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What to Do With The Guy Who Won’t Leave your Trade
We’ve all been on the show floor, trying to do our jobs, when we’re forced to deal with a booth visitor who’s
not qualified, yet refuses to leave the booth. They’re known by a variety of names: tire kickers, deadwood,
booth cloggers, lookie-loos, window shoppers, hangers-on and other things I can’t repeat here.
It would only be annoying if it weren’t also frustrating to your exhibiting
goals. These people crowd out real prospects, congest your exhibit and
rob you of valuable time and opportunities to interact with the people you
came to the show to talk with. They also make working your booth more
difficult, because they simply won’t go away!
How do you get them out of your trade show booth and avoid bruised egos
or hurt feelings? It can be done in several ways, but it’s worth it—
practically necessary—to be effective at what you’re there to do.
It may help to know what you’re in for, by asking show management for
data that will help you determine what percentage of the potential audience
at a particular show is qualified, according to your criteria. This will, at
least, set your expectations for what you’ll be dealing with.
Another helpful approach is to do what you can from the start to prevent tire kickers from being attracted to
your booth. Just as sure as lottery winners attract the attention of the IRS and “long lost relatives,” some
kinds of show promotions are bound to attract lots of unqualified visitors. If you’re at a show where a
substantial number of attendees aren’t qualified, that puts you in the position of trying to rid your booth of
people you didn’t want to attract in the first place.
Product demonstrations and giveaways can backfire this way. When you’re giving away a flat screen TV or
a vacation—something not related to your product or service—you run the risk of getting a booth full of tire
kickers and not the prospects you’re looking for. You also want to spare your sales force back home the
trauma of having to wade through a sea of lookie-loos’ lead forms in search of valid prospects.
You can’t put a gate at the entrance to your trade show exhibit to keep out the people you don’t want, so
how do you deal with them once they’re there?
One way to handle them is to realize that these window shoppers represent no return on your investment,
so they should be sent somewhere where they can do the least damage to your marketing efforts. If you
have a literature desk, suggest the tire kicker go there while you quickly and politely excuse yourself. The
literature desk can be stocked with a limited supply of product information that can be given to the window
What can you do with old customers who love to talk with their salesperson, new customers with whom
you’ve already conducted business but still hang around, and other important (but time wasting) trade
show booth visitors?
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One way is to designate a specific booth worker to be the one to whom these people are directed, thus
leaving the initial staffer free to continue conducting business with fresh prospects. Company executives
can make excellent “designated hitters,” since the customers get moved up instead of moved out. The
corporate representative can do some good PR work, while the sales team can get back to the business of
Sometimes, a no-nonsense approach is the only thing that will work, especially for competitors, industry
analysts and head hunters. Given the limited amount of time each trade show is open for business,
engaging in socially polite conversation with these people is an absolute waste of valuable time. Instead,
you may need to be blunt and simply refuse to talk with them during show hours or allow them into your
exhibit stand. Just keep your show goals in mind if speaking this way is uncomfortable for you.
All these methods of getting the tire kickers out of your exhibit require that you control the conversation.
That means directing the flow, content, beginning and end of communication. Try using basic “who,” “what”
and “why” qualifying questions to get the visitor talking, so you can determine the best way to move them
out of your booth and send them on their way.
Every show attracts a variety of attendees, but there’s no trade show in the world where every person in
the exhibit hall is going to be your ideal customer. You can make your job easier by building a profile of
your ideal customer, well in advance of the show.
Build this profile by going back to the show management’s attendee’s list.
In most cases, the names on that list are broken down by business
category, job title and purchasing authority. By knowing whom you want to
talk with, you can tailor your marketing approach to reach those particular
attendees without attracting the hangers-on you don’t want to waste your
If you’re going to do a presentation, make it open only to invited guests
(your ideal customers and hottest prospects), who receive an invitation by
mail prior to the show. That way, you can keep the lookie-loos out of the
presentation area, or at least give priority seating to guests with invitations.
If you’re planning a prize drawing, don’t require the winner to be present in
order to receive the prize. Do that and your booth will be filled with all kinds
of window shoppers, while your sales force is trying to do business.
Keep premiums out of sight. Booth staffers should be instructed to give them only to the clientele you want
to deal with. If you keep your swag where it can be seen, you’ll have hordes of booth cloggers lining up to
get one. And you don’t want that.
Follow these tips and you’ll have fewer worries about deadwood in your exhibit. In most cases, these
people don’t want to work too hard. If you set an obstacle or two in their way, they’ll go looking for an
easier place to window shop. And you can get back to doing the business you came to the show to do.
At American Image Displays, we get a lot of pleasure out of helping our clients become more successful in
their trade show efforts. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us. And if you’re in need of
a trade show exhibit, banner stands, graphics, literature racks or any other trade show supplies, get in
touch with us. You can reach us at (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected]