Below is the transcript of a conversation with a professional buyer I thought useful for exhibitors from www.bestofshow.com with Colin Green and David Staughton .
Colin Green is a Certified Trade Show Marketer at Best of Show.
David Staughton owned four convention centres near Melbourne, Victoria. He often visited business-to-business Consumer shows seeking products & services for the centres.
Highly successful, he “retired” very young & was instantly snapped up as a consultant, trouble-shooter & motivator by SME’s, Corporates, Associations & Government Departments of all types around Australia & New Zealand.
In this role & with significant buying power, he continues to visit shows – Trade & Consumer. His insights are powerful & very worth listening to for Exhibitors seeking to peer into the mind of the “professional buyer”.
Colin: Good morning, Dave. Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed.
Dave: Good morning, Colin.
Colin: We’re doing a number of these interviews with exhibitors, some organizers, a stand builder, and I thought it would be a good thing to talk with you as a professional person who goes to shows – a professional show-goer – if you like. Do you think you fit that mould?
Dave: Its part of my job and certainly, when I ran my business going to shows was something I used to do a lot. Now I go to lots of shows in lots of different industries for my Clients including expos attached to conferences, with little displays in the back.
Colin: Why do you do that?
Dave: I have an interest. I’m interested in the products. I’m interested in catching up with people and building relationships with the people I deal with, and I’m mostly interested in finding new, exciting and different things. Some of those things are typically to be had quite easily at a show or an expo.
Colin: So what exactly do you do, and from what viewpoint are you doing this, both professionally and privately?
Dave: Well, I had a number of function centres and businesses and I do an awful lot of work in the hospitality and tourism industry and with various other professional industries. A lot of the people I do work with are interested in selling their things better.
As a part of that, its being knowledgeable about what they could do that would differentiate themselves in the market. When I used to go to many food & beverage and hospitality shows, I was looking for ideas to differentiate my four function centres in the market.
Colin: At this moment you’re a professional speaker and a professional trouble shooter for various industries, businesses and corporations, is that correct?
Dave: Yes. It’s a combination between a consultant and a trainer. I certainly can do lots of training and things. Many consultants will write you a report but it doesn’t get implemented and trainers will just solve a problem but they only just sort of solve a generic problem. I find it’s incumbent upon me to do the consulting to find out what the problem is, and then develop training or public speaking or a conference solution for what is required.
Colin: As a private individual, do you go to consumer shows with the family as well?
Dave: I’ve got three kids and my family and I absolutely love going to shows. They love the entertainment and I like seeing new products and seeing how people are representing themselves and their business. All sorts of things from down here in Melbourne such as the Royal Melbourne Show and the Home Show.
I’m a fan of the Mind, Body & Spirit Show. I’ve been to the Car Show practically every year. Investments, tourism shows, places where we could go—there are all sorts of fun shows that I’ll take the family to and they love it. They really enjoy it.
Colin: The entertainment you mentioned—that’s obviously very important for your kids?
Dave: Yes, they like activities. There are some of those places with things that you can pay to do, like rides and all sorts of things.
Colin: What are you doing while they’re doing that?
Dave: I’m just watching them enjoy it for that particular moment, and then I’ll go around to the various other stands to have a look and see what other people are selling at these places.
Colin: What shows have you done in the last 12 months with your professional hat on?
Dave: Most of the food and beverage, hospitality and tourism shows. AIME, RSVP, Fine Food. Printing Shows have been interesting. Gift fairs too. I’ve done every state’s Caravan Show and most business shows and franchise expos. Also many local council business shows.
Colin: It’s obvious that you go to an awful lot of shows! When you’re going in a professional role, do you have specific objectives?
Dave: One of the things I’m always interested in (as well as a lot of the CEOs I deal with) is improving sales, so I’m interested in just watching to see what people are doing. I’m interested in finding particular new and unusual ideas and building relationships.
So it’s mostly ideas for either myself or my clients about new products, what’s new, how can I use it somewhere and differentiate it? The reason I go to multiple industry shows is that sometimes the solution I’m looking for for my industry is actually in somebody else’s industry, at somebody else’s show.
Colin: That’s pretty powerful, because that means you get out of the thinking of everybody else in the industry and you bring something new to the table.
Dave: If you want to be different, innovative, creative, exclusive, you’ve got to go to either international shows (and I’ve done a few of those), or you’ve got to go to pick up different ideas.
Colin: Where have you gone to international shows? Are they within Australia or in other countries as well?
Dave: I’ve done China for sporting goods shows, Hong Kong for food shows. Next year I’m off to the Chicago Restaurant Fair. I’ve always wanted to get there so I think next year’s going to be the year.
Colin: When you’re going to the shows, do you pick specific exhibitors or do you just wander to see what you can see?
Dave: If I’m really time limited I’ll pick the eye teeth out of the plan and I’ll see who do I know and who looks interesting. If I have a day or more for a show, and some of them are worthwhile doing that, I will almost scour every single aisle.
I go up and down in a grid pattern and start from the left-hand corner and work my way up one side and down the other and do that continuously. That’s pretty much more of a complete way of doing it. What I tend to find with that is the unique, unusual, new exhibitors.
Colin: Do you have prior communication with exhibitors – do people find you or do you find them, before the show so that you are looking for specific companies?
Dave: Very rarely do people contact me beforehand. Even when I’m going through the people I know, I reacquaint my relationships and existing business relationships, but very few of them have contacted me with things that say, “Come and see us at stand number…”
Colin: Let’s say an organization contacted you and said, “Dave, we’d love to see you. Please come to our stand. We have this, which is new,” would you really listen to that and consider going to see them?
Dave: A couple of people have sent us some tickets to the show. Or a couple of times I’ve forgotten about a particular show and that’s got me along. Once I get there I’ll pretty much go into show mode, which is either the “fast select” model or the “see everything” model. And I do call to see them.
Colin: You mention that you have a grid pattern, starting in a particular position. Let’s say you’ve gone in the main door. Do you go left, right, how do you do that? Bearing in mind that you’re Australian and we drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Dave: I don’t know what it is, but I go to the left and it’s interesting, someone once told me they do the same thing in supermarkets—people turn to the left more than two-thirds of the time.
Colin: There’s a zone in the shows which we often refer to as the “zoom zone.” That is the area around the entrance and the concept is that people walk through the door and then they have to acclimatize. They’re probably about 10 or 15 meters from the door before they start to focus. What’s your feeling on that? I’m not trying to lead you; I’m just asking for your thoughts. Do you see that, or do you think you’d be fresher as you get through the door?
Dave: As I go into most shows, typically people will hand you the agenda with the show layout. So then I’m opening the bag, getting the show layout and trying to find out the layout of that show. I’m focused on that and I’ll just kind of start walking and usually identify a good start position.
I’ve kind of ignored the people in the front zone there. Typically they have a huge corporate display doing some sort of branding thing in the front and it’s generally not that interesting. It’s usually somebody showing off how wonderful they are, but not as much help.
Colin: That’s something I’ve been concerned about because often people feel that the best place to be can be right at the entrance. I didn’t actually take it from the viewpoint that you’re reading the show guide and of course, that would take your attention away from what’s happening with those particular exhibitors. Thank you for that.
Now let’s talk about exhibitors, per se. Excluding staff, because we’re going to talk about staff in a moment. Are there any particular things that either attract or repel you about exhibitors?
Dave: If there’s a stand that is chockablock full of people that are all just there for scrounging things, it really repels me and lessens the ability to get to talk to somebody. The real key thing I’m looking for is to be able to access the staff persons. I just want access to them.
So when the stand is chockablock full of people, and that might be because they’re giving away free coffees and there are hoards of people coming for the free item and all of the sales reps are busy or all clumped talking to each other or I’m clearly not able to access the stand, then I wouldn’t go there.
Colin: So are you telling me that giving away things are a turn-off rather than a turn-on?
Dave: Coffee is might be different if it makes your stand appear busy, but I’m busy and successful are not same. Ice creams, lollies, free nibbles of a cake—I go to lots of food and hospitality shows and by the time you’ve gone around you could practically make yourself sick by having a sample of everything.
One has chocolate ice cream, and then chicken…in any random order, after a while you say you’re not just there for the free sample. I want to talk to them about availability, how much it sit, what can you do with it and all these sorts of things. I need access to a staff member and that is important.
I find that typically, corner stands are more easy to access because they’ve got the two openings. What we’ll sometimes see is very narrow openings, perhaps two meters in a straight aisle and once one person is there talking to them, and if they’re deep in conversation with that person, I’m not going to wait.
Colin: So you’re saying that a very small stand is detrimental, whereas the more normal three-meter or larger gets a bigger bang for the buck?
Dave: The larger stand gives the ability for the staff member and one or two people typically, to be having a chat, and then you’ll be able to get past them and see exactly what their stand is. You can have a look at their brochures and pick one up if they’re busy in conversation.
If I like it and I’m in a hurry I’ll just pick up a brochure. The stand with the exhibitor plus two other people standing in front of it having a chat, A, you can’t even see the stand and B, there’s an opportunity for a second exhibitor to come and talk to you.
Colin: That’s very good input.
Dave: You might have all this beautiful display and pictures and all the typical stuff and buyers can’t get to it.
Colin: You actually touched on something every interesting there. Say that you’re coming by someone’s stand and you see the people talking and you grab a brochure. If you scan the brochure and you’re really interested in what they’ve got. If you can’t get to talk to the staff person immediately, why wouldn’t you wait?
Dave: I’m looking for quality conversation. Some of these shows have 300 or 400 exhibitors. So I’ll bring all of this stuff back in a bag and I’ll go through it for unique, unusual, differentiated and stuff that might be worthwhile when I get home.
Colin: If they had the brochures down the back of the stand, in a three-meter stand, and they’ve got no barriers and you could walk in, would you generally go to the back of the stand to get the brochures or to see what they’ve got?
Dave: Only if it looks really unusual or different, or if it’s something I might use.
Colin: Do you find that many stands are incomprehensible to you and you don’t get their message straight off so you don’t know whether they’ve got what you want or not?
Dave: If I can’t tell what it is and there’s someone standing there or available, I’ll ask what they’re selling. I’ve found over the years, there have been many stands where there are pictures and I’d ask, “What are you selling? Equipment? People?” They just put generic pictures up and I’m literally saying, “What exactly is it that you’re selling here?” because they might have an obscure name. For those particular businesses, some of them can be real gems and some of them are useless.
Colin: Are you saying there should be more words, more pictures, or a better focus on what exactly the message is with both of those elements?
Dave: You have to have real clarity around it. If you call yourself “XYZ Company,” well, I can’t tell from your name what you do. Typically there should be words, the generic heading of what you do—staffing solutions or your product—“We have this, we have the world’s greatest apple peeler,” whatever you’ve got that’s a bit different and then preferably the features, advantages and benefits.
You need some information around it. Some people just put things up, almost like they randomly selected a few posters and pictures from the office and stuck them up on the wall for decoration. They really haven’t thought it out. I don’t know what your research shows, but they’ve got only a few seconds as people walk by and unless your stand really leaps out at them, most people are not as interested as me to come and find out what’s going on.
Colin: At Best of Show, we share the fact that it takes around three and a half seconds to go past a three-meter stand and in that time, the buyers, such as you would be, have got what I call “exhibition glaze.” That means you have a lot of stimuli coming into the mind and you tend to blank inputs out. So on that basis, a stand needs to be “glancable” so the buyer instantly “gets it”. That’s why I’m tremendously interested in your comments.
Dave: I do the “one side at a time” model, which is I’ll walk up an aisle and I’ll only be doing one side, so I go past all the stands and every stand gets at least a look-in. The bulk of the people that I see going to shows are just walking up one aisle and they’re doing both sides simultaneously. So it’s interesting that you said it takes a few seconds for your three meters; basically if the other person opposite you is more interesting, they’ll look that way and you didn’t even get seen.
Colin: Very good point. I know when I go to the shows; I try to be, shall we say, “efficient.” I do just one scan up the aisle and I do it in a grid pattern also. I don’t even go up one side and down the other.
Dave: I do that because I get all excited and I might forget one and miss somebody. Then I get to the end of the show and I say, “I didn’t see those people there.”
Colin: Good point.
Dave: Certainly for the one that I’m the most interested in, which is my industry, I want to be absolutely thorough because I want to make sure that my competitors don’t find things there that I didn’t find.
Colin: What about barriers? Say someone’s got something across the front of the stand and they’re standing behind it and you’re on the other side. What’s your thought on that? Is it good, bad, indifferent, it depends, or what?
Dave: Some people do that if they’re doing food sampling and things. They’ll put like a desk or a table for them to do that, but it means that they’re going into a “retail shop counter” mode and the ability for me to build rapport with them or for me to build a relationship with them is limited. I can’t stand next to them or beside them and have a chat about things.
Dave: You know, you are the vendor and I am the purchaser, and we will have a little chit-chat across your product table and that’s about it really.
Colin: Okay, so there’s no relationship. I found that interesting because that’s one thing at Best of Show we’re always concerned about, too, that there are relationships, and by having the full-body exposure, if you like, you are talking with the person as opposed to being talked at.
Dave: I think that’s it and from what I see generally, the ones that it varies is that they’re kind of spruiking their products, and if you just want wanted to do that, well, send free products out because that would have done the same thing. I think too many exhibitors are just product-focused. It’s all about the product. It’s all about the product. What exactly is their target? Is it handing out products? Is it handing out brochures? Is it collecting names and addresses or it is genuinely building relationships and qualifying people?
Colin: Let’s move on to the staff. You clearly want a relationship to talk with the person, to understand what they’ve got and to have a point of contact afterwards to go back to. Is that what you are saying, or am I leading you?
Dave: That’s exactly it. And an important bit that I take away from it is that I get an idea of their new products and I must get from that of what it was about the new product. What were the contact details, and where do you get hold of this particular product. This is why getting a brochure, business card or something is quite important.
Colin: Some people sit there and leave business cards and brochures for you to collect. Wouldn’t that work for you?
Dave: Occasionally, but when I get back home, it’s just that I’ve got 100 or 200 and that’s interesting. But the ones that stick out in my mind for my action lists that I prepare are the ones who I spoke to and built a good relationship with. Many of those people have had business from me, where I’ve actually gone back and said, “I have a need for this now.”
So I’ll go and track them down. But the ones who almost instantly got sales was because they might have done a show special or they invited me to something. We built a relationship at the stand. They stood out amongst all the brochures and cards that I collected.
Colin: So, as far as approach is concerned, to have them stand out in your mind, do you mind if people approach you at the show? Catch your eye and talk with you? Or do you prefer if they wait until you make the approach? How do you like to do that?
Dave: I’m happy to be approached. That’s what we’re there for. It’s different if I was in my business and someone just turns up and door knocks or cold calls. But at the show, I’m there to be served and if they can open the conversation well, and we can talk about some diagnostic stuff, that would be useful.
Colin: So what’s a good opener?
Dave: “How’s it going? Are you enjoying the show?”
Colin: That’s a good opener? Really?
Dave: I always say, “How’s the weather? Beautiful day, isn’t it?” I don’t mind those sort of openers because what it tells you straight away is whether they are even interested, and it’s kind of like the pinging out from a submarine because straight away they go, “Hmm. Okay, we know where we stand with this one. It’s quite low level or, “Oh, yeah, beautiful isn’t it?” They’re quite interactive and all of a sudden, you’ve got a conversation going.
Now, as opposed to—I remember I once said to somebody, “So, what’s the biggest problem in your business?” and he blasphemed me and said, “Get out of here with that consulting crap.” I went, “Oh, that didn’t start too well.” That was memorable for me as an opener—once.
Colin: I need to ask you, though. If someone asks you what we term an open-ended qualifying question—how, what, when, where, these sorts of questions—and they might say, “Whereabouts in Victoria do you hold your conferences?” or something like that.
Dave: They usually say, “Where are you from?”
Colin: Okay, but if someone did come up with something that, “Which part Victoria do you hold your conferences in,” bearing in mind that you may not be the person that holds conferences, but that’s what we’re looking for, and then you can either say, “I don’t do conferences,” or you can say, “I do that at the end of the month,” or whatever it’s going to be, how do you feel about those sort of questions? Are they pushy? Are they right?
Dave: If they’re too big too quick, I feel that you haven’t earned the right to ask that question yet. Does that make sense? If you kind of get into the, “What’s your turnover?” “How much business or turnover do you do?”
Colin: A question like that of course, is indeed very deep. That’s asking very personal information. But if they’re saying to you, “Which part of Victoria do you have your conferences in…?”
Dave: I think, “Where are you from?” is the generic one. I think it’s kind of like courtship and marriage. You’ve got to have a bit of foreplay before we get to the big questions. We don’t open up with, “Will you marry me?” “Would you like to buy one?” We open up with, “Hi, how are things? How are you?”
Most of us talk about the weather, the sport, the football, and it’s an opener. It’s usually just a ping. “How are things? How are you today?” My perception is that they’re testing—it’s kind of like a computer. I’m sending out a signal to see whether the other one’s going to send a signal back or not.
Colin: OK – thanks for that.
Dave: That’s my perception. Mostly you don’t get that many openings.
Colin: At Best of Show we advocate open-ended, qualifying questions, and trying to send a signal out to say, “Who are you? What do you do? What are you interested in? Are you interested in what we can help you with?”
Dave: In the retail industry, there is a terrific book that sort of covers generic openers, and it’s called No Thanks, Just Looking by Friedman, and he’s the guru of retail selling in America and some in Australia, as well.
Colin: He came down to Australia around about four years ago.
Dave: He says that retail, it’s all about the opening, and I think in shows and in retail, it’s going to be fairly similar at that opening stage. I’ve had plenty of “Are you rights” or “Can I help you?” And the traditional Australian is hard wired to say, “No thanks,” or, “Just looking.”
Colin: Understood. So they’re not great openers!
Dave: It’s really funny because I’ve asked a few people as they wander past “How are you doing?” Almost always the answer “Just looking.” That wasn’t the question, but clearly they’re so paranoid about being asked.
Colin: OK – let’s get back to the staff. How do you view exhibitors that are sitting waiting for an approach?
Dave: Standing is much better than sitting. My all-time horror-stands to pass are the international trade exhibits from some people that just don’t want to be there. They have some product and they’ve got an entire stand full of it, and there’s some poor person in traditional national costume in the back of the stand with a totally reprehensible attitude.
Colin: Okay. So what about the way a person is dressed? Do you note this in particular?
Dave: Neatness and professionalism. For some people, wearing a tie is the uniform of business. Certainly, horses for courses, but I’d be less inclined to be buying market stuff from someone who’s turned up in casual gear.
Colin: We touched on “exhibition glaze” earlier. Where everyone is exhausted. The exhibitor and the buyer. Somehow you’ve got to get interaction happening. In terms of, say, presentations, for example, would you hang about for 10 minutes before one was about to begin?
Colin: Even if you’re really interested in what they’ve got?
Dave: If I was really interested in what I’ve got, I’d get an individual presentation. I’m not really that keen on group presentations.
Colin: What about demonstrations? Often you like watching demonstrators showing how things work. How do you feel about those?
Dave: An individual demonstration, but they have to be quick. I’m not going to stand around for 10 minutes while you show me this, that and the other.
I used to take all my staff along to shows, and they were very much interested in the how-to things, so at the meeting for the lower level of the organization, a certain personality perhaps is just “show me how you do it”. So, the chef was interested in how you actually make the desserts. I was more interested the decision of will this dessert fit on our menu and will we even bother with it.
I was in a decision mode, so I’m making the decision, “Will we buy it or not,” and he’s making the decision that says, “If we did buy, how would we go about using it?” So he will very much sit at the show as the guy who goes through exactly it saves him time and effort and he’s using different decision criteria.
Colin: So as I see it, you’re saying that the exhibitor has to absolutely know their target market, because they would want to talk with the chef and show how this works so that the chef can master it and do this. But also, they need for the person who’s making the buying decisions, the snap person, to sign on the bottom line and make that happen. So in that scenario, they’ve got two very different target markets that are coming back to a common goal. Would that be appropriate?
Dave: I tend to make more decisions, so I’m the boss, and it’s got to make me money, save me money or improve me some way. It’s going to be a decision made based on finding new things that are going to give me the ability to differentiate myself. I will typically make a decision on less information.
Whereas some of the staff that used to work for me, they’d want to go into it in phenomenal detail as to how do you use it and what if this happens and what if that happens. They were much slower decision makers and their method of going to those shows was just to go around to a few stands that interest them and spend an awful lot of time looking at just the things that glittered.
Colin: You mentioned before about freebies, giveaways, premiums. You had some pretty strong opinions on giving away coffee or attracting other exhibitors and fill the stand up. What are your feelings with various giveaways beyond that? How important might freebies be to draw you to a stand, or are you looking for something different? Do they really attract? Do they help you to recall a brand?
Dave: A stand that has refreshments on it might be useful for people. Large stands and some of the big brand names will have a refreshment stand on it, and basically, they are trying to build relationships with the people who they have existing relationships with and they will say, “Here’s a coffee or here’s a drink. Sit down and let’s have a chat.”
Refreshment giveaways are slightly different to “I’m a coffee vendor and I’m just giving samples of my coffee away for people to try.” They’re typically doing this as “Here’s a sample. If you like the product, you might buy it.”
That’s an interesting model, and I’m not sure that it always works. The one that absolutely just doesn’t work is “Here’s this product and by the way, have a squeezy ball or a Frisbee.” Okay, thanks for that. I’ll put it in my bag and when I come home, I’ll chuck it in the bin or give it to the kids.
Colin: Okay, I can see your viewpoint on that. One thing I would like to follow a little further on is organizations which are trying to build a relationship by giving refreshments. Is that a good thing to do, or is that a way to clog up the stand, or is it something else?
Dave: From what I can gather from some of those people is that they know who they want to talk to and some of those accounts to them are worth an awful lot of money, so it’s certainly not for the public things. It’s more for the business-to-business, but some of those relationship people of that particular buyer; they might be worth millions of dollars in account purchases to them.
Colin: So it can work, but you have to be really focused on what you want to do. Would that be your message?
Dave: It is, and what they’re trying to do is just catch up and build relationships, and they have an agenda. Clearly, they’re using it as a methodology to keep that person happy. I went to the Australian Gaming Exhibition with all the poker machines and some of them had a bar in their gaming machine displays that were huge.
There would be a bar or there would be a coffee area, and basically it was “Come over, have a coffee, and now let’s sit down and talk to you about your needs and what you want.” They were using the refreshments as a real enticer for high-end clients, high-end prospects.
Colin: How do they treat people who they determine not to be high end, and just want a coffee? Do they move them along? How do you experience that?
Dave: In order for someone to get a coffee, you have to be brought over by a sales person who’s typically qualified you.
Colin: That’s a bit different, isn’t it, because they’re not just coming in and getting the coffee.
Dave: It’s not free coffee so as to clog up your stand with people. It also depends who’s at your stand. If it’s really high-level buyers, high managers and things like that, then typically they’re less excited people being at your stand.
Or at some of the more generic trade shows where they’ve brought all the kitchen apprentices out and everybody’s just out there, or worse than that, some of the schools will bring all their students out and show them this is what a trade show looks like. They’re only there to just collect stuff and to get free ice creams.
Colin: It seems to me that you’re saying there is a great delineation here, a great divide because to be giving away things like hospitality products, like refreshment products, you say that’s fine as long as the rep has invited the person to have the coffee, to have the refreshments, to spend a little time as opposed to just handing ice creams out to all and sundry, because on the former, the ones that they invited, you’ve got a relaxation and you’re building rapport. On the other, you’ve got gridlock on the stand. Is that what you’re telling me?
Dave: Well, often people can’t even get to talk to your reps anybody because they’re so busy handing out ice creams. There is a queue of kids and lower level staff who are just totally not interested in anything that you’ve got to sell or buy. It’s just what can I get for me?
Colin: As I’m understanding it then if you’re going to be doing freebies, it has to be focused on why are we doing this, who do we want to give this to, and do we have the potential to clog the stand or alternatively, have we got a relationship-building tool here? So, it has to be very explicit and carefully worded. Is that what you’re saying?
Dave: Yes. I’m just thinking of some other conferences that I’ve been to recently where the staffer is standing there with a fairly boring product, and in order to make it slightly more interesting they’ll say, “I’m from the bank and here’s a squeezy ball or here’s a ruler,” or something like that.
It’s kind of like that old joke about tying a pork chop around your kid’s neck to get the dog to play with him. They’re using it as a tool to engage with the audience, but I’m not sure whether that’s the sort of engagement they really want. There’s branding on that as well. Usually it’s a product that’s got your brand on it, you know, ruler or squeezy ball. Does that help memorability? Maybe.
Colin: Does it?
Dave: I don’t think so.
Colin: You don’t think so?
Dave: If your brand is memorable already, you know, like Commonwealth Bank, then clearly I can probably remember it, and it might aid it, but if it was “XYZ Bloke’s Company”—no idea.
Colin: Okay. Let’s discuss leads. If an exhibitor is collecting leads, how happy are you to give out your personal details, your business card, or if they want to “swipe” your card (at a trade show) with a tracking device, how pleased are you to do that, as a buyer?
Dave: I don’t mind giving it out. I nearly always will give it out, unless the person really annoyed me or they had a product that was totally not suitable, or they were going to absolutely hound me.
Colin: What are your thoughts on business cards in fish bowls? Is that a good way to collect leads?
Dave: I think I’m certainly happy to put my business card into a fish bowl if that’s what they want. You certainly get some names, and then they’ve always got the ability to send me an email and whether it’s good or not, I’ll judge that. It’s just another way to get mail.
One of the outcomes of the show is that you’ve got a number of names or leads, and I will usually carry a large collection of business cards to nearly every show I go to. I find the scanners don’t work most of the time.
Colin: Why would you say that?
Dave: Because they nearly always have trouble with them. They have to come over and physically grab my tag so they have to get really close to me, within my personal zone. They say, “Do you mind if we scan your tag?” so it’s always an absolute hardship. They have to get the machine, whether it is on a wire or whatever, and we have to get the two things together, and the scanning nearly always doesn’t work particularly well.
Colin: Interesting. We must have an interview with a scanning contractor.
Dave: Even though that particular stand has then got my details to pull off the database that I filled in at the front door and stuff like that, I’d much rather, if I’ve built a relationship or I think there’s any potential in it at all, give them a business card.
Colin: Now, from your viewpoint, you’re saying you don’t mind them having your details, having a card, so you’ll put your card into the fish bowl. From the exhibitor’s viewpoint, of course, the fish bowl is likely to give them a lot of low-level leads – perhaps from the viewpoint that they might win a prize.
Dave: At professional services conferences, they will put their stuff in because they’re interested in collecting lots of information. So lawyers, accountants, dentists and others are reasonably happy to put theirs in. They’re not so much interested in the bottle of red wine or whatever it is that they’re going to do, but it says I’m interested in your product and I’ll put my card in here, and you’ll send me some stuff.
Colin: Okay, so in that type of show they’re probably fairly focused in the niche.
Dave: I think so, rather than at a public show. There it’s just going to be a set of names skewed towards lower-level names. If you sent those people some emails over a period of time, and they had some really good stuff and content in them, you’re going to A, build your brand and B, and possibly get something out of it.
The other alternative is to get no names at all; in which case, nothing is going to come from there. So it’s better than some things, but probably not as good as other things.
Colin: From the exhibitor’s viewpoint, they need to consider “Do I sort through a lot of people here to see if I can build this relationship,” so then it would come down to whether the show was a broad show with a lot of different types of interests from buyers, or a niche show where, for example, the accounting show you were talking about before.
Dave: Yes. It depends, I suppose, on what your offer is going to be. I’ve had some people tell me that the best thing they ever did was get people to fill in the competition forms and get thousands of names out of it. If you can pull, as part of your show, 3,000 to 5,000 names, that’s 3,000 to 5,000 names that you’ve got, plus email addresses and the ability to contact them.
Colin: OK – let’s on to “follow-up”. How many exhibitors generally follow up after the show?
Dave: I think that is without a doubt the number-one tragedy that I think I see. Very few people ever follow up.
Colin: What kind of a percentage would you say?
Dave: Less than one percent.
Colin: Wow! That’s amazing! I am appalled by that number!
Dave: It’s less than one percent, and the ones that do typically outsource it to some person who’s the lowest form of life in the office or the work experience girl, or they’ve outsourced it to someone who says “Hi. You made an inquiry? Yes? Good. Okay, thanks,” and that’s it. There’s no effort.
Colin: It would be very interesting to track the correlation between what you were saying – that you’re happy just to give your card to people, so therefore they exhibitor receives a lot of low-level, low-interest names – against exhibitors just collecting the names they want, so they’ve got a proportion of higher interest names and they response rate from exhibitors.
If you’re getting one percent, to me, that is mind blowing. The figure I have is that about 83% of exhibitors never follow up, which I thought was very, very high. But 99% – that’s really something!
Dave: I went from the fact that I’ve seen lots and lots of exhibitors, and I hand out lots and lots of cards. I say to them, “I’m interested in this and I want one of those,” and that sort of thing, and within a week, you’ll get the odd phone call. Other than that, you’ll never hear from them for the rest of the 51 weeks until next year.
Colin: Now, you said within a week. If someone calls you outside of that time period, at what point would you feel that this is too long ago, that they are simply not interested, or is there no cut off point?
Dave: I would look at probably three weeks.
Colin: So, if they haven’t contacted you within three weeks, would that reduce your interest in the organization?
Dave: Yes! It’s not hard to contact me! The cheapest way would obviously be to send me an email straight away after the show and say, “Thanks for coming to our stand.” Then at least in my email database, I’ve always got the ability to pull it up and go, “Oh, I remember when I saw that person at that show,” and I can pull up the details from the email.
Other than that, there’s a phone call, and not everybody will give you a phone call. Very few people will send you material in the mail so you can add it to your wish list. When I had my four function centres, I always had millions of dollars’ worth of stuff that I sought to buy.
I’d ask “what is the next thing that I seek to buy or look for?” We turned over four million dollars and every year, I’d have a capital expense and I’d be looking for things. I always have an Excel spreadsheet for when money became available and I’d buy then.
Colin: So you’d have your Excel spreadsheet of people and organizations on a wish list?
Dave: Not organizations, but products. But then within that list I would have a note of who I was going to contact for these particular things. If your product was better than some of these other products, I would put it on the list and up near the top of it.
Colin: There’s an interesting thing. As a giveaway—for someone to give away pre-populated spreadsheets and put themselves in there. Just a thought. I might work on that one!
Dave, you have been sharing things that you used to do. You mentioned your convention centres, which you have owned, and it’s been in past tense.
I’d like to briefly focus on what you do as a professional right now. How you are able to help people? And let’s get contact details to share with people who read or listen to this message.
Dave: I now help people to improve their selling and in order to do that, I have to help people improve their staffing and service too. Where this came about was when I semi-retired from my function centres, I started to help a few businesses that were struggling with selling, and they said, “Do you think you could talk to my staff and motivate them?”
The area that I’m hottest at is selling off-peak and selling things that don’t move particularly well. Function centres, hotels, motels, pubs, clubs, and caravan parks. It’s about selling the off-peak times, the times that no one wants. In retail, it’s about selling off-peak products, the dead stock and those sorts of things, and in hospitality and others, it’s about add-on selling, up-selling and various types of selling.
I call it the “head, heart, hand” selling technique. “Head” is knowing your stuff. “Heart” is the ability to build rapid rapport and “Hands” is about asking effective questions, wanting to follow up and teaching people how to follow up, ask for referrals and do that.
I like doing that is as it helps other people who were just like me once that have invested their money in their particular business or they have to get an outcome, and times were tough. They invested all their life savings on their business, and I like showing them how quickly and easily you can crank up your sales results.
Colin: Dave, you’re a professional speaker. Do you have DVDs, books, e-books and the like?
Dave: I do have DVDs and I do have e-books, and I’ve written in a couple of books. I’m going to have chapters in a couple of books, and it’s all on my website, www.BigDave.com.au.
Colin: What is your phone number where they can call you? Or do you prefer your communications to be through the website?
Dave: Probably through the website is the best, but you can always ring me. My home office number is Melbourne 03-9525-8515.
Colin: And that, of course, is an Australian number. I know that often you can be quite hard to get because you are out doing professional work with a lot of people. So probably the website would be best.
Dave: Email via the web site is best as I travel Australia and New Zealand constantly.
Colin: Have you worked in the United States, Asia or Europe?
Dave: No, but I’ve been asked to work overseas a few times. At this stage I’m just flat-out working in Australia. There’s plenty of work here, and the family is important to me. I’m doing New Zealand a little bit, but mostly Australia.
Colin: Dave, thank you very much for your thoughts!