If you think this is about babes and bombshells, you’ve got it wrong. It is about something that caught my eye and had to react about it because of how totally wrong it is, moreso adverse to good business ethics and morals.
I saw a post on LinkedIn with photos of women in skimpy outfits posing with men who were visiting the booths of some IT company. Yep, the car show models have now invaded the IT expos and others – too much. My male friends are always enamored whenever a car show or some huge expo event was happening in town because they already knew some of the models that companies hire to bribe men into their booths..
When it was my turn to manage a medium-sized booth in the annual expo of my industry, I thought about everything I’ve seen in the past, and I figured, I’d rather compete in something else, something that conforms to my liking and that of the company I worked for.And so begins my story…
I was running the sales and marketing of a company that provided both premise- and cloud-based contact center solutions and it was going to be the first time the company was joining a large industry expo that happens every year. Having attended to this specific expo annually, I knew the usual players and how most set up and operate their booths. There were limitations like ingress and egress times and no going around the expo floor handing out leaflets and brochures. I had to consider everything in the plan I was cooking up – I did not want to get in the hairs of the industry association who ran the expo. In any case, I was able to draw up my plans, including the part that involed the expo models I was about to hire.
First, I decided not to go directly to the expo models (at this stage, let me start calling them “expo reps”) but to hire an agency who hires and manages them. I’m not about to pull my hair on last minute advises that one or more of these men and women are sick, can’t make it, their dog died, and so on. The agency will take care of that. And yes, I also hired hunks! I’ll tell you why later.
Next, I wanted to interview them – both the primary and the backup expo reps. Besides their beauty or handsomeness and appeal, I needed to pick their brains. I did not need a rocket scientist; rather, men and women who can carry a professional conversation and not swoon into near-flirtation. I did not mind a mix of the English and our native dialect – what mattered is they were poised as how I wanted them to represent the company and the brand, and can speak in a manner good enough for my objective. And to make sure I got all that, I did not tell them what I had in mind.
Then, I gathered both the agency associates and my handpicked expo reps, both primary and backup, and told them my plan. Everyone was going to go through a three-day training with me in the office but I’m paying for their time much like they were already working at the expo floor. During those three days, I oriented them on the mission, vision and values of the company, gave product orientations (not too much that resulted in nosebleeds), paired them with my product specialists who were also going to be at the expo, quizzed them until their ears popped, went through all the scripts and FAQs I created, and practiced everything until I was satisfied everyone was prepared to do each of their tasks.
You see, my idea was not to waste their time standing inside or beside our booth looking like a smiling statue. Pretty and handsome as they are, that is not why I hired them. I already had our booth well-staffed with our product specialists, some of the officers and myself included. Our newly hired expo reps’ job was to go out and walk the expo floor, strike conversations with the visitors or attendees, and escort them to our booth.
Don’t you notice our tendency as expo visitors is that we have our logical way of going around the entire floor? Left to right, horizontal to vertical, and so on. Heck! I want to disrupt that! That surprise attack while people are walking, and makes sure they do not approach the booth too much so that they don’t have to be invited in for a monologue – I want to joggle their mind, disrupt their expo routine, and bring them over straight to my booth. Our women expo reps approach men, while the male expo reps speak to women. Fair enough?
Next comes the attire. Why on earth do I want a uniform? They either look like the The Choir of Westminster Abbey or dancers in a discotheque. I want professional-looking hunks and beauties that can charm their way to a C-level person. Yes! A CEO, a CFO or a COO. That level. If they looked like cheerleaders or whatnot, do you think those C-level guys and gals will give a hoot about us, the company and the brand? No, I want beauty and charm to bring the stranger barrier down. I want poise and grace to assure them our expo reps are above the norm. They have all gone through my indoctrination and training; they’re all ready to strike a meaningful first conversation with C-level people and convince them, “Hey! Let me escort you to our booth.”
I already had an idea what they should wear. Now comes the fitting and the buying. Since I was paying, I went with the agency staff and our expo reps to a boutique shop in the mall, and together chose the clothes they were wearing. LOL! They all said this was the first time they were going to wear regular clothes as expo reps. But they already knew why. No miniskirts. No spaghetti straps. No tight fitting wardrobe. Not too loose but loose enough to breath. Blazers. Call it “corporate chic.”
The only thing that kinda shouted back to any person looking and talking to our expo reps that they represented our company were the buttoneers I had made, that we all wore. Even our product specialists and officers, including myself, came as who we are well into the theme of “corporate chic.”
And guess what? I also had business cards made for each of our expo reps, besides all of us in the office that would be at the booth. That’s the thing – why don’t expo reps have a business cards when they represent you during those two or three days in the expo? How can they professionally represent you when business tradition dictates the exchange of business cards? For their business cards, we ask their permission to use their own mobile phone numbers and explained that they were now our sales reps during and after the event. When someone contacts them because of the interest to buy our products and services – and we both close it, they’re getting a commission out of it. We also had our IT guys make corporate e-mail addresses for them (and gave them access to it for a year) and placed the title “Sales and Marketing Specialist” on the cards. They all loved it!
The point being is, convert your one-time expo reps into sales people, and treat them that way, and you’ll be surprised as to how they are going to go out of their way to do their jobs.
For each expo rep, we made 300 business cards for the two days. Now, how did I come up with that? It’s all about math and I always love to calculate why the result is such. My expo reps would devote six hours out of the 12 hours per day, for two days, or 360 minutes per shift. I estimate five minutes for one expo rep to make first contact, offer their business card, run their spiel, and escort the contact to our booth. So, there are 72 contacts per expo rep, per shift. At two days, that’s 144 contacts or business cards. I could print 200 business cards per expo rep but I’d rather err on having more; hence, 300 business cards per expo rep for both expo days.
Doesn’t the previous paragraph already give you an idea of the targets of your expo reps, the amount of people going to your booth, the limited time your product specialists has to explain, demo and convince, how many product specialists you need on the floor, the size of your booth to accommodate that number of people talking to each other, targets relating to the conversion of cold leads into warm or hot leads, and so much more? (Whew! That was a long sentence!) See? Don’t you also love math?
Going back, I outsourced the design of the booth, too. I can think of nice design ideas but let me be straightforward – I’m not an expert. But nothing fancy. Clean and simple. There were only two cocktail tables on the side, some potted plants, carpeting, pin lights, a flat screen TV with a recycling video without sound, fish bowls for business cards, and other things I’ve forgotten.
“So, tomorrow’s the expo. Are we ready?” My eardrums ached from too much yelling coming from them.
Oh, and yeah – not only did we go beyond our targets for the two-day expo, our competitor-neighbors who were also our friends (the industry you belong to is always small) kept telling me, “I’m doing what you just did next year.” I would smile but quip to myself, “Ha! Next year, we’re doing something different.” LOL!
Bombshell beauty or handsomeness isn’t the key factor. Total aura – appearance, poise, personality, tone of voice, good ad lib, and common sense all play an equal role; .
Devote at least three days for training to develop the ability of your expo reps to respond properly and correctly, including company vision, mission and values, and product and service orientation; .
Purchase an attire worthy of your expo reps, as if they were newly hired field sales reps out to generate billions of dollars for you and who truly represents everything about your company, brands, products and services; .
Make more than enough personal business cards for each expo rep that lists their name, own mobile phone number (not yours – that’s too impersonal), a corporate e-mail account, and a title well deserved of their role as first sales contact; .
Outsource your booth design because like myself, I’m no expert creative booth maker; .
Let your expo reps roam the expo floor with the objective of escorting people to your booth, based on the training and orientation you gave previously; .
Make sure you run your expo booth operations based on every possible time and motion scenario so that you can come up with realistic forecasts and targets. .
Smile and have fun! Expos should be fun!
Source of photo: File:Booth Babes Dancing.jpg – Wikimedia
Note: I had a few photos during the expo but they were not the greatest shots. So, I decided to just use a Wikimedia version describing what I started talking about.