Trade show horrors

Summary:The global sales VP of an enterprise software company once told me that 70% of his salesforce are D-graders the company had to constantly winnow. Tip up at a trade conference and you'll see them in abundance.

The global sales VP of an enterprise software company once told me that 70% of his salesforce are D-graders the company had to constantly winnow. Tip up at a trade conference and you'll see them in abundance.

A guest column over at Sandhill by Elizabeth Cook points up some of the horrors she saw at the recent Oracle OpenWorld trade floor:

  • The Slump: Booth staff slumped over, focused intently on their handheld devices. No acknowledgement of passers-by. Some sat hunched in a chair, others stood back to the aisle. A widespread problem.
  • The Texting Talker: One representative came to the edge of the booth to talk with me, then repeatedly checked his messages. “Don’t worry, I’m still talking to you” he said as he started texting a reply. Don’t worry – I’m outta here.
  • Cell Phone Snobs: Also a widespread problem. No one stops to talk to someone who is clearly too busy to be bothered.
  • Eaters: Even if you are the only representative from your company, you don’t eat in the booth during the peak traffic time. If you have more than one person at the show, take turns and eat away from the booth – during a slow time.
  • The Huddle: Groups of company representatives, huddled in conversation, paying no attention to passers-by, often with backs to the aisle.
  • The Glazed Gaze: Too bored, disinterested, or hung-over to put on a game face.
  • The Clearly Uncomfortable: Some people are just not suited for booth duty. Even if you have a technical product, selling to a technical audience, your programmers may not be the best representatives on the trade-show floor.

Keep in mind, these are behaviors I observed during the peak-traffic times. And I couldn’t make this stuff up.

On the other hand, some companies got it right. Interestingly, the market leaders had buttoned up, professional operations.

So true. As the conference season starts to wind down, I see these kinds of thing all the time. They're enough to make any CXO weep. How the heck are you supposed to get  a sales person's attention when he's shoving burritos down his neck or yabbering into a Crackberry? That's assuming the person isn't showing obvious signs of recovery from the previous night's party?

Hungry companies don't do this kind of thing. They may not have the best sales pros but they sure as heck know how to give attention. That above everything is what prospective customers want. Whatever your stage in the startup game, don't get into bad habits. They're costly.

Topics: Enterprise Software

About

Dennis Howlett has been providing comment and analysis on enterprise software since 1991 in a variety of European trade and professional journals including CFO Magazine, The Economist and Information Week. Today, apart from being a full time blogger on innovation for professional services organisations, he is a founding member of Enterpri... Full Bio

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