Dr Jacob Klimstra
Patience and friendliness are generally seen as good attitudes. Agitation in queues such as in shops and at airports can be avoided when people stick to the rules. That’s why I always try to wait my turn in our local bakery.
However, all of a sudden I noticed something on a Saturday morning while waiting for freshly baked bread and delicious cakes. The baker’s shop was crowded with customers since the products are so good, but only one of the staff was helping us. The other staff members were very busy arranging goodies on the shelves and in the displays beneath the counter. They worked very hard and were running instead of walking, apparently to impress their boss, but they were completely ignoring the customers. Fortunately, the only staff member that was serving the customers got annoyed and urged her colleagues to help them too.
I could not help thinking that the situation at the bakery reminded me of what often happens at exhibitions. Two months ago, I visited a yacht show because I wanted to renew some equipment on my boat. And yes, a number of exhibitors had what I needed on display. I tried to catch the attention of the staff at the booth by looking with an eager face and using body language to show my interest. Apparently I am not so good at body language, since nobody offered me any help. The staff members at the booth showed interest only in their colleagues and were very busy chatting amongst themselves.
All of a sudden, somebody else entered the stand and the staff immediately welcomed him as a well-known, valuable customer. I left and found another stand with the required equipment. No other customers were even close. At that booth, the staff members were sitting on chairs against the back wall and looking very bored. I overheard them saying: ‘We are at least away from the streets’, and again they completely ignored me. I left without buying anything.
Although I could accept that it was my poor outward appearance that caused the staff to ignore me, I decided to observe the general attitude at exhibitions. Together with my wife, I visited a home and garden exhibition and we had much fun watching how exhibitors treated potential customers in general. People apparently well-known to them were heartily received, but ‘strangers’ were mostly ignored. Only some 5% of the exhibitors had an open attitude and tried to make proper contact with visitors who they did not know. I had exactly the same experience at a utility conference that I visited on behalf of COSPP. Only a few exhibitors had an open attitude, and that happily resulted in agreements to produce several interesting articles for this magazine. However, the bulk of the stands were entirely inward-directed, with the staff showing interest only in their colleagues or existing contacts.
I am almost certain that the exhibitions connected with the POWER-GEN conferences are no exception to this habit of ignoring potential customers. Hopefully, this editor’s letter is a wake-up call for the crews on the stands.
It would be great if all visitors could be heartily welcomed. They are there for a reason. Many exhibitors have excellent products and provide very good services, as you can read in some articles in this magazine. However, selling is difficult if you don’t succeed in making good contacts.
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