Prepping Clients for Trade Fairs
By Gabrielle Jones & Phil Wade
Copyright © Phil Wade & Gabrielle Jones 2017
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Gabrielle Jones has been working in the field of Business English since 2000, developing training concepts for multinational corporations in Ecuador, Spain and Germany. Specialising in ESP and technical English training, Gabrielle is now based in Ulm, Germany, and is an active member of her local ELT training community as well as a regular presenter at national and international training events.
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Phil Wade is a Business English teacher, coach and author of over 20 ebooks, including the BESIG David Riley award winning ‘Presentation Lesson Hacks’, the ‘A 10 minute intro to Business English Teaching’ series, and is co-author of ‘10 Quick Prep 1-2-1 Business English Activities About Work Life’ along with Noreen Lam.
Kati Bilsborough has been drawing, designing and making things since a young age. After getting a degree in Interior Design, and doing an internship with a design company, Kati decided to explore other areas of design including Graphics, Web Design and Illustration. This led to creating ELT ebook covers for numerous writers and organisations, one of which won the BESIG David Riley award for innovation. She is currently working on original artwork for a primary coursebook and is designing materials for an online English course.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @bilsdesigns and on [+ Facebook+].
The idea behind “Prepping Clients for…” was to create a series of short and very niche ebooks on specific events that 1-2-1 Business English teachers, trainers and coaches help clients prepare for. Download the first ebooks of the series here:
1. To build relationships with potential customers
First encounters matter, so it is vital for clients to demonstrate they really listen to people they meet at trade fairs by using key words to create meaningful responses. They also need to create effective requests for confirmation for any points they cannot grasp during their exchanges so as not to miss vital information just because they are afraid of admitting they don’t understand.
2. To commence, continue and conclude small talk
A client must be skilled at starting, holding and ending small talk at a trade fair venue to build relationships with potential customers. Being able to kick off a conversation with a stranger is not natural for everyone. Knowing suitable low engagement topics is another issue and, of course, ending the conversation on a positive note can be tricky.
3. To describe the main features of products
To get potential leads and sales, a client must describe their product’s important features well and in a way that native and non-native speakers of English will understand. Unclear descriptions will not create confidence and thus fail to build trust.
4. To express the differences between products
Customers usually compare products, so it is important that clients can effectively compare their product(s) to those of their competitors. To do this they have to master comparative language and be able to sell their products favourably, emphasising features, advantages and benefits.
5. To arrange post-trade fair contact
Trade fair exchanges represent the first step in what can become important long-term relationships with new customers or partners. To take the next step, clients must arrange how to continue their conversations after the trade fair event with a view to future collaboration.
1. Effective mirroring
Ask your client to talk about themselves. When they say an important point, repeat key words and then add a comment like here:
Client: We are based in Edinburgh.
You: Edinburgh, I’ve heard it’s a beautiful city.
Next, use ‘do you?’, ‘did you?’ and ‘have you?’ and add a request for more specific information. For instance:
Client: We’ve just released a new product.
You: Have you? And which market is it aimed at?
After that, elicit and list the 2 strategies and phrases. Swap roles and practise.
Now, talk quickly about something complex for 20 seconds and ask the client how much they understood. Write down clarification phrases such as: ‘So if I understood you correctly, you said that…?’, ‘So you…?’, and ‘Sorry, I didn’t quite catch the part about…’ Take turns practising them by talking about complex subjects with detailed information and speaking fast.
2. Small talk circles
Explain that a good way to start a small talk conversation is to use the surroundings, e.g. the buffet, the main hall, the stands and the venue. Choose 1, then together, make a list of possible questions and comments. Next, role-play ones that suit the surroundings you are in, for instance, start with a comment about the room.
When the topic starts to die off, stop the role-play and talk about the best ways to continue the conversation. Ask the client to make suggestions and help assess them by using some of these categories: 1) Does it extend the topic? 2) Does it keep it impersonal 3) Is it interesting? Do not pass judgement at this point.
Now try out the ideas in another role-play, then reflect together on which worked and which did not and why. Use the categories again. After that, discuss polite ways to close small talk such as making excuses to leave or exchanging business cards and moving on. Role-play the situations again from start to finish but standing up.
3. Describe, describe, describe!
Ask the client to send you a diagram or photo of one of their products. Bring in a copy which is large enough to be annotated. Ask him/her to write on the picture the names of the components they can see. Additionally, on a separate sheet, they can note down unseen components which they need to inform customers about.
For each component ask the client to describe what it does and if there are any alternative options. For example, can a component be customized (special colours, special materials) or do other models have different versions of each component? You can extend these activities by asking the client to give details about accessories which come with this product, explaining how to order them and what purpose they serve in the way the product works.
Ask the client to prepare a very detailed presentation and to be ready to answer questions. Role-play being at a trade fair and visit their stand, listen to their description, make notes and ask very specific questions about what they say. After that, comment on how they did and how they can improve.
4. Features, advantages and benefits
Create a table with 4 columns on a paper. In the first, write ‘Our features’. In the second, write ‘Different features’. In the next, write ‘Advantages’, then ‘Benefits’. Firstly, ask the client to choose one of their products, and for which they know a competitor has a similar product available. Brainstorm as many features of their product as possible and write these in column 1. Then, in the second column, note down differences between their product’s features and their competitor’s. Finally, list advantages and benefits their product has compared with the competing one.
Role-play a trade fair conversation between a client and potential customer who asks for product information. Ask appropriate questions to draw out the tabled information.
5. Keep the ball rolling
Discuss the options for following up contact with visitors to the stand – what is better? A phone call, an email or something more modern like a LinkedIn message?
Elicit, write down and discuss language for obtaining contact details and making arrangements. This may include how to make polite requests like ‘Would you mind me asking you for your contact details?’ (formal) and ‘Could I note your email address?’ (less formal) as well as offering your own details such as ‘here are my details, feel free to call me next week’, ‘you can sign up for our newsletter’ and ‘all our contact details are on this leaflet’. It can be useful to discuss the cultural side of this step as there can be different rules about this exchange.
1. Focus on the difficult parts of relationship building
Discuss what relationship building involves – do not mistake this for an understanding of ‘safe’ small talk topics. Relationship building is about making other people feel good and showing sincere interest through active listening and appropriate questioning. What clients find most difficult are opening questions – sounding natural when starting small talk, and ending the small talk smoothly without causing offence or embarrassment so work on these repeatedly.
2. Practise reacting spontaneously
Role-play situations with suitable time limitations. Learning lists of appropriate phrases will never replace real practice. At a trade fair learners are forced to react spontaneously, so try and include the trade fair simulations on a spontaneous basis during the entire course as well as during training dedicated to this specific language area.
3. Include continuous practice
Choose one product and build up from there. Do not underestimate how much support learners will need. Salespeople visiting trade fairs often need to revisit basic language for describing components, materials, positions, processes etc. Practise this in role-plays to make it as active as possible.
4. Help with relevant language
As well as describing benefits and features, make sure to pre-teach language of comparison and contrast as here learners need the grammar structures to ensure they can fully describe their products in relation to those of competitors, earlier versions and even to different products they offer.
5. Get client support
Try to get as much support from the client as you can. The more information they can provide about their products and the trade fairs they attend, the better you can prepare and make lessons that fit what they need. If they are unable to supply you with much information, then create product descriptions as close as possible to what they have or choose alternatives from the internet that they are familiar with.