Tips for Trade Show Success: Part II

March 17, 2016

Angelyn DeYoung is the International Trade Manager for the Office of Trade & International Relations

As many of us know, Trade Shows can be a prime location to seal deals and make new connections. This is part two of a three part Tradeology blog series. Stay tuned for part three. If you missed part one click here.

How to look approachable

Now that you’re at the show and open for business, always be aware of how approachable you look.  Are you looking at your iPhone with your head down and sitting behind a table?  Or are you making eye contact, smiling, poised in a welcoming posture, and ready to meet a client’s every need?  It’s hard not to get distracted by Candy Crush Saga when the show floor is slow, but if you’re spending $20,000 for a three-day show, every non-productive minute costs you $10!


Exhibitors at FENASAN Trade Show highlight their products.

Here are a couple of cheats for looking approachable without being too uncomfortable:

  1. Wear good shoes: it sounds simple but it makes a huge difference and you won’t get caught doing the “trade show shuffle”
  2. Upgrade to the premium carpet padding: your feet will thank you, and some buyers will stop by just to rest their aching feet
  3. Get counter height tables and bar stools: instead of regular height tables and chairs, get a counter height table, drape it so you can’t see behind it, and lean against a bar stool.  You’ll look like you’re standing up and available, but you can surreptitiously rest your feet in between contacts.
  4. Fake it ‘til you make it: smile through the pain during the lulls, and when you’re talking to an important client, you won’t even notice your aching feet!

Talking to buyers

Start a conversation. Once you’ve achieved the miracle of getting a buyer to stop at your booth to talk to you, it’s time to practice the art of “talking to buyers.”  This is not the time to start your sales pitch or begin the obvious buyer qualification process (e.g. “so what business are you in?”).  Start with an opening question, such as, “Are you finding what you’re looking for at the show so far?”  This is your chance to start a conversation with the buyer – a conversation in which you can determine if your product or service meets their needs.  Remember, this is still not a sales pitch.

Know your target buyer. Now let’s travel back in time to before you left for the trade show.  One of the most important preparations you must complete before the show is to know your target buyer and to make sure you’ve communicated that to all sales people in your booth.  What do they want to buy, how do they want to buy it, how will they pay for it, what will they do with it, etc.  Fast forward back to the buyer in your booth.  You haven’t pitched them yet, but after a few minutes of conversation about their needs, it’s time to start qualifying them.  If they fit your targeted buyer profile, you need to find out if you’re talking to the right person in the company: do they have the authority to buy, etc.

Handouts and giveaways enhance conversation.  Limit the quantity of literature (brochures, etc.) that you bring with you to the show to 100-150.  This way you are sure to only give out your literature as a way to enhance the conversation with qualified buyers.  No buyer ever in the history of time was handed a brochure as they walked by a booth, read it when they got back to the office, and was struck with an immediate need to purchase product.  Don’t waste your money!  Giveaways are great for your booth, but don’t set your pens or chip bag clips out in a bowl for anyone.  Use these gifts as a “thanks for stopping by” gift for qualified buyers.  Also, make sure that your giveaway matches the tone of your booth – i.e., if you’re a high tech company, don’t give out some low-tech jar opener…

Dismiss.  If the person who has stopped by your booth doesn’t fit your target buyer profile (or is just walking around to get free chapstick) and you know that further conversation would be fruitless, these two sentences will save you time and money: “Thanks for stopping by.  Enjoy the rest of the show!”  This sends them on their way without offense and makes you available for talking to qualified buyers.  Use it – it works.

Prepare for follow-up.  Now that you know the buyer is qualified and authorized, and you’ve successfully gotten them to agree to follow-up, it’s time to make your notes for follow-up.  Make notes on specifically what you talked about and categorize your buyer on immediacy of need.  Whether you collect business cards, write it in a notebook, or use a badge scanner, make sure that you don’t pack those leads away and ship them home with your booth.  Keep them on you so you can begin follow-up as soon as you get back to your office.


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