From Mark Gibson via LinkedIn Pulse

I visited two trade shows in the past 6 weeks, the Marketo event and Sales 2.0 and worked the exhibit floor looking for new sales and marketing applications that might be useful to my customers.

I was also looking for opportunities where early stage companies might require help with inbound marketing and creating message clarity.

Lots of fresh faces at the Marketo show. Probably 70% of booth staff at the Marketo event were under 30 years of age.

Loved the enthusiasm and the energy, however after asking the “so what do you guys do?” 30 times, I got tired of being pitched without any consideration of where my interests might lie.

The other peeve is that I got pitched on every occasion.  No-one likes being pitched, however at tradeshows, salespeople seem to think this is what must be done. “You’ve only got a few seconds to engage so give them your best elevator pitch early”

I don’t know if it’s just me, but within a few seconds of realizing it’s a “pitch” and not a conversation and the salesperson is on autopilot, I feel my mind go blank as the wall of sound washes over me. Perhaps picking up a few keywords along the way, I politely wait until the pitch is over and ask.. so how’s it going then?

This is not a problem unique to millennials – it’s a universal problem for salespeople. Salespeople do not know how to answer the “so what do you guys do” question and its variant at networking events, “so what do you do?”

Rules for Salespeople at Trade-shows

Two simple rules for salespeople at Trade-shows in answer to the “so what do you guys do?” question that will increase the value of their conversations and convert more passers-by into prospects.

  1. Before you say anything about your company or product, politely ask the booth visitor, “So that I can best answer your question, could you share with me what your role is in your organization”.
  2. Now that you know what their role is, you can ask this next question, “can I ask what the top two items are on your whiteboard of priorities”?, or “what do you see as the biggest problems/challenges in getting your job done”.

Through asking these two simple questions you know where the visitor is coming from and have context in how you can help them.

You also know if they are a prospect for your stuff, or if you are likely to waste your time with them… in which case you can offer a tchotchke and politely disengage.

By asking these two questions, you increase the value of your interaction with the visitor and to your company by an order of magnitude.

Answering the “So What Do You Guys Do?” Question

When you feel you are getting a pitch, you tune out within a few seconds. It’s human nature. It’s like watching your favorite TV program and being interrupted by an ad. Do you listen to the ad? No, you get up, go to the fridge or the bathroom or flick around until your show comes back on.

This is what visitors to your booth do when you pitch them.

The opportunity for salespeople at a tradeshow is to engage the visitor in a story.

Human beings have encoded important information in story since civilization began. When we feel a story coming on, we tune-in, our unconscious knows that something important might be coming next and we listen.

After I have asked questions 1 and 2 above, the answer I give to the “so what do you guys do questions isn’t blah-blah-blah, it’s… a story.

“B2B salespeople are struggling to engage buyers in a way that creates value. Technology companies have a product-centric message and that’s what most salespeople are trained on and lead with. This explains why today’s buyers rate 90% of their interaction with salespeople as contributing no value.

Salespeople must lead with insight around the buyer’s likely problems, not the product.

They need to tell a story about how people just like them are solving these problems and creating value for their organizations. The trouble is that most marketing organizations are struggling with their own content calendar and can’t deliver, or don’t know what conversational content salespeople need to better engage buyers.

If this sounds familiar, then maybe we can help. Creating a message that resonates with buyers and the content and conversations that salespeople will use on a daily basis requires discipline, process and experience and often this means getting outside help. What are you guys doing to solve the problem?”

Getting salespeople to DO it!

Creating the message and content to drive conversations is only half the battle. The bigger problem is in adoption. Salespeople need to own the answer to “so what do you guys do?” as well as their “insightful” story. It needs to be internalised so that it is unconscious, conversational and sincere.

That’s why we encourage customers to take the extra step of creating the “so what do you guys do” story and include a segment in sales coaching/practicum sessions where salespeople “stand and deliver” in front of their peers.

Take a closer look at Mark’s Sales Enablement Practicum diagram.