Disengaging with Attendees: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Trade Show Crowd

We’ve all been there: you meet a prospect at a trade show, things are going well, and then suddenly you realize they aren’t a good fit. Perhaps their project is too big, or their budget is too small. Maybe they need a solution that your company doesn’t currently offer. It’s essential to be strategic with your time on the trade show floor — you don’t want to lose opportunities to nurture your most viable prospect leads after all. Regardless, should you find yourself in a situation where you may need to disengage from an attendee, it’s important to do so carefully and with the utmost respect. It is possible to positively and negatively qualify your booth leads and maintain booth etiquette simultaneously.  Here are a few tips to help turn an awkward situation into a pleasant one.

Get the full picture

Before telling a prospect that you’re unable to help them with a project, make sure you have a complete understanding of their needs. Ask good, qualifying questions that get to the heart of the matter to gain information, so you have the whole picture before saying “no” or turning them away.

Ensure you understand their pain points, their goals, objectives, and deliverables. Ask what is working and not working in their current landscape, and investigate any other essential information relative to your offerings and capabilities. Your time with each prospect is limited on the show floor, so do your homework. Show up prepared, engage in active listening, have well-thought-out questions ready, and make the most of your hours on the show floor.

Be polite

If you have asked all the necessary questions to get a full picture of their needs and you realize it is not going to work, it is important to be nice, cordial, and respectful about that fact. Perhaps that’s a conclusion you and the attendee arrive at together as you ask your questions and get to know their company and needs holistically. Be up-front and make light of the misalignment.
There is usually limited value in stringing along with a prospect if you know it is not a good fit. So, be honest and be kind as soon as you realize it probably will not work out. As the saying goes, to be clear is to be kind. So, lead with kindness as you interact.

Another worthy note is to ensure your body language communicates a positive message and not dismissive or that you would instead be spending your time connecting with another “more worthy” person. To quote Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Offer alternatives

Rather than simply turning a prospect away, think about other people or companies that could help them instead. Do you have relationships with vendors that could be better suited to help them? Or, is there a competitor that has the capacity and specialties to be of service instead?

Consider reaching out to your network to point the prospect in the right direction to someone who can help them, should you have those connections already. And this leads to the following recommendation:

Stay in touch

So often, we say, “Let’s keep in touch!” with no intention of ever doing so. In this case, staying in contact with a less than ideal attendee or prospect is a great idea. Exchange contact information with them or connect on LinkedIn. Today, it wasn’t a good fit, but perhaps they will have another project or need down the road that you are suited to help with, or maybe they have a peer who could be an ideal prospect. And people change jobs frequently these days, and they may move to a company that is a better fit. It is always a great idea to build your network of contacts, so there is an opportunity to connect down the road. And as Maya Angelou said, I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. If you’ve done all the steps and offered good alternatives and stayed relevant and in touch, that effort will be rewarded in the future.

There are many ways to connect with attendees and prospects to make sure you are both a good fit for your next project.

Need help finding new ways to attract the right people to your space? Our team can help!


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