ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
My exhibit staffers do an awesome job of engaging passersby, but then they can't seem to cut the cord and turn the visitors loose. How can they more effectively disengage?
When staffers spend too long at the conversation party, so to speak, the core problem could involve either engagement or disengagement. That's because for some staffers, attendees with whom they've broken the ice are almost a security blanket. If a staffer doesn't enjoy opening new conversations (which is the equivalent of making a cold call), he or she will often chat with existing visitors for as long as possible ‐ putting off what feels like the arduous task of opening a conversation with a "cold" attendee. These staffers, then, need mostly engagement training. So first arm them with a few key opening phrases, such as "Hello, what brings you into our booth?" or "What are you interested in seeing in our booth?" Then have them role play with other staffers prior to the show to help them eliminate their "pregame jitters."
For staffers that truly aren't sure how to end an in-booth conversation, there are a handful of one-liners that can lead them in the right direction. Here are my two favorites.
"Where do we go from here?" or "Sounds like we have more to discuss. What would you like the next step to be?" ‐ This puts the ball in the attendee's court, allowing him or her to suggest a possible future action, yet it also suggests that the conversation has clearly run its course.
"Hey, it's been great talking with you. Enjoy the rest of the show." ‐ I prefer this option for unqualified leads or for those prospects for whom a decided course of future action has already been established.
So when your staffers fail to disengage, first analyze their behavior to determine if the issue is engagement or disengagement related. Then you can better prescribe the openers or closers to ensure staffers are both effectively luring in prospects and smoothly and politely turning them loose at the appropriate time.
— Matt Hill, president, The Hill Group, San Jose, CA