Are you communicating effectively with your customers at UK exhibitions? Cathy MacDonald discusses how to ensure you are getting the most of your investment at an exhibition.
Communication can be simple but there are layers surrounding our belief systems and emotions that impact on communication and they go beyond talking and listening. Because of those layers and the fact that we like to take shortcuts (without even realising it) we actually unintentionally miscommunicate more than we think.
Keeping it simple, there are some things I can suggest that will help. There is science behind everything I coach and while I will provide some of that science, I also need to keep the blog reasonably sized. If there is anything more you need to know, or understand then please contact me. I could truly write pages but for now I will offer one piece of advice in relation to initial contact, one in relation to communication and one about influence – a good balance to start a communication blog.
Lets start with initial contact with potential new clients.
This is massively important because someone will make sense of what they see in a split second, much quicker than it takes for you to turn around and notice them. You will be subconsciously analysed by your potential customers by the way you look and from that initial split second they will simply decide whether they like you or not. Do they like you and your display sufficiently to approach?
You can encourage cognitive bias from the minute people see you – it is known as the halo effect but I tend to use the term halo or horns. In simple terms, when someone meets you for the first time they will very quickly decide whether they like you or not?
The more you can appeal to the Expo visitors on first impressions then the better chance you have of them approaching you. So, who are your audience likely to be and does the profile change throughout the weekend? If you know, then you can perhaps adapt within reason. Thinking about they way you look from personal grooming through to your choice of clothes may be beneficial. Considering how your display looks and the message it sends out matters. In fairness marketing professionals will be able to help with that more than me.
What I can offer is reassurance that you cant appeal to everyone all of the time BUT there are things you can do that makes you universally approachable in those first few seconds?
• Smile – it must be genuine (we can all spot a fake smile!!)
• Greet customers, even if it is simply a group ‘good afternoon everyone’ and thank them for showing interest
• Show interest in them without hard sales pitch
Once there is interest in you and your display, the most important piece of advice for dealing with customers is to listen to them and let them know you are listening which means responding to what they say. As human beings we need to know that we matter – its called status and is one of 5 core concerns we all need to function. If someone doesn’t listen properly then that is easily interpreted as ‘They don’t care and I don’t matter’ Customers need to know they matter to you. Here is a short list of dos and don’ts
• Avoid distractions – mobile phones are the most obvious. When a message sounds you will likely react, perhaps just with a look or a head turn but that immediately tells someone you are not listening to them and you would rather be reading your message. Allowing your mind to wander, looking at your watch or being distracted by what is happening around you can easily convey to someone that you are not listening.
• Try not to overtalk someone else. If you do then you are both competing for air space and listening ability is limited.
• When someone speaks, respond to what they have said or the emotion behind their words. That is the most effective way of reassuring someone that you are listening.
• The most important word to someone is their name – if they introduce themselves – remember their name. A handy way to recall a name is to say it a few times when you hear it, sometimes relating it to something memorable about that person can help your recall.
• If you have a rehearsed sales pitch and people hear it a few times then they can feel ‘processed’ so be careful to respond to people in a way that makes them feel valued and not just another potential sale.
• No Surprises – if you know that there is a chance that your phone will ring or you have only a short timescale to talk, explain that at the beginning. If you start a conversation then there are subliminal rules that dictate you must continue, otherwise it’s rude. Some people find ending a conversation very difficult so setting a timescale at the beginning is one way of making it easier.
The BIGGEST mistake anyone can make is NOT LISTENING.
FREEBIES AND WHY THEY MIGHT NOT WORK
The power of reciprocity is exceptionally strong and is used daily by most people, in every part of the world. It is one of 6 social influential skills that Professor Cialdini, the expert of influence has researched and documented. There is an automatic human response that creates a feeling of being in debt to someone who gifts something and we try to balance that by gifting something back. It doesn’t have to be of great financial value and it may be an exchange of time for goods but one gift is normally repaid by another.
Freebies fall into the category of reciprocity, in exhibition terms that tends to be a freebie in return for an email address, a sign-up or a sale. If someone feels that the gift is given genuinely and graciously then that expectation may be fulfilled BUT, and this is important, as soon as that freebie is seen as an attempt to manipulate then it loses all its power to induce something in return.
It may be wise to carefully consider what you really expect to get in return for your free gifts. Most people attending Expos probably expect to pick up samples and freebies and providing they are useful after the event then there may be some true reciprocity value but the likelihood of bringing a return on the simple basis that you have given a gift is unlikely.
Go above and beyond what someone expects and that is more likely to bring a return. Think of your own reaction to someone going out of their way and encountering challenges to find product information for you and compare your appreciation to that action over someone giving out free keyring.
A FEW FINAL WORDS FOR NOW
Irrespective of whether you are meeting someone for the first time, discussing products or services or trying to influence someone, your ability to consciously communicate well is essential. Quite simply treat them as you would wish to be treated.
If you have any questions on communication contact Cathy directly on email@example.com