Prime Advantage has invited industry experts to share their insights on the present and future of manufacturing and business success. In this post, Andy McNulty of Communication Performance Management Associates, discusses how to develop a strong rapport in trade show booth meetings.
What that means is what question could be asked of a booth attendee that would indicate an advanced level of trust and affiliation if answered. And if an advanced level of trust and affiliation is demonstrated between booth person and booth attendee, there would be promising potential for a post-show meeting and a developing, mutually-beneficial, professional relationship.
For trade show booth interactions, these concepts apply naturally as they pertain to engagement and qualifying for the purposes of future potential business. The model in this diagram suggests four levels or stages of “intimacy” that represent a typical professional relationship evolution. If possible, the most effective trade show booth interaction would follow a similar path, albeit in a significantly shorter time frame.
However, when considering the relative nature of the relationship, the model allows for scale regarding trade show booth relationship objectives as compared to typical, business-to-business or customer-sales professional relationship objectives. In the end, the goal is to be considered a trustworthy, dependable, credible resource with whom to conduct business.
On a continuum, that progression might look more like a time-line:
And the stages of the intimacy might be relative to each stage of the business-to-business relationship. Note that “Stages 1 - 3” are about the business or the products. “Stage 4” is about the attendee’s personal perception of potential improvement/ education. “Stage 5” is about the actual interaction with the booth personnel. And “Stage 6” is about the beginning of the next “Relationship Pyramid,” where there will be an advanced model of the beginning of a new model, which will need to be sequentially navigated like the trade show booth version was. And so on…
As with any quality relationship, this sequential progression of levels and stages and models is more effectively navigated utilizing appropriately engaging and professionally executed diagnostics; also known as asking questions. And the more “intimate” the questions answered, the farther along the relationship continuum we are allowed to advance. Asking the attendees about the number of facilities, the types of equipment and the existing suppliers or partners they have or use, is standard fare and is not going to advance the relationship any farther than any of the other booths they experience. Those are not “Intimate Questions.”
But establishing a level of trust, credibility and rapport, such that the engagement becomes less of an inquiry and more of a conversation, lends itself to license and appropriateness of more personal questions, that likely do not have any product or industry relevance. What they will have, is relationship relevance. And the answers provided will serve as a barometer of personal comfort and trust, and an indication of where the relationship is, and could potentially go.
One would never ask attendees where they went to high school or what the names of their pets are - not right in the beginning. But if the conversation was going well enough, one of those might come up. And if it did, and it was appropriate and legitimate, then that engagement has truly evolved from a fact-gathering mission by the attendee, to two people who seem to like each other having a friendly conversation. And when that happens, those two people might like to continue that conversation sometime in the near future. And until then, those two people will likely fondly recall the other person involved in that conversation and look forward to the next one.
Have some fun with it. Booth duty is hard. The days are long and it’s hard on your feet and your back. So think about your “I.Q.” and what kinds of questions to which you might get answers. It helps the day be more fun…and more productive, for you and the potential customers you meet.