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Hot Tips for Networking at Trade Expos
By Robyn Henderson

Mastering the gentle art of conversation can help you become a much more effective and memorable exhibitor.

Picture this scenario. You have blown your budget on your trade display, had thousands of brochures printed, updated your website, have a full compliment of staff in attendance and the order book is still blank. What is happening or rather is not happening?

Now many sales people would love potential buyers to wear signs 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.


No one is a nobody. Yes their name badge may have a lesser code than someone else, however whom do they know and why are they looking at your stand? They are not just looking 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.

The one thing that great communicators and sales people do is make a heart to heart connection with you. This happens when the listener focuses on you and the conversation you are having together. 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 onto 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 onto the stand, overheard your distracted conversation and made a decision not to come back.

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. These are 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 tradeshow 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 so far?

Rather than constantly looking for the sale, look for a quality conversation. No one wants to be treated like a $$ dollar sign. However, quality conversations build trust, and from trust comes business opportunities. Focus on the person speaking to you, not others 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, most of all have fun and the orders will follow.

About the author: Robyn Henderson is an author, publisher and international business educator. She travels throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia showing companies how to double their customer base through effective networking. Her latest book is HOW TO MASTER NETWORKING. For more information visit her website at www.networkingtowin.com.au

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