This article was shared by Small Business Marketing Specialist
There’s a food show every year in DC with aisles and aisles full of vendors who are there for many
reasons: brand awareness, lead generation, even direct selling. It’s a tremendous opportunity for small
businesses to get their product into potential customer’s mouths. I’ve been to this show as a participant.
I’ve been to this show as a vendor for my coffee and smoothie business.
It’s not a small investment to participate. There’s the cost of the booth, which can easily cost $500 –
$5,000+ just for the booth space. Many shows include additional fees that are usually necessary such as
electricity, the carpeting, even a trash can (yes they charge for a trash can). There’s the cost of the visual
display, the marketing materials, and the “incentive” (something to get people to provide their contact
information). Usually attending these shows incurs travels costs – shipping the materials, airfare, hotel,
food. Of course, there’s also the cost of the staff to man the booth.
Sure, these shows may be expensive, but they put you face to face with your perfect avatar prospect
(assuming you exhibit at the correct show). Everyone who walks by can be a new customer, client or
patient. You’d think every exhibitor would leverage their participation as much as possible and talk to as
many people as possible.
Yet as I walked down the aisles of the food show, there were multiple booths in each aisle with the
people manning the booth just sitting there, most of them on their phones. You know what I’m talking
about . . . . the person who is so entrenched in seeing what’s on their Facebook feed rather than have to
engage with prospective customers, clients and patients. It sends a message “I’m too busy to talk to you
right now” or “You’re not as important as what I’m doing right now” so those people just walk by your
As ATT would say “It can wait!”
If instead of viewing those people as “people just walking by the booth” but instead as “walking dollar
signs” would it change how you approach how you train and manage your staff working at the booth?
You may be saying “Stacey, I know what you mean, but I don’t do events or trade shows.”
Well, I bet the same exact thing happens in your brick and mortar store. Have you ever mystery shopped
your business? You may find yourself shocked and disappointed with what REALLY happens when the
boss isn’t around.
You hired people to do a job and you need to make sure they’re doing it. I love Dan Kennedy’s quote
in No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits: No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take-No-
Prisoners Guide to Really Getting Rich:
“Create jobs people really want and that good people won’t want to lose. Why should you do
all this? Not to be a generous soul. Not to be liked. Not to win some award. So that your bloody axe is
feared and you can be fearless in swinging it.”
Here are 10 things that you should be wielding that bloody axe about when it
comes to the “people” part of your business. These 10 things are deterring
people from buying from you – whether it’s at your trade show booth or in your
brick and mortar store.
1. Using Your Cell Phone or Tablet
When people see you on your phone (whether they’re prospective current or past
customers), they will get the impression that you are too busy to speak with them
and will most likely move on. There’s no reason staff should need their cell phone
or tablet during working hours. Make it a policy and enforce it.
2. Staffers Talking to Each Other
This is almost as bad as seeing staff on cells phones. You know what I’m talking
about. The two (or more staffers) having a personal conversation, totally ignoring
what’s going on in the store. There have been a number of times where I have
walked into a store just to be ignored while the staff is busy talking about their
plans for the weekend. This shows me that they are not interested in speaking
with me or anyone else that stops by the store.
3. Eating or Drinking
Brick and mortar retail usually entails long hours. This can make any staffer
hungry or thirsty. Taking sips of water in between speaking with potential
customers will keep the staff hydrated, but any other food or drinks need to be
saved for breaks. People who see the staffers eating while they’re visiting the
store will be under the impression that the staff is on a break.
4. Bad Breath
There are going to be plenty of moments where you will be speaking with
someone at a close distance, so fresh breath can make a huge difference from
having someone who wants to stay and talk to you and someone who wants to
end the conversation. Having mints in your store will help get rid of any bad
breath, especially after meals or drinks, such as coffee. But whatever you do, do
not allow staff to chew gum. Chomping on a piece of gum as you are talking to
customer, clients or patients can be extremely distracting (and annoying) for both
you and them.
5. Making Every Conversation Into a Sales Pitch
Don’t get me wrong, every small business owner wants to generate leads and
customers, but trying to sell a product or service right away can taint the
impression customers have about you and your company. As each person is
greeted who enters the store, small talk is a great way to get their attention.
Ask questions about their weekend plans, the weather, and anything else that
would help them feel comfortable and not obligated to make a purchase. Once
you have established a conversation, then you can begin asking what brought
them to your store or questions about the products.
6. Spending More Time Talking Than Listening
Potential customers want to feel like they are being heard, which will be rather
difficult if the staffer is doing all of the talking. By stepping back and allowing your
store visitors to do the talking, you’ll be able to better understand what problem
they are having that your product or service could fix. If possible, try to follow the
80/20 rule – listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time.
7. Trash Talking the Competition
One of the worst things your staff could do is to talk poorly about the competition.
Instead of spending all of your time and energy on discussing all of your
competitors’ flaws with potential customers, build up your own products, services,
or company. Bringing negativity into the conversation will quickly ruin the
relationships you could have been building with potential customers.
8. Not Dressed Appropriately
I bet you’ve been to a store where you noticed that staff didn’t get the memo on
how to dress for success. Wearing jeans, old t-shirts, and dirty sneakers isn’t
going to cut it (unless you’re in landscaping or something similar). Depending on
the type of company you have, it may make more sense to wear a suit, tie, and
dress shoes, while it may be more appropriate for others to wear matching shirts
with the company’s logo on them.
Keep in mind that you will be representing your company, so dressing the part is
critical in order to leave prospective customers with a positive impression of your
9. Not Collecting Customer Information
Someone just bought something from you. They obviously like what you offer.
Why would you let them walk out the door without getting as much contact
information as you can so that you can build a relationship and give them a
reason to come back again? That’s like watching money literally walk out the
door. Incentivize staff to get the information and they will.
10. Closing Early
This happens more times than not. Staffers start closing down before the printed
hours are even up. I had a client running a dessert shop where staff had closed a
half hour early because “things were slow.” A family stopped by for a promotion
they had received about “hot chocolate and smores night” only to find the door
locked when they arrived. They posted it on social media and it created a lot of
negative publicity for them and negatively impacted their reputation.
If you have employees doing any of these 10 things, put policies in place
immediately to stop it. Make sure also that you’re not being a bad
example. To make sure “when the cat’s away (boss) the mice will play
(employees) doesn’t happen to you regularly mystery shop your
business. It’s an honest review of your strengths and weaknesses.