3 ways to make your trade show appearances more successful

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I’ve seen sales presentations in several different environments:

  • Reverse Trade shows – the speed dating of the business world
  • Trade shows – rows and rows of businesses with the same story
  • Sales presentations


Each of these present their own unique challenges.

Reverse trade shows

Reverse trade shows are pretty common in government circles. There are some great benefits – namely have multiple heavy hitters from your area in one place. You’ll get to chat directly with a buyer for the organization. They’ll have an idea of what they expect to buy for the next few months – most of the time. Sometimes they don’t have any idea. That’s fine, I doubt you’ll sign anything right then and there.

Reverse trade show appointments are usually set up in advance with multiple buyers. You have eight to 10 minutes to pitch your products to a buyer representative.

The approach 

The initial instinct is,”I have to spew as much info as possible in my 10 minutes.” That’s the best way to fall in to the “sounding just like the last person sitting in front of me” club.

That’s not the club you want to be in.

The best way to make a good impression is know as much about your buyer as you can. Be strategic. There may be 20 organizations at the event.

Do your research. Target the 3-4 you can best help. There’s no excuse to not exercise a little Google-fu to find out which organizations fit your products.

Remember, this is speed dating. You want them to remember who you are and how you can help them after the event.

  • Considerations

If you have a spec sheet or packets make sure the buyer wants them.

Sometimes I felt like Mitch Hedburg – people would hand me a packet and it was like,”hey, throw this away for me.”

Think about your info packs like a resume. If it’s more than two pages it probably won’t get read. Yep, we’ll put it in “the file.” File 13.

I kept cards of businesses with an interesting story. (Side note: make sure there’s room on your card for someone to write info on.) The rest, I would wait a few weeks and if I didn’t get any type of followup, I threw them away.

That’s reality.

Trade Shows

This should be easier right? Lots of interested buyers walking up and down the rows upon rows of businesses. Now the buyers are coming to you.

Your table is set up. Stacks of flyers, some pens to give away (maybe a flash drive with your logo stuck back for just the right person) and a bowl of candy.

Not peppermints, that’s amateur, you’ve got peanut butter cups and mini candy bars.

Once the people start filing in after the speakers or a breakout session. You smile and answer the,”so what is it you do?” question. Give them some specs or industry standards you meet or exceed.

Then they grab a reese’s and walk off to the next booth, there is another booth giving away t-shirts. Sure you try to get some contact information but does it ever lead to anything?

I think big trade shows are good for networking. Sure, a few deals have been made, but not many. But businesses need to go in with full knowledge that they probably won’t lead to much. I’ve been told before by reps they are surprised when they make a sale from at the show.

It’s marketing, but is it a good investment of marketing dollars? How many targeted Facebook/LinkedIn ads would that trade show fee bought?

The Approach

If you’re going to go, be memorable, (there may be a theme here) don’t give away pens or t-shirts. Give away something that goes along with the story you’re telling. When the show is over, what buyers remember will be a story, not the industry standard you exceed.


The 3 things you need to do

  • Be memorable
  • Make them want to remember your card
  • Make a point to follow up within a week or so

I want to do business with people, not a data sheet.


What are you doing to be memorable when attending trade shows?

Sales Presentations

In the next post in the series I’ll go into sales presentations. They are an entirely different approach.



What is your sales approach at trade shows?

  2 comments for “3 ways to make your trade show appearances more successful

  1. October 2, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Trade shows can be a huge investment and companies need to be strategic in how they invest their marketing dollars to participate in a show. Great counsel in your post. I work with a lot of clients to get their subject matter experts placed as speakers on the educational part of a trade show’s program. Looking forward to your next blog to hear your thoughts on presentations. Good stuff.

    • October 2, 2017 at 11:29 am

      Thanks Aurora – I totally agree, businesses should be strategic in how they use their marketing dollars. Trade shows can be great as long as businesses understand they will help with branding and networking, not necessarily sales (at least directly).

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