The Front Line: Your Booth Staff, Part II


In the previous post, we promised some specific suggestions to help you smooth the transition for your staff from field sales to trade show sales. Here they are:

  • Plan well in advance. Your planning will increase the comfort level for sales reps. Discuss your staffing needs with sales managers, either regional or national, so that preparations can get underway to send the best people to work with you in the booth. Share your goals with sales, tell them about the exhibit or exhibits you will use, explain what your plans are. Give adequate notice. Be sure your sales department is aware that a great deal of marketplace perception hinges on the attitudes and enthusiasm of booth staff at key shows.
  • Determine the number of booth workers you will need. A good rule of thumb is to put two sales people at each selling area—then double that so you will have enough people for two shifts. If you are featuring a hot product, schedule a few extra workers to supplement this formula.
  • Insist on shifts. No one is effective working in the booth for an entire day. And encourage reps to coordinate periodic breaks so they can sit down or walk outside for some air. You might also encourage the reps to check out competitors when they are not scheduled to work in the booth.
  • Use the show audit to learn more about attendees. That will help focus your staffing needs, and your sales department will also find the information useful.
  • Include district managers as part of your staff so that they can mentor reps with less experience. Plus, having a go-to person is always a good idea, especially when reps encounter problems that are difficult to handle on the spot.
  • Build excitement about working the show. Make sure that there is an equitable distribution of opportunities to work shows by collaborating with sales management.
  • Set guidelines for travel arrangements. Let your staff know when they absolutely need to be at the venue and when it is acceptable for them to leave.
  • Communicate with your staff before the show. Send them your contact information, phone numbers, hotels, confirmation numbers, meeting times, staff schedules, company sponsorships and activities, as well as some city information and show demographics.
  • Whatever you do, schedule a mandatory pre-con meeting. Invite product people and brand teams to participate, as well as any other corporate staff who can add value to the experience for your sales reps. That way, if these people come to the exhibit during show hours, they will be aware of expectations and desired outcomes.
  • Use a professional trainer whose focus is to help your reps transform the behaviors that make them successful in the field into behaviors that will enhance their performance on the show floor. Don’t make this meeting too long—two hours is generally enough time. Besides being informational, the pre-con meeting helps generate enthusiasm among your staff and gives people a chance to meet.. (A side benefit: when customers come to the booth from particular geographical areas, the reps can immediately connect them to a local contact.) PS: exhibit sales training is only a fraction of your total investment but can add significantly to your ROI.
  • Schedule a walk-through at the booth—either immediately after the training or before the show opens. The value of doing the walk-through right after training is that you will have everyone present, and you can cover all the housekeeping and logistical questions. Your team will be able to do dry runs on lead capture equipment or other technology you are using—and you will have adequate time to make adjustments, if necessary.
  • Post the booth schedule—inside a storage closet or cabinet is a good place. Your staff already knows there is a schedule because you sent it to them before they arrived. Make sure they adhere to it. Remind them that the rest of their shift partners are counting on them.
  • Have your sales trainer on hand for part of the first (and generally busiest) day to coach your staff and to help them remember what they learned at the pre-con meeting.
  • If a staffer is struggling, ask a manager or more experienced rep to partner with that person to get him or her past the initial discomfort. For instance, if a staff member is in a particular location that gets a disproportionate amount of traffic when an educational session lets out, ask other team members to step in and help.
  • Urge your staff to generate excitement for booth activities and giveaways to help draw attendees and to qualify leads. Games and premiums add to the excitement of face-to-face marketing, but make sure your staff understands that the primary purpose of all the traffic building is to generate leads and build positive brand awareness.
  • Take the responsibility for stocking enough giveaways at workstations or replenishing lead machine paper. Your sales reps are on hand to sell.
  • Emphasize that within this structured environment, trade shows are fun, exciting to work, and contribute to revenue.
  • At the end of the show, survey your reps. Reinforce the fact that their input is an important aspect of the overall evaluation of the success of the show.

By slightly readjusting your own perception of the booth staff and their comfort zones, you will not only make them more effective, but you and your company will have a more successful trade show experience—and so will the people who visit your exhibit.