Why Halloween’s #1 Rule Applies to Trade Shows

Courtesy of Flickr

When you think of Halloween, you might picture hordes of youngsters at your door, on their crusade for free candy.  One thing all those kids will have in common is that they have to earn it, by shouting “trick or treat!”

When you’re exhibiting at a trade show, sometimes working at a booth can feel like that as well.  You’ll see tire-kickers coming from across the hall, “trade show trick-or-treaters”, with large branded totes full of free pens, stress-relief-balls and, of course, candy.  They’re probably not planning on doing business with very many vendors; they are scouring the show floor, looking to fill their bags with free stuff.  What’s an exhibitor to do?

Obviously, you’re not going to ask trade show attendees to say “trick-or-treat!”  However, you should try to get them to earn the free item by having a conversation with you.

Consider these ideas to make the most of your promos:

  • Keep free candy & giveaways towards the back of your booth, to avoid “hit & run” behavior.  Put these items on display, but compel the attendee to enter your space and interact with your salespeople.
  • If you tend to give out candy, consider serving mints, as these are inexpensive treats that can help to ensure your booth staffers have fresh breath, too.  (This is Face-to-Face Marketing, after all!)
  • Use promotional products as a conversation–starter.  Something as simple as “Have you seen one of these before?” can break the ice and quickly pivot into a chat with the attendee.  This is a perfect chance to build rapport for a future business relationship
  • Ideally, promotional gifts should be branded with your logo, be an item with some usefulness & be relevant to your organization.  (Hint: use something more creative than a pen or sticky-note pad!)
  • Use this opportunity to qualify leads before inviting them to take a gift.  Collect business cards & ask to scan badges; take notes about their company’s needs, schedule a follow-up if appropriate.
  • Focus on distributing your giveaways to the most valuable prospects you meet.  Let’s face it, the freebies really aren’t free… your company had to pay for them, hoping that future business would come your way.

The most important lesson here is this: don’t let the “trick or treaters” distract you from your goals of meeting prospects, writing orders & obtaining leads.  A disciplined approach to handing out free items should help you to engage with more clients at your next event.  Remember, giveaways can have an important role in your trade show strategy, as long as they are targeted to the right people.

Davidʼs Notes


The  article below is an excerpt from the January newsletter of one of our suppliers, ExpoDisplays. David Holladay, President of ExpoDisplays offers some “back to basics” sales advice that reinforces how the sales team at FBD2 works with our clients. 

Back to the Basics

In the world of sales, things can tend to get complicated. As we strive to learn more and more about the sales profession, we constantly develop new strategies that make us better at what we do. Sometimes this can lead to getting so far “out there” that we can forget the basics. What better time than the start of a new year to remind ourselves about the “little things” that can get overlooked, causing us to lose sales or waste time? So here are a few that I have to remind myself about before I dive into the sales process with a prospect.

Donʼt Assume Anything. Start Anew Each Time

When that longtime customer comes to you for a solution, treat her like an exciting new prospect, not like an automatic repeat customer. Donʼt take her for granted. Donʼt fall into the world of “inside sales” or “order taking”. We often make the mistake of assuming that we understand what someone wants because weʼve worked with her for so long. But that may not be the case. Things may have changed in her world. And the competition is after her, promising new,exciting ideas and products. Take her for granted and you may be beaten by the competition.

Establish a Budget – Every Time

Throw out numbers early and often in the process. Donʼt make the mistake of doing a bunch of work and offering solutions that end up being “too much” at the end of the process. If that happens, you have to start over and you have wasted your time and hers. In the beginning and at each step in the process get an estimated dollar amount on the table and make sure that she says “ok” before you proceed.

Present to Decision Makers

How many times do we have to hear “Thanks for all of the work but the boss wouldnʼt approve it” before we learn that we HAVE to get the decision makers involved in the process. Most sales people will tell you that they were not able to get in front of the decision maker, but 90% of those sales people never even tried because they were scared to ask. Your prospect should understand that you are trying to help her get what SHE wants. And the best way to help her sell the idea/product to the decision maker is to get the decision maker involved early in the process. Otherwise, youʼll both do a bunch of work for nothing. Early in the sales process you need to ask the following question, “How will the decision making process work and who are the people that will be involved?” Now help her navigate that process so she can get what she wants.

Donʼt Present Too Early

The solution that you present should be the very last thing in the process. Before you design, quote or present something, you need to have all your bases covered. You should have addressed everything to the point that when you present, you are simply expecting a “yes” or “no” answer. You should already know the budget, how the purchasing process will work, who the decision makers are and what each is looking for. If you donʼt know those things, you donʼt need to present a solution.

Understand the “Why”

Speaking of presenting too early, do you have a good understanding of “why” the prospect is looking for this product? If you donʼt, then you are just an inside sales person or a “quoter” and a good sales person that asks good questions will take this business from you. Remember this saying; “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” You must diagnose (the “why”) before you prescribe (the “what”). Donʼt get caught up in just quoting products based on what your prospect asks for, like pop-ups or banner stands. When your prospect uses one of those terms, ask the question, “Pop-up? Sure I can help you. What led you to decide on a pop-up?” The answer that you get may make it crystal clear that a pop-up is NOT really what this person needs.

Profitable Selling,

David Holladay

Holladay, David. “David’s Notes.” ExpoNews (20 Jan. 2013): n. pag. Www.expodisplays.com. ExpoDisplays. Web.