Trade Show Success Tips: How to Qualify Visitors


Trade Show Success Tips: How to Qualify Visitors

by Kevin W. Brown, M.B.A.   Copyright 2012 

Scenario: It’s the trade show you’ve been waiting for: The annual conference for your key targeted market, with thousands of people milling through the exhibit hall at every break.  You’ve got a killer booth, stocked with the latest promotional materials, great give-aways and a free prize drawing to boot. 

You can meet lots of people, collect business cards and feel great about the show’s success.  But if you don’t qualify visitors and spend your time appropriately, it can end up being a waste of money.  Why?  Because you only have a few minutes, sometimes only a few seconds, to spend with each person and determine if he/she is a good prospect.  If you waste that time, you’ve likely wasted good opportunities.

So, how can you qualify visitors for follow-up efforts?

1.  Courteous, Quick and Candid

At a busy show, you don’t have time, nor is it generally appropriate, to get to know a visitor real well.  Therefore, it is important to be skilled in professionally interviewing visitors.  Greet everyone with a smile.  Be courteous.  As quickly as is possible and appropriate, ask a series of pre-planned qualifying questions, both closed and open-ended, to help you determine if the visitor is a qualified prospect.  Don’t beat around the bush — be candid.  It should be obvious to both parties if they have a need and that you have a product or service that might meet that need.  But remember, at all times treat the visitor courteously.  You want everyone to walk away from your booth thinking well of your company, so you cannot be rude.  Otherwise, the word will get around quickly that your booth (and company) is one to avoid. 

2.   Can We Meet A Need?

So what kind of questions do you ask?  Remember that the goal is to qualify the visitor to the point where you know what to do in follow-up (i.e., set-up an appointment, send a letter, just add to a mailing list or don’t bother).  

Start by trying to determine whether the visitor has a need that can be met.  Ask a series of direct questions to better understand their needs, for instance, “Why are they buying (service, price, personality, etc.)?“ Do they have problems with their existing provider?  Why would they change?  What is most important to them?  As you listen to the answers, be ready to address your benefits and also be ready to respond to any objections.  Ask yourself, what are our capabilities to meet these needs?  

3.   Let’s Move Forward

If the visitor passes this level, move forward (if not, invite them to enter your drawing and take some materials for a colleague, while you move on to someone else).  Now try to determine other facts that will help you to further qualify the visitor.  Who are the decision makers?  If not the person, you are speaking to then how can you go about meeting the decision maker?  What is the decision-making process?  What is the decision time frame?  Who are we competing against?  Do they have a budget and, if so, what is it?  Would they like a representative to call next week? 

With these and similar questions, you should have a very good grasp as to whether a visitor is a timewaster, a prospect with high potential, or someone in between. 

 About the author: Kevin W. Brown, M.B.A. has worked with professional services firms for over 20 years, including providing “Trade Show Sales Training” courses and consulting.

His firm, Kevin Brown Marketing & Consulting, is a full-service marketing and management consulting firm that specializes in serving lawyers, CPAs and other professional services firms. Phone: (714) 965-1556. Website: