How can international sellers engage buyers from different cultural backgrounds at trade show appointments?

By Gary Bender on 22/05/2017

Increasingly, we are operating in a global environment, especially within the Asia-Pacific region, where local cultures are closely aligned. By gaining an immediate rapport and demonstrating respect towards your buyer, you can establish a firm relationship from the initial contact.

At tradeshows, client discussions can be very brief especially when there is no relationship and the event has short pre-scheduled appointment times. By being upfront, open and greeting buyers with a smile, you become approachable and welcoming. Don’t stay sitting and remain standing until you welcome a buyer into your stand and they have been seated first.

Look at choosing an event where your time with the potential buyer is unmetered. Trade events such as the inaugural Get Global do not have a structured appointment times, so buyers and sellers can develop their relationship at your own pace.

Be attentive and listen to what your buyer is telling you from the beginning of your interaction.

Conduct research on attendee nationalities

Having an understanding of where your buyers are coming from and any potential cultural sensitivities will help you understand the right way to greet a potential buyer. It may save you both any awkwardness and set the tone for a successful business partnership.

Research can be done via the internet, where there are plenty of resources available to help you research your buyers. Your peers and colleagues may also have invaluable information on how best to work with other nationalities and cultures. The event/expo organiser may also have statistics and information on who the attendees are.

Having an understanding of any cultural sensitivities will enable you to avoid any embarrassing situations and gain the respect of your buyer from the beginning.

Australians are more casual and friendly and treat everyone as equals. Do not be surprised if they greet you as if you already know each other!

How to grab a buyer’s attention and what questions to ask

Being open and friendly will help grab the buyer’s attention from the start, as will a well-appointed and eye-catching exhibition space/stand. But it will be your manner and how engaging you are which will really grab the buyer’s attention. Your questions should be friendly, informal but assist you in qualifying the buyer to ensure you are attracting relevant buyers to you and your product. You don’t want to spend unnecessary time with buyers you cannot help.

By asking open-ended questions you will be able to engage a potential buyer and reveal their needs. By demonstrating you are listening, accepting what has been said and offering solutions, will show your willingness to do business. 

I would not recommend asking what business potential the buyer has in financial terms in the first meeting. However, there are ways to craft questions to establish a buyer’s budget without coming right out with it. 

You can base your questions around the buyer’s immediate need – are they looking for a specific piece of business or just in general? What size are they looking for and do they have any mandatory requirements and inclusions? Are they looking for a modest experience for lots of guests or something more boutique?

Managing awkward silences at appointments

It can always be difficult connecting with buyers of different nationalities and languages. It can help to have a couple of questions ready to go, to fill the quiet moments. But make sure they are relevant. “Have you ever visited [where you are located]?”, “What other sellers have you been impressed with today?”.

But an awkward silence can also help you in your sales process. Silences can mean that a buyer is really considering what you have said or thinking about how it will work with their needs. Give an encouraging smile and wait for your buyer to respond.

Communication on a global scale

Do not be afraid to ask a buyer to slow down if you do not understand his or her accent or the business language! It is important you can BOTH follow the conversation and are able to communicate in a way you both understand and are comfortable with.

The MICE industry is a global tourism business, therefore is appreciated there can sometimes be challenging with accents. Be kind and confident with the request – perhaps ask with a friendly, open smile, “I’m sorry, please may you repeat that for me?”, “Pardon me, I just missed that.”

Most buyers are operating in a global market and will be more than happy to ensure their point or question is understood. 

What to do post-trade show

Before you attend the tradeshow, you can have a response template ready to go. A prompt, professional, tailored response is a great way to make your venue or property stand out from other sellers who may not respond straight away.

Make sure your response is personalised (to the seller, their requirements, to the tradeshow and referencing anything you spoke about at the event). Provide additional information which may encourage the buyer to keep a line of communication with you (a 360-degree view of your property, a video testimony, etc.)

By following up with the leads you identified at the event as soon as you get back to the office, you can develop the relationships you began to develop at the event. You can send any relevant and requested information, or a simple “it was lovely to meet you” email.

Continuing the relationship 

Communication is the key. Keep your buyer up to date with any changes, developments or new products you may have. Even if you did not meet their brief when you first met at the tradeshow, changes to your offering or to a buyer’s brief may mean there is an opportunity to work together in the future. Staying in contact will help you remain top of mind.

You may also have the opportunity to provide more information to the buyer about your location. By sharing relevant location information, updates or news to give the buyer reasons to travel to your destination for their MICE requirements. You may even wish to stay on top of flight specials to help make your location a destination of choice.

Gary Bender is the owner and Managing Director of World Corporate Travel (WCT); a successful PCO and corporate travel agency that has delivered incentive programmes and conferences all over the world. Bender has a passion for doing things differently and his key strengths are engaging staff, managing relationships with clients and suppliers and creating powerful concepts.

Bender is also the co-director of Get Global, a new trade show dedicated to the Australian outbound market that is set to take place at ICC Sydney on July 28, 2017.


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