember that your job is not to push or pull a prospect into buying, but to show them exactly what they stand to gain from doing so. As you map out a flexible blueprint for future decks and dialogues, it’s wise to think about the following ground rules:
- Always keep your eyes and ears open. Anyone who’s spent any time at all talking with other people knows that the words we say aren’t the only way we communicate. Body language, tone of voice, and even silences make up massive parts of our conversations. When you’re dealing with someone who, essentially, you want something from — like a potential customer — these cues become paramount to determining if you’re engaging them successfully or losing their attention. So, keep your eyes peeled wide for physical signs of disinterest whenever possible, and take note of the way people respond and react to you, your presentations, and your questions. This simple act of focus will help you determine how to keep the dialogue moving or when it’s time to change course.
- Never stop learning. All of the research you do to unearth leads amounts to nothing if you stop researching once you’ve made a connection with a decision-maker. No one company or market is stagnant and unchanging; smart salespeople know this, and make valiant efforts to immerse themselves in the verticals they deal with regularly. But following industry trends and competitor releases is standard, and will only take you so far. You should also always make an effort to understand what the people you’re talking to are facing as a result of shifts in their business or market, so that the conversations you have can be fresh, candid, and unique. Don’t forget that the worst thing you can do is deliver canned communications to various prospects — all that does is prove that they’re just a box you need to check off.
- Dialogue over dictation. This is by far the most important consideration of the bunch, and can only be done effectively if you’ve adopted the previous guidelines as gospel. The days of dictation are long over; no one has the time, patience, or decorum these days to sit idly by while someone who wants their money tells them what’s wrong with them, what’s wrong with their business, and how they have the magic beans to fix it all. All of those things may be true, but they likely know that; it’s why they’re talking to you in the first place. Focus on keeping the dialogue open and adaptable, and be sure your presentations follow suit. It will help you develop a meaningful relationship with your prospects that’s based on an ever-evolving understanding of their specific needs and challenges. No amount of money can buy that.
What happens at trade shows doesn’t stay at trade shows, so it’s important that your approach to pitching presentations and converting prospects not be compromised by an environment designed to dazzle. By remaining consistently thoughtful, flexible, and strategic in your approach — and abandoning sales schemes of old — you’ll always be able to start the dialogue that closes the deal.