DON’T JUST FOCUS ON THE ‘BIG KAHUNA’ – (the important people)

By Robyn Henderson

Mastering the gentle art of conversation, can help you avoid trade expo disasters and set sales records…

Picture this scenario: You have blown your budget on your trade display, had thousands of brochures printed, updated your website, have a full complement of staff in attendance and on day two, you still haven’t taken your first order! What is happening – or rather not happening?

Many sales people would love potential buyers to wear a sign saying “My name is John Smith and I am in the market for one of your $50, 000 widgets – be nice to me and you may get the order.” Or “I’m married to the head of the company you are trying to secure a contract from. If you treat me as the intelligent person I am, rather than ignoring me as you are doing now, I may introduce you to my partner.” Or, “I am the company scout – I am checking out all the stands today, before the big boss arrives tomorrow. If you keep patronising me today, you will not see my boss and the decision maker tomorrow – I will make sure of it!”

That would be really simple for everyone and then all we would have to do is be able to read. Sure, when you read the name badge of the potential customer, interpret whatever code the organisers are using (be it colour or symbol) we could then only speak to those that we perceive to be important.

How foolish that would be…

It’s not what you know

Remember, it’s not what you know but who knows what you know.

No one is a nobody. Yes, their name badge may have a lesser code than someone else however, who do they know and why are they looking at your stand? Certainly not for something to do to fill in their day. We are all so time poor today, that sometimes we just don’t realise how important it is to take the time to have a conversation with everyone we come into contact with – whether they look like buyers or not!

Pick up The Big Kahuna movie with Danny De Vito and Kevin Spacey when you next visit your video store. It brings home well and truly the “no one is a nobody”. The Big Kahuna’s – (the No.1 buyers) – often deliberately avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Think about some of the better communicators in your networks – what makes them different? Is it that they do any or all of the following:

Listen to your answer

Allow you to finish your response without interrupting

Make eye contact (unless it’s culturally unacceptable)

Genuinely act as though they do care about your answer

Somehow make you feel special

Follow up when they say they will

Offer helpful suggestions

Remember snippets of previous conversations you may have had that may be relevant to the current situation

The heart to heart connection

Not surprisingly, most good sales people also do all of the above.

The one thing that great communicators and sales people do is make a heart to heart connection with you.

This is not in a romantic sense. Rather the listener focuses on you and the conversation you are having together. Whether there are one or five people in the group, they are focussed on the general conversation. They are not distracted. They are ‘in the moment’ or ‘in the now’. They are listening with their heart as well as their ears.

When we speak from our heads, we often become flustered and nervous, stumbling over words. We are so worried about missing the next ‘important’ person that comes on to the stand and we mentally try to weigh up whether this current person is buying or not. Meanwhile we have lost two potential customers, the one we are speaking to and the one who came on to the stand, who overheard your distracted conversation and made a decision not to come back.

When we make a heart to heart connection we listen actively to the conversation. We don’t have to worry about what we are going to say next, because when we are listening we also receive lots of cues for responses or more questions. And, if we are quiet long enough, we can even learn lots of things.

Trade show tips

Start treating people the way you would like to be treated. Ask open ended questions that start with who, what, how, when, where, why and allow the person to expand on what is possibly one of the most important things in their life – their business.

Good exhibitors usually have a couple of open ended questions prepared. Questions that they feel comfortable asking and answering. Here are a few examples:

Tell me about your business, what type of customers do you have?

How many businesses in your area sell the same products as you?

Throughout the exhibition, what product has caught your eye so far?

What, specifically, did you come to the trade show for?

What size is your showroom?

What sort of effect has the internet and e-business had on your outlet?

What has been the highlight of your day?

Rather than constantly looking for the sale, look for a quality conversation. No one wants to be treated like a dollar sign! However, quality conversation builds trust and from trust comes business opportunities. The quickest way to turn a prospect into an advocate is to make a heart to heart connection. Focus on the person in front of you, not those walking down the aisles, those you think you may miss.

They will come back to you again and again – you see, good communicators are hard to find. Communicate today, build trust and most of all have fun and the orders will follow. Why not try it and see for yourself?

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