Reel in Customers at a Trade Show by Selling Smarter


Trade show exhibiting is the best marketing medium to provide you direct access to customers-and there will be a large pool of them to meet. To be successful, however, you can’t simply set up a booth and expect people to come. You have to know how to swim with the best of them.

A trade show provides

  • excellent opportunity to display your product or service to the largest
  • number of people at any single event.  In fact, it can generate more leads
  • than you can obtain in the field during a whole year.  Exhibiting can
  • provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about your industry, obtain
  • ideas, form strategic alliances, attend educational seminars, develop
  • relationships, and check out your competition.

On the other hand, exhibiting in a trade show can also be a great waste of money if you don’t know how to promote and sell on the trade show floor. Here are some trade show selling techniques that can make the difference between  success or failure in your trade show endeavors.

Here are a few tips to assist you in this area.


– Gather your troops.

“Everyone is in sales!”  Gather your troops to share ideas and discuss what has and has not worked for you when you have exhibited in the past. Be sure you involve not only your sales and marketing people, but everyone who has a customer contact. Involving your people in the planning process can generate ideas and build enthusiasm for the show. Discuss ways you can get your best customers and potential customers to visit.  Strategize how what you can do to make it special for them to visit your booth. Also, consider whether you might want to hold a special event in conjunction with your show or host a dinner at a great restaurant.

– Give some thought before you spend money on common giveaways.

Many clients experience success with small giveaways at their booth. However, I’ve seen too many “souvenir-seekers,” and “just-lookers” who take up valuable selling time collecting these small items simply because they’re FREE. You just might get a bigger bang for your buck by purchasing usable specialty items and nice gifts for your important customers and those you are hoping to obtain.  You don’t need a huge budget to do this–you just need a smart strategy as described below. Besides, since you’ll already be spending a great deal of money on exhibit space and related expenses, why not spend a little more to ensure you get better trade show sales results?

– Bait the hook so you can catch the fish.

Purchase moderately priced but usable gifts such as a Walkman (always usable), a unique toy (Monsters, Inc. is HOT), funny T-shirt (I’ve seen buyers stand in lines to receive hats and funny T-shirts), or a great a novelty item (SMOKELESS ASHTRAY, MAYBE?) to use to help with your pre-show promotion that will entice buyers to visit your booth.  Be creative when selecting what you buy.  Then invite your best customers and those you wish to obtain to your trade show exhibit; let them know a personally addressed gift is waiting for them in your booth.

Here’s something even more effective: Send them  half of the gift. For example, send just the earphones to a Walkman with a note that says, “What goes with this is in a personally addressed box in Booth Number 108. (You will want to be sure these gifts are discreetly wrapped, so as not to offend anyone who may not have received one.)

– Talk it up:  Spread the word that you are exhibiting and promote the show.

Many companies make the mistake of relying only on show management to bring buyers in.  Trade show management’s job is to sell booth space and invite the industry to the trade show.  You need the assistance of not only your sales and marketing people, but you need everyone in your organization who has customer contact to “talk up” the show. For example, when your receptionist answers the phone and recognizes the customer, before switching the call he or she can say, “Hi, Mr. Johnson. You’ll be visiting us at the show I hope. We’re expecting to see you there.”

In the weeks prior to the show, make sure your credit people, customer service and technicians help you to promote the trade show whenever they are interacting with customers. Of course, your sales force should make as many appointments as possible with customers and prospects.  If you have sent them a creative invitation to your booth with a notification about a nice gift, it will make it easier for them to do.

Advertise! Make sure you leave no stone unturned for trade show sales success. Advertise in your industry publication in the pre-show issue.  Make sure your ad is eye-catching and will stand out amongst the rest.  Remember:

boring is OUT – Creativity, eye-catching, and MEMORABLE is IN.

– Train your booth personnel on trade show selling skills

All booth personnel must learn about your products or services being displayed to help them your sales force generate leads. Brainstorm every conceivable question attendees might ask on the show floor.  Carefully formulate the questions you want them to ask to qualify visitors and the sales message you want to convey.

Then have them PRACTICE how to deliver information and answer questions concisely and powerfully. This is especially important for technicians, service people, or receptionists who may be part of your booth staff, but have not had any sales training.  You will need their help during peak hours when your sales force may be occupied. Make sure they know a little about your competitors’ product/s and are able to state with confidence and tact why yours is better.  Be sure you have a lead-handling plan and that everyone knows how it will work.

At THE SHOW. . .

– Greet, qualify and interest people fast.

Never wait. Initiate!  Extend your hand and greet the visitor. “Hi, I’m John.” (This is by far, the best way to get people who hesitate and look at your booth to come in.)  Small talk for a few seconds, then ask a question to qualify the person before discussing your products or services, i.e., “What are your needs?”  “What’s your application?” “Have you heard about our company and our new…?”  During peak hours, try not to spend more than five minutes with any one prospect unless they are genuinely interested. Get their contact information! As you know, most trade shows have sophisticated lead systems that are highly effective, just be sure to record the customers’ level of interest, purchasing influence, budget, specific application, time frames and phone number.

– Make visitors feel important.

Be sure to shake hands, maintain eye-contact, and direct questions to all individuals who come in from one company as a group, Don’t make the mistake of paying more attention only to the decision maker. You need to make a positive impression with everyone if you want to see results in your trade show sales.

If you are expecting an important customer or potential customer placing a sign on an easel that says “Welcome… Joe Smith, XYZ COMPANY,” can be a nice touch.  And, introducing interested prospects to upper-level management, service people, and other key people in your company helps to build relationships, and demonstrates class and professionalism.

Remember the old adage: You may never get a second chance to make a positive first impression.

– Deliver an enthusiastic presentation.

Make buyers feel the same enthusiasm for your product or service as you do.  Again, be clear, concise, brief and confident. Be sensitive and “in tune” with how your customer is reacting. Know when to talk, know when to listen.  Know when to shift gears! Visitors’ attention spans will be limited.  They may be jet-lagged and fatigued. Also, they will want to visit other booths at the show. Remember: Your main purpose of exhibiting in a trade show is to generate qualified leads and gain commitment for action from interested buyers.

– Get some type of commitment.

Bring your calendar and set up appointments with customers while they are at the show.  If, however, you have a customer who is ready to buy…

-Ask for the business!

Most salespeople don’t do this which is a mistake, but in many instances you can and should close business on the trade show floor. Sound confident and relaxed and ASK for the sale.


– The Trade Show’s Over, Now What?

Your feet are aching and you are likely feeling as if your get up and go got up and went.  But if your pre-show marketing and promotion strategies and selling skills on the trade show floor were effective, your end result should be a substantial amount of qualified leads. But if you go back to “business as usual” or if you become overwhelmed with to-dos, phone calls, back-mail, etc., and don’t follow up fast, you may miss the boat. Worse, you may not acquire business your company hoped to obtain from its trade show investment.

After a trade show, don’t wait. Initiate. Phone prospects immediately to demonstrate your professionalism and dependability. Follow up within three days, while you are still fresh in the customers’ minds. If you did a good job at the booth and they have not done business with you prior to the show, they should remember you. But if you wait, they may forget you and their interest in buying may diminish.

When you follow up, don’t bother to send mail without speaking to your prospect first, unless you want to end up in a big literature pile with everyone else. Fax a brief letter with a recap of what you discussed and the key benefits of your product/service. Then keep calling until you set up an appointment or demo.  You also may wish to send an e-mail with a link to your Website once or twice as well, but do keep calling.

After a trade show, and anytime you interact with customers, remember this: If you say the same things your competitors say, and use the same approach, how will you ever stand out in the mind of the customer? So use a different approach with your selling style; and be sure that you effectively communicate why your company can meet their needs, how your company can help them increase their profitability, and why you are better than your competitors.

Exhibiting at a trade show can be a costly and labor-intensive venture when you consider booth space, displays, marketing materials, travel expenses, etc.  Despite the costs, if you properly plan for the event, are creative with your sales and marketing strategy, are efficient and make a positive impression on the trade show floor, and do a fast follow-up afterwards, your results will far surpass the investment.


Here’s a powerful manual, Reel in Customers at a Trade Show by Selling Smarter, is written specifically to help you apply smart sales and marketing tactics to the complex environment of the trade show. You and your booth staff will learn critical skills and techniques for selling on the trade show floor and the most effective pre-show promotions to apply.

Its content represents over twenty-five years experience across a wide variety of industries in the trade show sales and marketing arena. You will obtain vital information on the most important starting point-creating a trade show sales and marketing strategy.

It also contains information on booth layout, displays, eye-catching signs, pre-show marketing promotions and effective networking. Regardless of the size of your company, you can benefit from the information provided on selling on the trade show floor.

It even includes a review of “Sales 101,” and how to project the “right-stuff.”

You will find 78 pages full of ideas and information to help you get a return on your trade show investment. Review the content below.

  • 10 Reasons Why Exhibiting in a Trade Show is Worthwhile
  • How to Create a Trade Show Strategy
    • Write Objectives and Goals
    • How to Use a Memorable Theme
    • Why You Should be Careful With Gimmicks and Giveaways
    • How to Create Great Literature Specific for the Show
    • Your Exhibit and Display
    • Types of Displays, Layouts That Work
    • Your Booth Ergonomic Checklist
    • Pre-show Promotion That Can Make the Difference Between Success and Failure
    • Types of Pre-Show Promotion and How to Use Each
      • Personal Invitations That Entice Customers into Your Booth “
      • Telemarketing
      • Direct Mail
      • Common Giveaways are Nice-Great Gifts Are Better
      • Advertising That Makes an Impact
      • How to Obtain Media Exposure
      • Newsletters Promotions
    • How to Obtain Sales Leads or Distribution Opportunities
    • Master the ART of Cold-Calling To Apply Before the Show
    • Why it’s Critical to Bring Your Best Salespeople and Brand Ambassadors
    • How to Define a Qualified Sales Lead Specific to Your Business
    • Why You Need to Hold a Pre-Show Meeting and What to Emphasize to Booth Staff
  • Selling on the Trade Show Floor
    • Why it’s Different Than Selling in the Field, and Highly Effective Selling Techniques
    • Don’t Hesitate. Instead, Initiate
    • Qualify
    • Apply Effective Selling Skills and Deliver a Compelling Presentation
    • Apply Consultative Selling
    • How to Overcome Objections
    • What to Do if a Customer Comes into Your Booth to Complain
    • What to Say to Obtain a Commitment for ACTION and Make a Sale!
    • How to Make Sure You Spend Your Time With the Right People at the Show
    • How to Make a Positive Impression and Make Sure You Project the “Right Stuff”
    • Review and Apply the Basics of “Sales 101”
  • How to Maximize Networking Opportunities and “Work” a Room to Make The Best Contacts
  • How to Avoid Mistakes Marketing and Trade Show Managers Make
  • What To Do Just Prior to the Show
  • Trade Show Survival Kit
  • What to Do At the Show
    • How to Work with Show Management
    • How to Increase Your Selling Power
    • Why You Should Strive to Leverage Vendor Expertise
  • Post Show
    • How and When Follow Up and Follow Through
    • How to Create an Effective e-mail Campaign for Post Show
    • Why You Need to Evaluate Your Show
  • Conclusion
  • Secrets to Sales Success

    Sink or swim, Reel in Customers at a Trade Show by Selling Smarter, is the one tool that can make all the difference in the success of your trade show efforts.

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About Christine Corelli

Christine Corelli is a motivational, keynote, business, leadership, sales, and customer service speaker, sales trainer, and author of six business books. As a keynote speaker, she is known for her high energy and interactive speaking style.

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