Quit looking at your phone at shows!

A couple weeks ago, I ventured over to the Minneapolis Boat Show, and as I wandered the show, I noticed a trend I see far too frequently at any variety of B2B and B2C shows — those working booths not engaging with the attendees.

I’ve been there — long days, sitting or standing in a booth for hours on end. I know a lot of the people who stop by aren’t even interested in your product, let alone the fact that they may not have the funds to purchase it. Or maybe they’re already a loyal customer of a competitor of yours. And many are just looking for whatever free handout or giveaway you might be offering. Yeah, it’s frustrating.

But if you don’t pay attention, how are you going to find the gems? How are you going to convince that interested buyer that you’re the brand or company to buy from? How are you going to steal them away from your competitor? You have to be engaged and stick through every no until you get a yes.

At the show Friday I witnessed a woman at one 10-by-10 flipping through something on her phone. Despite that, a couple began to talk to her. She occasionally looked up and responded to them, but whatever was on her phone was clearly more important, as she glanced down every time she finished her contribution to the conversation. The couple walked away.

At another booth, a man chowed down on a piece of pizza, while he talked to potential customers, which wasn’t the most pleasant sight to see.

Sure, there are some people who would rather browse than be faced with the high-pressure sell; however, if you use the friendly get-to-know-you sales techniques we’ve all learned rather than diving straight into the sell, you might get somewhere. You won’t know where they are in the buying process unless you do some investigating.

If you do probe each potential customer, you’ll make more sales. Just ask the salesperson I talked to that Friday, who had sold eight PWC himself after a day and a half at the show.

Just be mindful of what you’re doing at the booth — checking your phone, only chatting with your co-workers, sitting behind a table or looking bored — and make sure you’re not projecting an uninterested, un-engaging persona to potential buyers.

Shows can be a great place to convert those who are just browsing into buyers, but you have to be present and push to make the sale.


  1. Liz - Great points. I've been working on a piece about my experience mystery shopping at a boat show recently where I was not spoken to until visiting my 6 booth!

    That's 5 booths, up in a boat for at least 5 minutes, opening compartments, sitting in the seats and nothing. In the 6th booth, I was finally greeted. No engaging questions but hey, at least someone said 'Hi' to me.

    PLEASE DEALERS - Maximize Your Boat Show ROI... don't let any opportunity go to waste!

  2. Matt,
    That's just crazy that you went to 5 booths and had zero interaction. Hopefully this can be fixed, and those who do interact will rise above the rest. I would just think that with the cost of the booth, you'd want to make as many sales as possible to see some positive ROI.


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