How to Sell All Day at an Exhibition

By Bob Morrell on October 27, 2014

I have attended approximately 107 exhibitions in my life, I've sold at 23, and these shows have been both business and consumer ones. Having attended a number this year I am compelled to write a guide to the people on the 'booth' as they say in the US, 'a la stand d'exposition' as they say in France or on the 'stand' as we say in the UK.

Now there's a clue there, On The Stand, this means that by sitting down, you lose more than 50% of your ability to engage and express yourself. Last weekend my wife and I went to Grand Designs and a lot of people, were On the Sit.

Being On a Sit, is taken from US sales parlance circa 1955 onwards where a salesman would go into people's homes selling them domestic appliances, life insurance or land, as in Glengarry Glen Ross.

In the film version of Mamet's play, Alec Bladwin takes on the role of Blake and berates the salespeople for their inability to close," The bad news is all you've got is just one week to regain your jobs, starting with tonight, with tonight's sits, oh have I got your attention now, good."

So here are my guiding principles to ensure you have a successful exhibition.

1. People - Choose a combination of the most senior people and the most skilled at face to face communication for your team. Get smilers, people who like people, they should like your products and services and you should pay them more than if they were in the office. If they have good clear voices this a bonus.

2. Numbers - Work on the premise that you need a minimum of three people per stand. Two on at all times, and one having a break. The larger the stand the more people you might need.

3. Food - Go to an eggshibition on an egg, or three. Essential to pack and drink three litres of water per day per person, caffeine to start the day, and maybe one more midday, then switch to decaff or better still the jet lag cure of peppermint tea. Have fruit and protein for lunch and then a decent carbs boost of quality bread or pasta to take you and your brain through the afternoon into the evening. Eat cold and fresh, rather than hot junk as the heat will make you want to curl up and sleep.

4. Voice - Sing and hum before you meet anyone in the morning, and don't have a late night the night before. In corporate land you'll be expected to drink silly quantities of booze during the run, so don't start before you get there. Have those bottles of water to hand and sip all day.

5. Mind and Body - Be fit and energised, a run or a swim or even a fresh brisk walk on the morning before each day on the stand is a great way to set yourself up for dealing with the nosy public and the savvy buyer.

6. Clothes - Pack more than you need, and even change after the first few hours if you think you have got the dress code wrong. Walk the line between not looking so smart you are selling bank accounts to looking like students trying to get people to join your drama group.

7. Breaks - When quiet, get rid of one of the three of you or you look like a crowd. Get them to check out the competition or go to a see a speaker in action or to go and buy you some decent chocolate. A decent 30 minute break where you leave the stand, two of these a day and any ten minuters you can grab- never take your break on the stand or it may not be one.

8. Chewing - Never eat on the stand, suck sweets or chew gum. Even if you give your guests a sweet, these are for them and the sugar will beat you down, make you look lazy and discourage browsers.

9. Leaflets - No! If you hand me something I'll take it. Leaflets are nearly always put in the circular filing cabinet by those who took them. Engage them in conversation, give them nothing till you know what they need.

10. Start well - Cross the invisible barrier line and engage people with a smile, and a question. As Elmer Wheeler said, "Hook them with a question, rather than club them with an exclamation mark." 'What brings you to Grand Designs?' 'What's the best innovation you've seen so far?' ' Have you found what you are looking for, pause, from the show, not necessarily life?' Ha ha! Cheese is cheese, but delivered well it becomes fun, immature cheddar!

Open Questions every time. Open as far in the response you'll get.

If you can get these ten tips working for you, a great deal of other good communciation will follow. It really is a question of first impressions, and a good deal of that starts with selecting and training the team.

Companies spend thousands on exhibition stands and their booth design and then spend almost nothing, invariably zero investment in their people to make that exhibition a success.

You can get plenty more principles by booking our Exhibition Sales Training Programme which teaches you how to sell at exhibitions: from engagement on the stand to follow up back in the office, to next meeting, presentation and close. Email Ann at