exhibitor Q & A

Several of my staff don’t listen well to customers in the booth. How can I help them improve their listening skills?

During your next booth-training session, remind your staff of something John Marshall, the chief justice of the United States, said almost 200 years ago: “To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.”

Listening well is still relevant today to what staffers do in the booth, because almost every interaction is focused on discovering which of your products or services prospects most need. That means paying keen attention to what visitors are saying. To help your staff achieve that heightened state of aural attentiveness, I suggest using what I call a “discovery agreement.”

A discovery agreement is when staffers summarize to visitors what they heard them say when asked about their needs or interests, followed by a basic verifying question, such as “Did I understand what you’re saying correctly?” The attendees then confirm it, or go on to clarify what the staffer missed or didn’t understand.

Your staff should then physically record these discovery agreements for your company to use as needed after the show. They can summarize the conversations using, for example, your lead-management system, or whatever means works best. Requiring staff to transcribe the discovery agreements will force them to focus on their conversations with attendees and listen more closely. In fact, it won’t take long before they’re all ears.

Dan Lumpkin is an organizational psychologist and president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. E-mail your career-related questions to


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