Imagine you’re going table to table looking for the perfect match in a room of unknown suitors. You have limited time to express what you want and hear what the other person has to offer. Sometimes there’s an instant attraction and other times it’s completely awkward and can’t end quickly enough. Sounds like speed dating, huh? Actually, I was talking about exhibiting but the two activities have a lot in common. In both instances you have limited time to make a connection, you have to feel people out because you can’t treat everyone the same way, and at the end of it all, you need to determine if there is a connection worth exploring.
Let’s take a step back to see the broad scope of how dating, in general, can be like exhibiting. When salespeople go out to find leads at events, it can be very much like how a single person will go out to a bar to meet someone they can potentially date. Either way, your goal is to meet someone that is compatible with what you offer and what you’re looking for, and then get their contact information. It’s up to the sales rep to start a dialogue and find a connection. That being said, there are different ways sales reps try to meet people, and most methods have issues and resemble some bad dating habits.
Here are the different types of dating methods we sometimes fall into while exhibiting at events:
Cheesy Pickup Lines
It’s easy to fall into this method and think of yourself as a “Pick Up Line Master.” There’s nothing wrong with a cheesy joke or phrase to draw a person into a conversation. Or is there? Sometimes it works, but it usually makes someone feel uncomfortable or awkward, and they don’t take you seriously. Actually, that reminds me, do you have an extra library card? Because I’m checking you out.
...See what I mean?
Overly Positive Position
Have you ever met someone who was so positive it felt fake? That's because forcing fake positivity is easy to spot. Of course, Sales Reps can be positive but when a customer says their name is “Jenny” and the Sales Reps shouts back, “OMG! My friend’s cousin’s name is Jenny too! What a small world!” That’s overkill. And if your friend’s cousin’s name really is Jenny too, keep it to yourself.
We’ve all been at a point where we are so close to meeting our sales goals but it’s important not to come across like a someone who doesn’t date a lot. Rushing someone along and compromising quickly comes across as desperate. Someone who hasn’t “dated” in a while should work on focus and confidence, so they don’t fall into this method in crunch time and end up begging for affection. On the other side of things, please don’t take the “negging” approach either, it doesn’t even work for dating and you’re better than that. Wait, am I negging you now? Is it working?
Little White Lies
It’s easy to be so close to a sale that you stretch the truth a bit but, this can blow up in your face. Remember that time your date said they liked puppies and you said “I have a puppy” ..but you didn’t? That didn’t go so well, and neither does overpromising about features. So, do yourself a favor and remember not to over promise, otherwise you’ll end up having to buy a puppy before your second date, with zero time to potty train the pooch.
A one-time sale is easier to make but, maintaining a relationship with a customer pays dividends. Try not to fall into a “hookup” mentality where you only look for an immediate sale and don’t take an interest in who the customer is or how you can work with them again and again. Tinder is fun and returns rapid satisfaction, but from a business standpoint, it’s not very sustainable. Did I just compare a relationship to a business agreement? Let’s gloss over that before my wife finds out.
Genuine and Interested
We found them! “Mr/Ms. Right” are here. Good sales reps understand the benefits of identifying quality leads and creating relationships. With their active-listening skills and open-ended questions, they’re sure to capture that email address and secure a follow-up. And the way they hear a person's pain points and ask open-ended, follow-up questions before explaining how the product does what the customer needs leads to the kind of lasting relationship we all dream about.
It’s the age-old ROMCOM question, at your next event, how can you be a customer’s "Mr/Ms. Right" instead of their "Mr/Ms. Right Now?" Don’t let the excitement of the event let you forget to invest your time in active listening, asking open-ended questions, and clarifying pain points. You've listened and determined the customer's potential benefits from using your product, so, explain how it addresses their issues and solves their problems. And don’t waste your time and charm on someone looking for schwag. Qualify your leads and avoid ending up with dead-ends like the person that’s interested in the puppy you don’t actually own. When you do find the perfect match, put a ring on it! Follow up in a timely manner and reference the conversation you had with them.
At the end of the day, it’s all about building a relationship with a person. If you understand them, that itself gives you enough to know if they will be a good lead or not and to properly tee up the next actions for your sales and marketing teams. Avoid the speed dating habits that go along with exhibiting and you’ll be fine. For more advice on how to better your tactical approach to events, see what pitfalls to avoid check out our blog.