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Walking around the floors of Dreamforce, I’m constantly astonished at how bad sales and marketing demos still are by many companies. This is supposed to be the era of 1:1 marketing. This is supposed to be the era of customization. Yet far too many marketers are demonstrating products and services with the same kind of mass demonstration.

Walk by the majority of the booths on the conference floor and you’ll experience religious marketing: spray and pray, in which booth staffers shout about the benefits or the features loud enough and hope that it catches the interest of a passerby.

By contrast, the best booths and the best demos all start with a simple question. The sooner you ask this question, the better the experience is for the average trade show attendee.

“What questions can I answer?”

Or, for the particularly bold, “What questions can I answer, or are you just here to grab a piece of tradeshow swag? It’s totally fine if you are, we’re rather proud of ours.” I heard that once or twice and acknowledged the booth staff for their selling skills. By the way, “what questions can I answer” is a better sales question than “do you have any questions”. If you are trying to elicit feedback from someone, you want to make sure to ask questions that do not have a binary yes or no answer.

Finally, the very best trade show pitchers know when to stop. They know when to stop when the prospect is not interested, but more importantly, they know when to stop when you are ready to talk to a salesperson. I had that positive experience yesterday at the Domo dashboarding service booth. I said quite clearly, “I am interested in your solution and want to talk to a salesperson”. The booth employee, whose name I did not catch, didn’t try to force me through a script or a prerecorded demo, she just sent me along to the sales consultants immediately – and that was exactly what I wanted. No fuss, no muss, no hassle.

Building a better tradeshow booth isn’t about the carpet, or the swag, or the flashy demo. Building a better tradeshow booth is about training your staff to do better, to ask better questions, and to recognize different selling situations almost immediately.


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