As a trade show manager, the show floor is your home field. On a regular basis, you help transform it from an expanse of concrete and continuous space into a lively, interactive selling environment. You understand how things are supposed to work, and because you do, you make assumptions about how everything comes together.
Usually, the assumptions are valid, but one that is definitely counterproductive is that sales reps are as at home and as comfortable on the convention floor as you are. Nothing could be further from the truth. For the most part, they are on foreign soil. They are used to being on the move, setting appointments, preparing to meet with their customers on their own schedules, and taking breaks between sales calls. Their world changes when they enter the convention environment–and helping them make the adjustment is a big part of your job.
Helping the sales reps adjust is not without its challenges. On one hand, in the same group, you might have a handful of first-year reps who have never been on a show floor before and who have never really encountered certain aspects of business protocol. On the other hand, you might have a group of senior reps, all having trade show experience, but perhaps experience that has served to perpetuate ingrained bad habits—not through any fault of their own, but because no one has ever suggested different behavior.
The temporary transition
The best way to view staffing is that it is a complete role reversal. Your staff is used to setting their own schedules, being in transit, taking charge of their selling activity. On the trade show floor, their encounters are random, they are stationary for two or three days, and the customers that are usually found in their offices are peripatetic. For what it’s worth, the customers are also uncomfortable with the role reversal. By addressing some booth staffing best practices, everyone becomes more at ease with the situation.
So how do we handle this temporary transition for staff? How do you help them cross the bridge—just for a few days—from field sales to trade show sales? The best recommendation is to use a consistent approach so that everyone gets the same message, a message that depends on some fundamental building blocks. In the next second installment of The Front Line: Your Booth Staff, we will tell you what some of these building blocks are.