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How to Sell at Trade Shows

Adapted from content excerpted from the American Express® OPEN Small Business Network

According to the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, the majority of trade show attendees are decision makers or influencers that plan to make a purchase within the next 12 months. Don't waste an opportunity like that -- follow these guidelines to help make sure your staff is ready to sell effectively.

Avoid soft sells

Trade shows require a hard-sell approach. When attendees show interest in your booth, approach them immediately and invite them to learn more about your products or services. Don't leave people waiting -- trade show attention spans are short, and people will leave your booth if they can't get help in 60 seconds or less.

Be engaging

The way you greet a visitor to your booth shows your professionalism and willingness to help. Avoid innocuous greetings like "Can I help you", "Hi, how are you?", or "How's the show going?". Instead, ask a direct question that engages the visitor and helps you gauge their interest in your company's products or services -- "What information can I tell you about our new heating system?" or "Hello, what are you looking for in a patio door?".

Watch your manners

Certain booth behavior looks sloppy and conveys that you're not interested in your customers. Don't sit down. Don't eat, drink, or smoke at the booth. Never leave your booth unattended. Don't spend time chatting with colleagues instead of focusing on customers.

Qualify prospects quickly

The first thing you should do once you meet someone new is establish who they are (buyer, decision maker, supplier, competitor, etc.) and where they're located. This way you won't end up spending important time with a person who isn't responsible for buying your product/service, or who is located in a region your company doesn't serve. You can find this information out by asking some key questions, looking at their badge, or requesting a business card which will have the person's title and address.

Ask lots of questions

Engage a prospect by asking open-ended questions -- ones that require more than a yes/no answer. This will help you determine their needs and interests. Focus your responses on how your product or service can meet these needs. Be sure to observe the 80/20 rule -- listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time. Try to avoid any kind of prepared sales pitch, which can begin to sound robotic after you've said it for the 50th time.

Keep good records

Write down all the relevant information about a prospect on a "lead card" which contains: the person's name, title, address, phone/fax number, e-mail address (all these can come from a business card), needs/interests, budget and timing. Use this card for your post-show follow-up when you return to the office.


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Tom Foley  |  June 05, 2016
Have a business opp. and little money and this is my last hoorah I never sold at a trade show and this is where most of the revenue is generated for this business. Any suggestions or input is very much appreciated. Seller has stated : Has not done a trade show in a year but has excellent spots . Do you retain your location ? Orders are taken then shipped when show is over.
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John Livermore, Livingston, United States  |  April 26, 2016
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Expo Tor, San Francisco, United States  |  May 23, 2015
At - we give SMEs the possibility to find faster the best service provider either as freelancer or corporate. We know some cases where the supply chain is just too long and they pay even more that 40%. That´s why we want to make quality transparent and helping to save time & get more ROI. What do you guys think about?
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Sharon Wang  |  July 02, 2012