A Short Course In Trade Show Selling

In previous columns, we’ve written that a trade show or exhibit hall is quite a unique selling environment.

It’s totally unlike any other sales situation, and booth staffers have to be prepared to effectively navigate the path to qualifying a prospect or closing a sale on the show floor.

Multiquad Exhibit 20x20

Multiquad Exhibit 20×20

Here, we want to provide you with concrete do’s and don’ts about how the sales process should work in your trade show booth.

We encourage you and your staffers to practice these techniques before your next show, so you’re not fumbling in front of prospects.

We’ll start with some bad ideas about show floor selling, then move on to the more positive parts.

How To Sell: Don’ts

1) Don’t offer literature as your opening salvo.

You don’t know what your prospect is interested in—or even if he or she is interested—so how do you know what literature will be useful to that booth visitor?

Start a conversation with your visitor to establish whether he or she is a qualified lead. Once you know the prospect’s needs, you can provide literature that will help answer questions and cement the relationship.

2) Don’t write up lots of useless leads.

If your prospect is unqualified, end the interaction as soon as possible. Leads that won’t go anywhere will only frustrate the sales department once you’ve turned the leads over to them.

3) Don’t spend more than six or seven minutes—even with a good prospect.

Neither of you will remember what was said after a longer conversation. This is one of the most unique aspects of trade show selling. Your prospects want you to get to the point, so they can get on to other business they have at the show.

4) Never ask, “May I help you?”

Again, unique to show floor selling, many of the niceties of conversation that might be part of an in-office sales call can be dispensed with in your exhibit. Every interaction with your booth visitors—especially your opening question—should be focused on qualifying them.

Never ask, “May I help you?” Share on X

How To Sell: Do’s

1) Always qualify the prospect up front.

Your focus should be on business from the start of your interaction. This isn’t a time for chatting. Prior to the show, create a list of qualifying questions your staffers can use when initiating conversations with booth visitors. Instead of asking “Are you enjoying the show?” ask “Do you use widgets in your business?” or “Would you like to cut the cost of your widget manufacturing in half?”

2) Be assertive (not aggressive) in your interactions.

You should be the one controlling the conversation, not the prospect. Start the conversation by offering a benefit. People are at trade shows to find solutions to their problems, so continue questioning to determine if what you offer can meet that particular prospect’s need. Direct the conversation with questions that can’t be answered “yes” or “no.”

3) Be direct with “tire kickers”.

Point them to products on display or graphics that explain your product or service. Turn them over to someone in the booth who’s not responsible for selling, if necessary.

If you have an inexpensive premium (a pen, for example), offer one while saying, “It seems I can’t help you today, Bill. As you go, I’d like you to have this pen. Please think of Acme Widgets when your needs change.”

Remember, you and your staffers are there to find the real prospects. Tire kickers are wasting your valuable time.

Lite Thing Display, Curved Tower

Lite Thing Display, Curved Tower

 4) Define your objectives for the show, in writing—right now.

Unwritten goals get little, if any, attention.

Review and refine them as the show grows nearer.

Once they’ve been decided on, review them once more with all those who will be working in your booth.

The goals should be achievable, measurable and meaningful to your company’s overall goals.

 5) The 80/20 Rule applies to trade show selling, too.

If you’ve never heard of the 80/20 Rule, you’ll soon start seeing it happen everywhere.

Eighty percent of your sales will be made by twenty percent of your booth staffers.

Also, 80% of your sales will happen in 20% of the time left in the show, when your prospects have run out of options. Prospects who’ve already checked out your competitors will be ready to buy in the final hours of the show. You’re their only remaining option.

The 80/20 Rule applies to trade show selling, too. Share on X

The Rules Of Active Listening:

This selling technique is so important, it deserves a little more detailed explanation.

  1. Spend most of that six or seven minutes you invest with a prospect listening to their answers to your questions, rather than talking at your prospect.
  2. Look directly at your prospect when asking a question. Don’t stare, but make eye contact every time you pose a closing question.
  3. If you’re writing answers to the prospect’s questions, look down at your notepad or clipboard while you’re writing. This demonstrates concentration and interest on your part.
  4. You’ll quickly develop a trust relationship with your prospect by focusing on two things:
    • asking what he or she wants, and
    • providing solutions to his or her problems.

Some Final Housekeeping Issues:

 1) When you’re in a trade show booth, you’re essentially playing the role of a strong salesperson.

At Disneyland, they call all their employees “cast members,” because they’re all part of the “show” that’s taking place everywhere in the park, all the time.

You and your staffers are putting on a show, too.

The most important thing to remember is to always appear enthusiastic. Prospects aren’t drawn to bored, tired or disinterested salespeople.

 2) Seek out prospects instead of standing around in the booth.

Hours on the trade show floor are precious and few. Talking to other staffers in the booth not only wastes that valuable time, it turns off potentially valuable prospects.

 3) Stay on your feet.

We all know that standing on a concrete floor is an unpleasant and tiring task. But a seated salesperson is another turn off to prospects.

At the show, being on your feet is part of your job description.

If you take good care of yourself in the off-hours of a trade show trip (when you’re not on the show floor), you’ll be better prepared to stand during your shift than if you spent the previous night dancing and partying.

 4) The booth is for doing business.

Eating, reading or talking on your cell phone—all these things are unattractive to would-be prospects. None is a mark of a professional salesperson.

As the person in charge, set these rules in writing, well in advance, and give booth staffers time off the show floor for meal and rest breaks, as well as dealing with work responsibilities back in the office.

At American Image Displays, we’re devoted to helping you make your trade show selling efforts as successful as possible. That’s why we write these columns: to give you information you can put to use to be more effective on the show floor. If you’re looking for experienced sales trainers for your booth staff, let us know – there are several excellent resources we’d be happy to provide.

On the flip side, another aspect of a successful trade show marketing program is a booth that tells your story well and does all it can to attract prospects. If your current trade show exhibit needs a little extra “something,” give us a call. Let us show you what we can do to help. Call us at (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected].

For a different route, check out how to stop selling and be memorable or read how to outsell your competition