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Sales Hack: The Scout and Base Model for Trade Shows

By Darren Pierce on Mar 6, 2017 4:15:20 PM

My High School Reunion

Recently, against my will, I attended my 20-year high school reunion. I didn’t want to go. But I was encouraged (read: forced) by a good friend, so I attended. I’m glad I went because it was great to see everyone.

talking in barUnfortunately, we didn’t rent out the entire bar. Therefore, there were lots of people in the bar whom did not attend my high school. This was a recipe for disaster because many times I entered discussions with folks who weren’t from my school, and this took away the limited time I had to speak with my true classmates. And worse, I was confronted by a few people who remembered me, but I didn’t immediately remember them, and that feels terrible.

Has this ever happened to you at an eCommerce trade show? Your customer or prospect approaches your booth, but you don’t immediately know who they are. Or worse, they are not your prospect, but you miss out on a great prospect who walks by while you are engaged with someone outside of your ideal client profile.

You can avoid this and maximize your time at an eCommerce conference by following the Scout and Base model.

Sales Hack: Follow the Scout and Base Model While in Your Booth at Trade Shows

If you are exhibiting at one of the Top 40 eCommerce Trade Shows, then there’s only a 30% chance you have an in-booth strategy for your team to follow, according to my research.

Why so low?

I have no idea. But it seems that 70% of booths invest a lot of money to send their team, market pre-show, buy SWAG, sponsor an event, etc… But they have zero strategy to engage with prospects when at the booth. It tends to simply be a “wing it” wild wild west situation.

The booths that tend to get the most value from an eCommerce conference are the exhibitors who have an in-booth strategy. These also tend to be our clients. The best strategy I’ve seen is what I call the “Scout and Base Model.”

The Scout and Base Model starts by setting up “shifts” for all members of the team, with differing roles. It’s important that you mix up the roles and responsibilities to keep everyone fresh, and it’s also important that you provide time for “rest” to each team member. Here are the roles associated with Scout and Base:

Scouts: These are your front line reps. Their job is to immediately engage with booth traffic and determine who these people are and what company they represent. One scout is okay for small booths, but I recommend two. For larger booths, use your own judgement, but always be prepared to deploy more scouts as needed during high traffic times.

Base: This tends to be one person sitting in the back of the booth on their laptop. They are looking up visitors as they approach, often using etailinsights to see how large the retailer is / their location for territory assignment / who is the decision-maker, etc. Also, check your CRM system, even easier if you have the etailinsights salesforce integration. Pull up their website and get a quick picture. Try to do all of this while the scout is making “small talk.” It is the base person’s job to determine whom from your booth team should replace the scout in this conversation.

Closers: These team members are often standing inside the booth waiting for the base person to send them into a conversation. Their job is to look at the laptop, get some guidance, and then approach the conversation. It’s really an art form to approach and take over the discussion, thus freeing up your scout to approach another person.

Here are some other notes:

  • Train: Regardless of which model or strategy you choose to follow, make sure you TRAIN everyone on their role. Don’t naturally assume your top performing inside sales rep will be a great scout or closer without training them. I love the concept of training at your office using your engineering team as visitors – it’s fun for all!
  • Measure: Utilize your base person to gain true measurements of booth traffic. This will help highlight strong individual performances during the conference, and it will also give you a better feel for the conference’s performance against other conferences. If you aren’t measuring, then you have no idea how true prospects engaged your team, the conversion rate, bounce rate, etc. Use this to set goals for next year’s conference.
  • Be Unique: One of the best strategies I’ve seen is the “green pants” strategy employed by Windsor Circle.
  • Jawbones: Scout and Base works really well if the scouts are wearing jawbones in their ear, with an open line to the scout, who can hear their conversation(s). It’s a very small price to pay to connect the right people. And it also prevents the base person from having to squint or strain to hear the conversation.
  • Follow up 1 to 1: Write a personal 1 to 1 note to your booth visitors and reference your conversation. This is easy if the base person is taking notes during the actual conversation. The massive “thank you for attending our booth” emails are strange and off putting. Have the right person send a personalized note about the actual conversation that took place, and map out a path forward that is unique to the individual. Remember, it is important to take the time to develop an effective follow-up email.
  • Be Fun: This should be obvious, but it’s not. If you aren’t having fun, then people won’t want to talk to you. It’s the booths with people “having fun” which tend to attract more visitors. If your booth is full people laughing and having fun, then everyone will flock. Don’t worry about attracting too many people – your scouts will handle that.
  • Over-Staff:  Bring more people than you think you will need. If you are spending x on a trade show, and each rep costs 0.1x, then why not have too many reps? The cost of an additional rep is pale in comparison to your overall investment, and by nature they will boost your overall ROI (reps won’t return empty handed). The worst thing you can do is spend x and then under-staff your booth and miss opportunities. You are better off going all in on two shows then lightly attending five shows.
  • Prepare: Use the etailinsights List Genius feature to understand who is attending the show, and pre-assign them to one of your closers, before you even leave home. This way your base can move much quicker and your closers are pre-prepared. You can also research social media to get a picture (creepy). Think Top 10 Most Wanted posters around your office, have fun with it, that’s the name of the game.

I’ve seen a lot of brilliant and amazing strategies over the years. In closing, I’d just like to re-iterate that the only bad strategy is to have zero strategy.

And I’m sorry to all of the classmates to whom I offended by being unprepared. Go Tigers!

Written by Darren Pierce

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