When Its DUH? Time at Trade Show - 3 Little Words Save the Day

TIME, MONEY, HASSLE - You can make a sale on one of the Three Little Words, but when you sell on two of the three, you'll have a very loyal client.

You've have product training and sales training, you reviewed your company's web site and literature, you understand the demonstrations, and the marketing ideas behind the exhibit design. You're ready for the show.

But now you're standing in the booth and it's Duh? time. You can rattle off the features and benefits, but what does the person standing in front of you want to know?

It can be boiled down to three little words - Time, Money, Hassle.

They want you to save them time, charge less money and cut the hassle. Actually, it's what we all want when we shop ourselves, whether for banking or broccoli, wine or widgets. For example - We pay for chopped but bagged lettuce at the grocery store. Saves us money? No, costs a lot more than a head of lettuce, but it saves time and hassle because we don't have to chop it. Go through everything you buy and you'll find an example.

You can make a sale on one of the Three Little Words, but when you sell on two of the three, you'll have a very loyal client.

Frame your opening comments around these three words and you'll get people's attention. Don't make them ask the questions - be ready to find which of these words is most important to them and match your presentation to their concerns.

TIME - We all want time, more time, and trade shows are a time problem. It is compressed - there are only so many hours the show is open, so few hours to walk the aisles and minutes to stop at a booth. Conversations are brief, listening skills are strained and you'll never have enough time to go through the leisurely sales call process.

Here are 10 things people want to know about your company and Time:

1. What's your order-to-shipment time?

2. How long for custom orders and modifications?

3. How long is design time?

4. Do you stock everything I need, or do I have to wait for parts?

5. When will a salesman call on me?

6. How long does it take to learn?

7. How long does it take to teach someone?

8. What training materials and people are provided?

9. How long does it take to put together?

10. How long will it last?

MONEY - Money is important, and saving money in tight times is critical, but remember that beyond pure coin is value. Value is what you should sell. The simple definition is Value = Price + Performance. We all have something in the closet or the garage that we were sold on price alone, and we feel cheated.

Here are 10 things people want to know about your company and Money:

1. How much is it?

2. What's my discount?

3. Do you take credit cards?

4. Will you finance this?

5. What are your payment terms?

6. What's your guarantee?

7. What's my pay back?

8. Why are you higher (lower) than your competitor?

9. Do I have to pay for modifications?

10. What's the best deal you can give me?

HASSLE - If time is money, hassle is both time and money. If you save $500 when you buy, but it costs $1,000 in staff time to get a problem solved, was that a good deal? Of course not. These are the days of push-the-phone-button customer service, of voice mail hell with no live people, of cutbacks in staff who provided the corporate memory of how things really work, and increasingly of look on the web site. (Note - are you aware that more firms are adding a toll free number to help you find what you can't find on their web site? But you have to go to their site and read the small print to get the number!)

Here's are 10 things people want to know about your company and Hassle:

1. What are the most common problems with your product?

2. How do you solve those problems?

3. Have you ever called your own customer service department?

4. Are you 24/7/365?

5. How long does it take to get parts?

6. Who does the repair and how long does it take?

7. What's the guarantee process?

8. Who handles my account and what happens when she leaves?

9. What happens if you merge or go out of business?

10. What if it just doesn't work for us?

We all have true stories about customer service and the time-money-hassle factors. Here are a few of mine.

1. I needed a toner cartridge for an old and faithful printer. The local stores didn't carry it and didn't want to special order it, so I called the 800 number of a staple in the office supply business because I had a 15% coupon. It took one hour of call waiting, checking and finally my item was found! It could not be sent to the store so I could use the coupon and save the freight, but had to be sent to me directly. Now I'm on their mailing list and receive a catalogue every week. What a waste, but I've been told it's too difficult to take me off the mailing list. Is this my favorite store? Used to be. Not any more.

2. There are lots of ISP tales. Two years ago when the big one bought my little one, I had 13 days of intermittent service while they merged. This year, they changed "something" (their term) and I could receive mail but not send it. I spoke with 11 people over the course of a week, a total of 14 hours. I heard lots of music, lots of "what have you done?" and "let's just start all over". I spoke with supervisors, tech support and marketing. Finally, I found a new kid, who said, "Oh, yeah, we changed something. There, it's all fixed." Without billing them for my time, I figure this one experience cost the ISP five times what I pay in yearly service fees. Will I stay with them. Yes, because I'm afraid the next service will be worse.

3. Since I refuse to do business with people who know less about their company than I do, I often ask to speak to a supervisor. Now, I keep pad and paper whenever I make a call, and ask for name and extension. Recent responses - all true!

* There is no supervisor.

* They can't take incoming calls. Leave a name and number and they'll get back to you in 3 days.

* 20 minutes of music, then disconnect.

* Just disconnect.

* Call customer service. One hour of argument and being passed along via long holding patterns. We can't, never have and/or refuse to solve your problem. Hang up, call same number. Problem solved in two minutes.

* Voice mail hell with no option to speak to a real person.

* Web sites without real addresses or phone numbers. Contact us is an e-mail address which never responds.

Be Brief. Start your conversation with "(My Company) can save your company (time, money, hassle) and we support our customers."

Do customer service problems appear at trade shows? Occasionally. Do they happen after shows? All the time. The more you can define Time, Money and Hassle for your clients and prospects, the more profitable everyone will be.

Julia O'Connor
Speaker, Author, Consultant
Expert in the Psychology of the Trade Show Environment
Trade Show Training, Inc.
PO Box 17155, Richmond VA 23226

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