How Exhibitors Can Move Attendees Closer to Buying

If you are reading this article, you are probably one of the exhibitors who are facing this situation. Read on and you’ll find some ways to overcome the inadvertent barriers put in the way of your sales success.

First, consider these points:

1. Are exhibiting companies giving their prospects what they most need to know to close a sale?

2. Exactly how can exhibit staff help attendees make an informed choice and act sooner?

3. How many steps do even “warm” buyers take to complete the sale, from signing to delivery through possible training on the use of the product?

4. Can exhibitors not only take steps to make buyers happy with their decisions but also to be heroes among their colleagues so they will tell others and buy again?

Don’t bury the key reason to buy.

After walking through over 300 trade shows prior to speaking to exhibitors, I’ve discovered that the exhibitors’ message is rarely the key headline prospective buyers most need to know. That essential message is the main differentiating benefit between an exhibitor’s product or service and that of the top two or three alternative vendors, as the prospect most probably views their options.

Instead, exhibits and promotional materials usually give more prominence to the name of the product and/or the company.

Attendees rarely see or hear about an exhibitor’s main benefit first.

Benefits rarely “jump out” at attendees from the booth or collateral messages or the staff’s explanation. Thus, exhibitors inadvertently hide their biggest benefit.

In most cases, features (how a product is constructed or its “capacity” or how it is operated) are still promoted more heavily than benefits (what the product does for the customer). This is not customer-centered, thoughtful marketing. The prospect has to do more work to make a fair comparison.

Exhibitors can offer succinct, specific, and easy-to-follow comparison sheets that do not insult the competition. One comparison sheet might “headline” the major benefits. Other back-up sheets can provide more detailed comparisons. Put a “human face” on the facts by providing customers’ situational examples to illustrate the benefits.

Plus, staff often attempt to build traffic to their booth with contests, drawings, or giveaway gadgets that don’t relate to their main, differentiating benefit or even their product, so they don’t get closer to their hottest prospects.

Further, staff’s icebreaker comments are often general and not relevant to the reason to buy (“Having a good time?” “Want a free..?”).

Unfortunately, those who staff an exhibit seldom get to be involved in the design of their exhibit or promotional materials _- or even what they wear. They must accept the setting in which they sell, attempting to engage prospects as they pass with involving comments that state the main benefits verbally to attendees in a brief, involving way to pull them in rather than turn them off.

When companies don’t make their main benefit easy to see and hear quickly, attendees must be deeply motivated to look and ask for the essential information they want.

Credible benefit statements increase the chances for a sale. A credible brand name then reinforces the reason to buy, not the other way around. Good benefit statements are vivid and specific examples, facts, and comparisons. Passersby are in one of three buying modes:

1. Seeking information to buy a certain kind of product for the first time and trying to select the best product

2. Considering changing vendors if they find a better product

3. “Trolling”:
a. not buying now but seeing what is new for future reference
b. or without the budget or need and will never buy

Serious buyers most want to see and hear information regarding:
a. the main reason to buy at all and, if they do buy,
b. the main reason they should buy from you over your closest competitors, as they see them.


 22 Ways to Attract Serious Buyers to Your Exhibit and to a Sale

1. Draft and memorize a one-to-two-sentence top “differentiating benefit” statement, relative to your two closest competitors and without denigrating the competition.

2. Start with the specific benefit rather than building up to it with general background, so the listener will listen sooner and longer. The specific detail (“Product with the fewest parts that need replacement”) proves the general benefit. The general statement (“We are the people who care”) is less credible and less memorable.

3. Multiply attendees’ positive exposures to your benefit in everything you say, display, point at, stand near, or offer.

4. Be able to reduce that benefit to its essence in one vivid phrase, motto, slogan, or sentence.

5. Make your phrase sufficiently interesting and brief so they feel they’re in charge. They’ll be more likely to stay and ask you enough questions so you can recognize their main interests, level of knowledge, hot buttons, and decision-making process.

6. Offer “real life” situational examples. Cite relevant and diverse customers’ experiences. Tell them what your customers actually said.

7. Give no more than three supportive benefits.

8. Express each supportive benefit like a headline, a “billboard message” of no more than five to eight words.

9. Use everyday, non-jargon, and non-industry-specific language, even if the attendees might know the jargon.

10. The most credible proof of your benefits are third-party endorsements of three diverse customers who have little else in common other than their adoration of your product and their similarity with your prospect.

11. Display a satisfied client’s quotes under each benefit on the booth and in promotional material — preferably each in a different color and type face. When endorsements relate to a specific situation, change, vivid contrast, or improvement, their words are most credible and will be most memorable.

12. Yes! Remove all graphics and words and materials in the booth that do not relate to either the main benefit and (not more than three) supportive benefits, so attendees will be able to take in the information within 12-15 seconds, their average pause-to-scan time in such conditions.

13. Display your main point and supportive points on the booth above the heads of the booth staff and attendees, so attendees’ views are not blocked.

14. Booth visuals and words should guide attendees’ eyes down a “path” from one message to the next.

15. Avoid opening references to weather, “Having fun?”, freebies, drawings, or other non-benefit-related topics that distract and dilute your relationship with your prospect.

16. Verbally and visually make a “Conference Offer”: more information; a time-limited or bundled product order price; consultation; or other vivid benefit to move them closer to a sale.

17. An attendee’s attention span is shortened if you wear patterned or very detailed clothing or accessories (pin, necklace, tie, earrings) or other busy “body signage,” especially on the upper half of your body.

18. For those who know your product (and you know that they are familiar with it):

a. Hand the person a gift (preferably one that does not prominently display your company or product name), while asking them: “May I give you this small gift for taking the time to answer two questions for me?”

b. Then ask, “What do you like best about our product or (service)?” Whatever is said aloud is then believed more deeply by the speaker.

c. Be a complete and supportive listener as they explain. Give uninterrupted eye contact, nod, or offer other responsive gestures that are natural for you.

d. When they have finished, ask, “Tell me more about that.” As they elaborate, they move the topic closer to the top of their minds and they also become more:
- articulate and vivid.
- deeply convinced about the reasons they’ve stated for liking your product.

The result? You’ve moved them closer to being fervent and articulate fans. They are more likely to talk themselves closer to a sale and voluntarily tell others why they like your product.

19. When you first meet a prospect, find the quality in them you can most like and admire and keep it uppermost in your mind as you talk with them. You are more likely to bring out that aspect of their personality when they are around you and less likely to react to their behaviors that irritate or otherwise bother you.

20. When you stand opposite someone, you are more likely to literally oppose them. Instead, “sidle” whenever possible.

Men instinctively “sidle” when together, shaking hands and then standing more or less side by side. Women instinctively continue to face each other or a man. When standing side-by-side, people feel more comfortable with each other, themselves, and their surroundings. They listen sooner and longer and are more inclined to agree with each other.

21. Get people to remember what you say, even if they are not trying to.

•  People remember more and feel more intensely — for good and for bad — when they are in motion. Say your main points while you’re turning, shaking hands, demonstrating a product, or pointing to something, when a part of the booth is in motion, and/or while the visitor is reaching for something.

•  Things are most memorable when you’re both in motion. They are next most memorable when the other person is in motion even if you aren’t, third most memorable when you are in motion, and fourth most memorable when you are both watching something or someone in motion.

• The more dimensions of motion involved (up, down, left, right, forward, and back), the more memorable the experience. Ways to involve motion to reinforce memory include exhibit demonstrations, staff gestures and walking, video vignettes, and parts of the exhibit.

• Relate your benefits to their three core life experiences:

1. Family (theirs, yours, or a metaphorical family of services or products)

2. Where they work or have worked

3. Where they live or have lived.

22. First refer to one of their currently pressing interests (not your product).

Then refer to how you two share a common interest in the topic.

And then to how it relates to you and your product’s main benefit.

This method is called the “You-Us-Me” approach. Here’s an example:

   A. “I gather you are the expert in… “YOU”

   B. …and that by discussing this with you… “US”

   C. I’ll get more ideas about if and how our products can best serve people in your situation…. “ME”

23. To maintain rapport, use specific, emotion-laden language when stating the positive, and report the negative neutrally — “just the facts.”

24. Begin your comments with a direct response to the prospect’s last comment until they feel heard instead of working up to your response with other background information they might not want to hear. Characterize your benefits in direct response to:

• A specific, negative “hot button” or problem they’ve expressed, which you can make better or solve, or

• Some strong positive preference the prospect has just expressed.

Closing Tip: Familiarity Breeds Acceptance


Continuously nurture your best prospects, seeding in their minds your main and vividly stated differentiating benefit and providing ideas and help at “non-sales” times. Make every aspect of your behavior, booth, and promotional material repeat, reflect, and reinforce that benefit before, during, right after the conference, and later, again to your hottest prospects.

What’s the Biggest Single Change Most Exhibitors Can Make to Move Prospects Closer to a Sale?

Exhibiting companies can make their “main differentiating benefit” the most prominent message in everything that they display, give away, or ask their booth staffers to discuss.

Problem: Exhibiting companies rarely do this. In fact, the majority of the people who staff trade show booths are not involved in the design of the booth or the promotional materials that they give away at trade shows.


 Discover more ways to accomplish greater things with others at the blogs:

How We Partner

Moving From Me to We

Say it Better

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