Infocomm15 where were all the stories?
The big story of Infocomm15? There weren’t any stories.
I’ve just returned from a great week at Infocomm15 in Orlando Fl. There were an amazing range of technologies from a dizzying range of suppliers, many of whom I’d not heard of before. Infocomm does a great job with the show.
But there was a problem, the problem is there every year. There were no stories.
Fact to death
Almost every booth I visited had representatives firing facts at you. They were like a man with a machine gun blasting you with speeds and feeds, forcing facts into your brain so hard that you simply HAD to agree. They were the best. I saw clients staggering away from booths, facted to death. The only time the company would stop telling you how the latest thing was 12% more efficient than last years was when the clients either gasped that they had another meeting or simply waved surrender with an order number.
We as an industry must stop this personal technogasm we have about how clever we are, and how amazing our latest thing is.
Clients only care about one thing. Oh and it isn’t you !!
In a recent study of 7-12 year old children by Brad Bushman,, a communications and psychology professor at Ohio State University, it was concluded that narcissism was endemic among the young.
Well of course they are, because to a large degree pretty much everyone is. It’s a me show, where’s my thing, what are you doing for me world.
Show’s like Infocomm demonstrate one side of the narcissistic story, the need by manufacturers to tell everyone how great they are. The problem is, they should be stroking the egos of the people whose love and attention they are trying to attain, the resellers and the clients, not their own.
Now enough about me, tell me about you. What do you think of me?
It’s surprisingly hard for humans to not want to talk about their favorite subject, them. But it can be done. Companies need to stop living in a world of their invention, one in which the world revolves around their ideas, their brilliance, and move to one in which their clients are placed in the middle of the story.
In a calm room with a disparate group from around the business, and with clients present, you can form a narrative, build a story that explains why the client should care about you.
In the words of Simon Sinek. “Start with why”
Why would a potential client step onto your booth? why would they talk to you? Almost certainly it’s because they have a problem. A problem they are looking for help with.
You work it out
Manufacturers believe the statement. “Build the world’s best mousetrap and they world will beat a path to your door.” I have news. No they wont.
History is full of people who had a genius idea and it went nowhere. Unless you have a good idea, and serve it in a manner that clients can digest. One in which you solve their problems, you will fail.
Convenience is better than free
Clients are uninterested in listening to the stream of facts from a supplier, picking out the bits that matter to them and piecing it all together into a form they can make use of.
The supplier has a duty to solve a client's business problem, in a cost effective, efficient and above all understandable manner.
To quote Albert Einstein “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”
Suppliers need to build a story about how you will impact the client’s life is a useful manner. Then then need to explain that idea simply.
Jokes are a type of story, and like jokes if you have to explain it, it’s not funny.
Self praise is no recommendation
The best way to achieve simplicity for clients is to walk a mile in their shoes, and the best way to do that is to ask your existing clients why they do business with you. The answers are often not the ones you were expecting.
If possible employ your clients talents to sell on your behalf. Every client knows salespeople lie, Sales Engineers will tell you a straight answer to a specific question, but rarely volunteer anything, and other clients will tell you like it is. So use the best salespeople in the world, your clients, to do the work for you.
In the modern world 60% of the buying cycle happens before you even know the client exists. So be aware that the client is going to be far better informed they they used to be.
Two ears one mouth
Most show booths are put together as part of the marketing function. But the people manning the booth are sales people. Conventional wisdom is that salespeople talk for a living. This is a basic misunderstanding of the role. The best sales people listen. It’s hard to listen when in the middle of a show floor.
Much better to employ a professional to present. They can have a canned demonstration explaining why a client should speak at more length to the organisation. This frees up the sales team to listen to clients. Listening is not simply the words they use. What they look at, for how long, their interaction with their colleagues and with your booth can gain the salespeople a wealth of information.
Write it down
Modern technology has made grabbing data too easy. The modern card scanners have their place, but too often the client is scanned, their data recorded and that is it. The ability to write meaningful notes about any client are lost with the tiny keyboards on the scanners. Much better to scan in the name and then use a note with the client name or business card to make notes while talking to them. It will potentially slow down the process a little but it will mean that on the return to base you don’t start from square one.
You only get one opportunity to ruin the chance to make a good first impression
As usual Infocomm had it’s salespeople typing very important emails while the world walked straight past them. How companies are prepared to put up with this is beyond me. They pay $100k’s to be at a show, and then ignore clients as they walk past. Same goes for the people packing up early.
It shows a level of contempt to Infocomm, the other exhibitors and the people who might have been your clients. One would like to imagine that due to lack of success these people would self select out of the show, but they keep coming back.
Booth babes are good for three things.
Giving away samples
Showing your business model is closely aligned with that of Austin Powers.
In the modern era the days of a pretty girl scanning all and sundry to get to some theoretical and almost certainly pointless numbers of leads is a farce. The days of marketing organisations simply stuffing as many opportunities into the sausage machine as possible are gone. Much better to scan the real prospects. That way they are closer to the top of the pile when you get home and have to call them all up.
Even the idea that a manufacturer feels compelled to generate X number of leads for their resellers is old. Quality matters so much more in the modern era. Simply dumping a pile of leads onto a resellers desk wears thin when the partners can’t separate the wheat from the chafe.
People love stories. People don’t remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel. As a public speaker I constantly have to remember that. It can feel disappointing that you have all this knowledge to impart and only a limited time to do it. But I constantly remind myself, if the audience is not listening whatever I say is irrelevant.
I am sure that with some thought, and some assistance every company could build a unique, scaleable, repeatable, client centric story.
So lets move away from facting and move to a client centric world of stories.
An event like Infocomm, or any show is like a theatrical production. Companies spend months, planning it, resources staffing it and money staging it. But companies seem to forget to spend any money on a script or the actors. What a tragedy.
The best storyteller at Infocomm? A man in the cheap seats selling cutting disks. He had a story, he had consistency, he had energy and he drew a crowd. He got it.
Details of the author.
Simon Dudley is a great storyteller and he helps others tell their stories. He is also Chief Contrarian at Excession Events. He can be reached atsdudley@ExcessionEvents.com or +1 512 853 9801 www.ExcessionEvents.com