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Exhibiting at a show or event: 7 rules to remember

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I have been encouraging all advisors to increase their face-to-face marketing in our challenging phone culture. The idea of exhibiting often comes up.

Much like phoning, the way you approach exhibiting has to modernize. If you’re still doing it the same way you did it years ago, you may be working harder and not smarter — and not creating new clients.

Recently, I spoke to several advisors who were going to targeted shows for the clients they wanted to meet. In two cases, female advisors were going to women-oriented events. We discussed how to approach people who seem to be “grazing by” your booth.  One woman told me she would blatantly ask people who were looking, but not really engaging, if she could “give them her two-minute speech.” 

Related: How to create a practice with little (or no) natural market

My answer was a horrified “Oh no!”

The goal of any show or event is the same as a networking event.  You want to engage people — one at a time — in a meaningful conversation. Find out what they care about and present who you are and what you do in the context of what they reveal.  Start out with questions, not speeches.

Don’t give out brochures randomly.  Engage other human beings in a face-to-face, truly listening conversation. What happens is you get a better end result. Your goal, before they leave your booth, is to get into their phones.  If possible, set a phone date or even an appointment. 

In past years, we’ve all advocated doing a raffle and putting lead cards all over your booth. In the past, I’ve edited lead cards and helped people follow up on these events. Now I’ll tell you, STOP DOING RAFFLES.

Related: Approaching your natural market: Helpful tips to get you started

Exhibiting at a show or event: 7 rules to remember

Just like your other prospecting strategies, the way you approach exhibiting has to modernize. (Photo: iStock)

I am being blasphemous, I know.  Raffles have always gotten us “lots of names” and I’m telling you to stop. You don’t WANT lots of names. You want people who will remember you after the show and accept your follow up phone call. 

If you can engage in a truly individualized conversation, your follow up phone call will allow you to pick up that same conversation where you left off. You’ve created a memorable exchange, which will give you a higher chance of getting a face-to-face appointment.

Raffles defy this whole philosophy. First problem I have with raffles is that it clutters your list of people to call with people who aren’t interested in what you do. Why would you want to make those calls? If you are giving something away of value, such as a new high-def TV, don’t you want to talk to people who can buy one for themselves?

There are several types of events,such as fairs, where you do not have a “qualified” group of people attending.  The raffle attracts the exact wrong people for financial advisors.

The modern approach is to talk to people, one at a time; more quality, less quantity. That’s the way to go.

Now you may be thinking, “So if I don’t have a raffle to stop people when they “graze by,” how do I engage people?”

Start with what you have in common: the event. Ask people if they are enjoying it. What do they like the best? What attracted them to this particular event? If you don’t know how to continue the conversation after these three questions, you need more training on “how to converse with people you don’t know.”

Related: Texting: when (and when not) to use it in client communications

Exhibiting at a show or event: 7 rules to remember

Gone are the days when a raffle was all it took to grab peoples’ attention at a trade show or conference. (Photo: iStock)

Don’t take lead cards. Take blank index cards.  After the visitor leaves your booth, write down as much as you can in shorthand to remember them. Don’t let them leave without getting them into your phone and texting your contact information back to them.  Don’t bring paper business cards anymore. It’s easy to say “I only use my electronic business card because people find it easier to keep me in their phones.”

My secret ingredient for attracting people to my booths has always been the iconic Hershey’s Kisses. No one can resist them and most people can’t eat just one. Kids will definitely come to your booth and most adults will sheepishly ask if they can take one.  It’s a conversation-starter since we all love those little silver chocolates.

Here are 7 exhibiting rules to remember:

  1. Exhibiting is a social event. Not a sales event.

  2. Keep your sales monster at home and enjoy meeting new people.

  3. Ask about others.

  4. Don’t monologue.

  5. Get your contact info into their phones and vice versa.

  6. Try to set phone dates with people you like.

  7. Have fun! 

More blogs by Gail B. Goodman:

Prospects not listening to voice mail? Arrange a phone date

DNC prospecting: What to do when you can’t call people at home

How to evaluate prospecting methods

10 prospecting strategies that work

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