How to Earn Better Trade Show Results by Building Trust

You know the routine by heart. You attend a trade show. Set up your exhibit. Talk with visitors. Collect contact information. Pack up your exhibit. Pass the leads along to Sales. And then rinse and repeat. Then repeat. And repeat.

But maybe this approach isn’t producing the results you’re hoping for.

image of people trusting each other

“Trust, but verify.” Ronald ReaganCredit image

I’m suggesting there’s a missing ingredient in your routine: trust.

We’ve talked about building trust before, because it’s important!

If you don’t work to build trust with prospects, you’re seen as a simple commodity. You’re no better – but no worse – than your competitors.

If you do build trust, you can position yourself and your company as the solution to your prospect’s problems. This is clearly a much stronger position to be in.

How do you do this?

It takes a radical re-thinking of your approach to exhibiting. But the rewards are worth the growing pains you’ll encounter in the process. Here’s what that process looks like:

Be prepared to provide prospects with valuable information

It’s not enough to just collect their business card or swipe their badge.

Instead, offer something of value. Offer something valuable, with no expectation of reciprocation. Doing that will build trust!

It could be a blog post. It could be a white paper. Or even an email that addresses common issues encountered by customers. Show them how your product or service offers a solution to their problems.

You still need to gather the contact information. But it’s not ostensibly for sales follow-up.

Instead, it’s to provide them with what you have to offer—and here’s the key: it must represent value to them.

Work on showing genuine interest in each booth visitor

Every other booth at the show will have a canned sales pitch they can deliver without batting an eye.

That doesn’t build trust.

Instead, use a sincere attempt on the part of your booth staffers to engage with visitors and try to learn what issues they face.

Sure, your hope is that you’ll be able to show them that you offer a solution to their needs. But you want to learn from them and then explain how you can help, instead of simply unloading both barrels of your spiel.

People will enjoy and remember a good conversation that  focuses on them and their needs.

They’re not even going to remember your 12 point sales pitch for 10 minutes – so have that helpful conversation instead!

Throw out the script

Trust comes from genuine interaction. Nothing is less genuine than a scripted sales presentation.

Imagine you were talking with a family member about some problem that you could help with. You wouldn’t try to “close” on them! You’d ask questions to get at the root of the problem, show that you understand, and suggest ways you could help.

This approach will work on the show floor, as well. Ask open ended questions. Listen for the real concern the visitor is expressing, then show that you understand by recapping what he or she has said. After that, you can explain how your solution will help solve their problem.

You also ask open ended questions to make sure your visitor is a qualified prospect.

But that shouldn’t have a bearing on how you interact to build trust. If you’re speaking with someone who turns out not to be a prospect, just say that your product or service can’t help him or her right now.

Make sure to leave open the possibility that this contact might lead to your visitor becoming a prospect at a later date. Don’t write them off; stay in touch.

The approach we’re suggesting here is that you don’t want to come across as too goal-focused in your interactions. That’s the key difference between standard trade show sales techniques and this approach.

Instead of seeming like you’re focused on sales, just focus on listening and helping.

Write crib notes about your conversations

This is where an old-fashioned printed lead card can out-do a badge scanner. A simple card allows you to write notes about your interactions that will help you during the follow-up process. Those notes can be very powerful!

But you can also find apps for portable devices that will allow you to accomplish the same thing. (Heck, even my 7 yr old “smart” phone will take verbal memo’s!).

If you can capture the essence of your conversation with each visitor, you’ll score huge points. When you respond following the show, recap your discussion with them, and blow them away!

This practice will builds trust. It demonstrates that you really were listening. It shows that you understood the prospect’s needs and concerns.

Follow up in writing

Custom Retail Fixtures for an Annual Conference and Event

Summer 2015 Custom Trade Show Display for Annual Conference

Imagine the difference:

  1. A follow up email –  “Hey, it was nice to meet you at the XYZ Show” (probably the same message they get from everyone else they met!)?
  2. Wouldn’t it be better if your follow up message reminded them about the friendly discussion you had, and then explained how you can help?

This is when you offer those resources we discussed in the first point above. Give them something valuable. Maybe a blog post, a white paper or a tech write up that details the solution they expressed interest in.

When you give a prospect something, you put into action the Law of Reciprocity.

This law suggests that once you give a person something they value, they feel obliged to respond in kind.

This is where establishing trust pays off. Prove that you’ve listened to them, and that will begin to pay dividends. People approached in this way are more likely to see you as a valued resource.

You won’t be just another vendor, you’re now someone that helped them already. That makes it a lot easier to convert them to a customer.

Perhaps you don’t feel you have the time to invest in this approach. But think of your own interactions with salespeople for a moment. Don’t you feel more better about those who approach you trying to be helpful? I don’t know about you, but I start inching away immediately from the “Fuller Brush” salesmen and their canned pitches!

Show that you’re willing to invest the time to treat each booth visitor as a human being. Don’t treat them like they’re just another potential prospect to be “qualified”. Try this, and you’ll see that your results will be remarkable!

People are people first. Before they’re scientists or engineers or legal professionals – they’re just people. They watch the same TV shows as “regular” people, and they have the same wants and needs. Treating them like a person creates a bond that will prove beneficial when the time comes to close the deal.

Treat them like people, and you'll see a big improvement in your trade show results. Share on X

Clearly, your trade show exhibit can also have an impact on your trade show success. Your trade show displays needs to attract visitors, to give you that chance to get to know them.

If your marketing is strong, but no one is stopping by your exhibition stand to talk with you, then give that trade show booth a good look.

Is your booth starting to show its age? Do the graphics have that “loving hands of home” look? If so, maybe it’s time to spruce up what you have—or even start from scratch.

We represent most of the major US manufacturers of pop-up, modular and custom exhibit displays. We can create the look you want at a budget-friendly price.

For more, check out our article on how to drastically increase sales or 3 common trade show myths.

To discuss your needs and how we might be of help, call us at (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected].