Every so often after an exhibition, you hear vendors say “I didn’t sell at that exhibition, I wont go back next year” And they state this fact as though the organizers of the exhibition were supposed to lead attendees to each vendor one after the other. In the same vein you hear other vendors talk about how they sold out all their products and you wonder how that is even possible. 
Exhibitions can be so much fun for both attendees and vendors. You look around, get inspired, network and get contacts for future projects among other things. Sometimes vendors don’t get to partake in all the fun because they are busy, too busy trying to make sales, but they struggle with that because they were unprepared.

Vendors show up to exhibitions, set up nice looking displays and think that is all there is to it. “Bring products, customers will come” However, that is a strategy that stopped working with the rise of more innovative and creative businesses. To be ahead, you need to think ahead and know all the hacks to nailing an exhibition. Below are 9 ways to make sales at your next trade show.

1) BE FRIENDLY AND SMILE

I tell vendors all the time to be friendly and smile; And No, I don’t mean that phony smile that you plaster on your face when there’s a potential customer in view, but a genuine warm and welcoming smile. That would undoubtedly attract attendees to check out your products. No one likes a snob… or do you?

Imagine walking down a long crowded street and someone just flashed you a random bright smile, by default you would be drawn to approach the person.

You want your products to remain top of mind so even if they aren’t going to purchase there and then; they remember you when they do need what you’re selling.

Also Read: http://digest.bellafricana.com/13-signs-meant-entrepreneur/

2) ACKNOWLDGE ATTENDEES

Some people will only approach you when you acknowledge their presence. It can be something as simple as “good morning”. Also with the hustle and bustle and elbow jabbing that comes with trade shows and exhibitions, some people may honestly walk past your stand without actually seeing your products.

Approach attendees; call out a greeting, a compliment or something like that. Just acknowledge that you see them there, because when you really think about it, this is not a boyfriend/girlfriend matter where one is posing for the other. You’re trying to make some money (duh) best leave all ego, shyness and their kissing cousins at home.

3) TELL DON’T SELL

Do not start with a sales pitch once you have the attention of a potential buyer. Tell a story. People don’t buy what you’re doing; they buy why you’re doing it. Most new businesses are so desperate to generate revenue they forget value. For once I would love to hear a vendor say something like “do you know you can get rid of shoe odour with baking soda? As opposed to “You should buy these shoes they would suit you”  

You absolutely cannot keep asking people to come and buy, come and buy. It causes some sort of real life spam, besides that’s what everyone does so why not bring something different and let your approach make you unforgettable.

4) DO NOT BE PUSHY

Yes, approach and engage attendees as you must, but try not to be too pushy. Most vendors literally want to shove their products down your throat. There’s a thin line between assertive and aggressive, try not to cross it.

5) DO NOT BE UNDERSTAFFED

It’s always better to have too many people than too little people helping you at your stand. You can’t afford to be short on staff. I have walked away from many stalls because I was just left standing there unattended to. Recruit friends and family to help if you can’t hire extra hands. It is important that while you’re talking to one customer, someone else is engaging the other and calling out to a potential.

6) SOUVENIRS

At a recent event I attended called the Lagos leather fair, while everyone was handing out complimentary cards, there was this one business -ForFori (makers of leather shoes, belts, wallets and bags) who were giving customers note pads with all their details at the back and product images inside.

I thought that to be very smart, because whether we like it or not, they have imprinted themselves in my mind and made sure they weren’t forgotten soon after the exhibition, because if you make sales at an event what is guarantee that you will get them to come back? Keepsakes. Always have complimentary cards and a freebie. It can be a key ring, a hand band or even a pen. Trust me, it doesn’t have to be anything major. Just be sure to leave something that people will remember you by months after they’ve forgotten about the event.

7) HAVE FUN

You’re the brand ambassador of your business, so leave your poker face at home and have fun. Crack jokes, don’t be static or rigid. You may not be an overtly social person but you know someone who is, get them to come with you. I had a blast at Oeclats stand at the Lagos leather fair. The head designer Gbemmy and her friends made m e laugh so much. I was still hanging around their stand long after I had bought one of their products.

8) MAKE ATTENDEES COMFORTABLE

Attendees are always on their feet at exhibitions, to make your stall one to go to, invest in foldable chairs and keep them within your perimeter. People will appreciate the thought. Offer them water to drink, something to munch on. Making attendees comfortable serves for good future relationships with them.

9) DO NOT STARE

This particularly grinds my gears. Some exhibitors will stare you down because someone somewhere told them to make eye contact with customers. They act like predators and will stare till they see a chance to pounce on you with their products. Kindly review this modus operandi; it will chase your customers away.

Trade show Marketing genius Steve Miller advises exhibitors to avoid the following behaviours during exhibitions.

  • Sitting
  • Reading
  • Texting
  • Receiving calls
  • Standing in the aisle
  • Clustering with members of staff
  • Chewing

Exhibitions are all about being noticed, so create unique experiences and always remember the trick is to staying on top of your game.

Having said all the above, it is also important as an organiser of an exhibition/trade show to attract the right kind of traffic to come and patronise or notice the exhibitors.

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