At this year’s Dreamforce tradeshow, hosted by cloud computing company Salesforce, I was reminded just how great it is to be able to share best practices, ideas and even connections with other salespeople. During the show, I was also reminded what it is that sets great salespeople apart from merely mediocre ones.

Working a tradeshow is tough, I know; I’ve done it. But isn’t your goal at a show to connect with people, engage in conversation, identify key prospects and leave with follow-up actions? Why, then, do so many exhibitors treat people who visit their booths as if they are a nuisance, just more people they have to talk to? If you don’t treat everyone you meet at a tradeshow as potential customer, you’re wasting your time (and theirs).

Here are four things you should never do at a tradeshow:

  1. Forget to use my name. I’m a real person, so treat me like one. Extend your hand in greeting, ask my name and tell me yours. Smile and act as if you’re actually interested in me (even if I’m the umpteenth person you’ve spoken with today). After all, I might just be your next big customer, but you’ll never know unless you make an effort to get to know me.
  2. Pitch me. When I ask what you do, I don’t want to hear your party line. Don’t tell me what your product does and how great it is. Don’t go on and on about its features. Instead, ask about me or the needs of my business. Engage me in conversation. When I ask about a quote on your wall claiming your product helped another company increase (fill in the blank) by more than 50 percent, don’t give me your corporate speak. Acknowledge my question. The honest truth is I don’t care one bit what your product does unless you can tell me how it will benefit my business. And you can’t tell me how it will benefit my business unless you ask me about me.
  3. Try to scan my badge. Please don’t have your booth bunnies lined up with devices ready to scan my badge. Personally, I don’t let anyone scan my badge. Why? Because you’ll use that information to pester me with lengthy, automated emails thanking me for visiting your booth and inviting me to download a whitepaper or attend an event you’re sponsoring. And cold call me a few times in between. No thanks.
  4. Ignore me. This one should probably go without saying, but here it is: Don’t zone out and ignore me. There’s nothing more off-putting than walking up to a booth and finding people so busy playing with their cell phones that they have no idea I’m even there. Yes, I’m there, and so are your future customers. So where are you?

If tradeshows are such a chore for you, then — please — don’t go. If you’re going to attend, then act like you mean it. Tired? I don’t care. Feet hurt? Bring some insoles. Hung over? Too bad for you. Remember the reason your company spent thousands of dollars to attend. It’s your job to respect that investment — and the people visiting your booth.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com. © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.