Trade Show Selling Guide

About the Exhibit

Busy exhibits are open, inviting, uncluttered, colorful and attractive. They do not present barriers, like tables or desks, between the visitors and the exhibit staff.

Get Out From Behind the Table

Push the table to the back or to the side. Do not sit in the chairs. Visitors like people who are like them; if you are sitting, then you are unlike them.


Avoid doing phone based business at the show. You are there to get new customers, not to service existing ones.

Exhibit Signs

Exhibit signs are your first step to selling. Develop a clear unique selling proposition to be used at the show. What can you say in five to seven words that is clear and memorable?

Visitors read signs three ways: visually scan text, won’t read them at all, or will look at your graphics to judge the quality of your company. Visit a local museum to look at how signs and graphics are used effectively.

Promotional Products (Giveaways)

Any advertising specialty item should reflect the quality of your product and the good reputation of your firm. Use promotional products strategically. The best way is to use them as a parting gift. When you use a candy bowl or other trivial giveaways to all visitors, you turn visitors into thieves. Drawings and prizes should be limited to qualified prospects.

Trade Show Selling Sins

  1. Telling instead of selling: telling is speaking to the visitor about your favorite part of your offering. Selling is speaking to the visitors about their favorite part of the offer.
  2. Trying to do too much: trade shows are confusing, noisy and distracting; the sharper your focus, the more you will sell.
  3. Spending too much time with visitors: a trade show is perishable. Every minute spent with a visitor beyond doing business is a minute wasted.
  4. Not trying to close business: most exhibit staffers are not effective at closing business. You can and should try to close business on the show floor.

Trade Show Peak Performance

Selling at a trade show is not a normal physical activity. Consider getting into shape for the show.

  1. Exercising lightly before hitting the show floor will give you energy and keep you in peak shape for the event.
  2. Warming up before your shift on exhibit duty will make you much more comfortable. Do the same warm ups you would do before preparing for a walk or a jog.
  3. Eat light and eat right. Avoid salty foods such as hot dogs, nachos, sandwich meats, pizza and other junk food served at most trade shows. At the show, stick to fruit, granola snacks, and other low-salt snacks; or take the time to eat a good meal.
  4. Drink low calorie drinks, fruit drinks and bottled water. Protect your voice by drinking throughout your shift. Avoid caffeinated drinks. Avoid having cups and empty drink cans cluttering up booth space.
  5. Control aches and pains by taking an over the counter pain remedy such as ibuprophen, before your shift. These anti-inflammatory agents reduce the discomfort of standing for a long period of time.
  6. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Make sure your clothing fits properly.
  7. Exercise your feet. Exercise the foot muscles that keep your circulation pumping.
  8. Take a walk. You need to work out your legs after standing for a long time. A quick walk around the show floor pumps fresh blood into your legs, picking up your energy level.

Making First Impressions

Avoid Bad Breath: avoid breath-killing foods during the show. Avoid coffee breath and breath from smoking. Eat a good breakfast. Floss and brush your tongue. Use chlorophyll tablets, parsley, breath spray, small mints.

Clothing: dress a little bit better than your customer. Consider a uniform. A suit says “we are professionals”. Wear comfortable shoes. Minimize distractions. Get a manicure. Wear your glasses. Get your hair styled. Use a good quality pen. Wear your name badge up and to the right.

Top Ten Things That Drive Visitors Nuts

  1. Being ignored.
  2. Lack of product knowledge.
  3. Eating in the exhibit.
  4. Being interrupted.
  5. Hands in pockets.
  6. Being kept around when they’re ready to move on.
  7. Excessive touching.
  8. Gum.
  9. Continuous throat clearing.
  10. Bad breath.

Working the Exhibit

Ready for Action: look alert, ready and willing to do business. Body language is very important to attracting prospects. Stand with hands at your sides or lightly clasped in front, feet several inches apart. Don’t cross your arms.

Face The Aisle: show that you are open and ready to do business by facing prospects as they approach. When there is slack time in your exhibit and you’re having a discussion with colleagues, face toward the aisle, shoulder to shoulder.

Sit Only When Closing: it is easier for a walking prospect to relate to and establish rapport with a standing staffer. If you need to sit, take a break away from the exhibit. If you have a staffer who must sit down, order a tall stool or tall director’s chair.

Smile First: even if you don’t feel like it, smile. You’ll start to feel better, and you will look friendly. A bored expression is uninviting. If you’re already smiling when a visitor first looks at you, they get a completely different feeling than if they notice you putting on a smile when you see them coming.

Maintain Eye Contact: if you make eye contact with a visitor and then look away without saying anything, you’ve just dismissed them. Once you make eye contact, you have to do something to initiate a greeting. Once you’ve greeted the visitor, also maintain eye contact.

Handshakes: top trade show sellers reach out to their visitors and offer a welcoming handshake. It formalizes the introduction and starts building rapport.

Creating Rapport: people like people who are like them. The fastest way to create rapport is to be like your visitor. And the fastest way to do this is to match the person you’re meeting. You can initially match the intensity level, voice tone and volume of your visitors.

How to Move Visitors Along: getting rid of visitors is just as important as attracting them. It is not rude to disconnect and move on to another visitor. Shake hands and say, “Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the rest of the show.”