Expo Show Psychology
There’s always interesting stuff to see at the big franchise shows. Having just returned from the 2016 Franchise Expo South in Houston, I saw it all, but my favorite encounter was with a guy whose booth was directly across from ours.
Set up in a small booth with no table or chairs, Jim Belanger, executive vice president of operations at Massage Green Spa, used his booth space like a stage. I became curious after noticing a pattern. He’d step into the aisle to greet show attendees, exchange some quick banter and then back into his booth to determine if they were interested.
Jim’s a very personable guy who was quick to remind me that he’s been around the franchise show block many times. During slow periods on the second day, he shared some wisdom for making the most out of your booth at a show the old-fashioned way.
After a strong first day, a Thursday, he was clearly excited to start the second day, having chatted with eight qualified applicants. Three or four, he said, had already contacted him a second time after first meeting him at the show.
“When you come to a show like this, one or two is all you really need,” he said, adding that many times the most productive times are at the end of the day (or show) when people are naturally tempted to tear their booths down early. “At the West Coast Franchise Expo, two of the sales I got out of that show came on Saturday at 4 o’clock, and the other came at 4:05—people were tearing things down, the lights were off and I sold both of those people.”
He was also excited about his booth’s corner spot, an intentional placement allowing him to flex his powers of human interaction.
“It’s perfect for me,” Belanger said. “I stand and when somebody finishes with me I watch how many other booths they go to. If they’re going to every other booth, I’m really not interested and they’re not interested in what we’re doing—I pay attention to stuff like that.”
He looks at people’s body language, he said, as well as their eyes and even the color of their ears, noting that if they turn red the person is feeling scared or intimidated. If they’re looking up and to the left, that’s often a “tell” that they are lying, he said. His key move, though, is a sneaky backing up into his booth.
“If they come with me, I know they’re interested,” he said. “If they don’t, I know they’re not really paying attention.”
Beyond his timeworn sales tactics, Belanger is an extremely friendly guy, which undoubtedly encourages people to stick around and spend more time with him. He said he learned his tactics from great mentors and that he’s always looking to help other show exhibitors that are either disappointed in their performance at the show, or those he notices could use a pointer or two.
“I always try to help younger people and those that are new to the franchise world,” he said.
While I’m always looking for what booth or new concept stands out to me at shows, Belanger’s advice, excellent conversation and interesting tactics reinforced that there’s a big difference between doing your time and really working the floor at a show.
In an environment when everyone’s jockeying for cheeseburger samples, miniature cups of frozen daiquiris (shout out to Wet Willie’s!) or scanning everyone’s badge, Belanger’s simpler, honest approach stands out. Be like Jim.