The staff or team that you have on the exhibition stand should understand how selling and exhibitions work. Selling at exhibitions is far more reactive than day-to-day selling because you have no idea who is going to come onto the stand and when and you need to be prepared. Ultimately, it’s going to be your people who ensure the success or failure of exhibiting.

Take the right people with you

Who are the key people in the organisation who are able to be adaptable and have good selling skills? Exhibitions can also be quite draining they are long hours on your feet so it’s important that the people you chose have high energy for the demanding hours of exhibiting. It’s also good to have people from various parts of the company in case there are queries outside of sales ones! There is nothing worse for a visitor who gets all the sales info they need but finds answers about production or delivery can’t be answered.

This is just a reason for the visitor to prolong or defer their decision so you need people in place who can answer all these questions. Also, there may be a question of discount and you need people who know what your bottom line price is and have the authority to give or sanction it. What I’m highlighting is that you don’t want to give the visitor too many options to say, “I will think about it!” The key to the people equation is that they have a positive attitude, know their product inside out and have the ability to ask someone on the exhibition stand about other questions the visitor may have.

Setting the right expectations

It’s crucial that the team on the exhibition stand know exactly what they have to do and what’s expected of them. This could be how you want your team to portray your company, the key message you want to get across, the numbers they need to hit in terms of sales, leads, appointments, etc. It’s very difficult to hit a target if you don’t know what the target is. Clear objectives and expectations are crucial for your exhibiting team to ensure you and everybody else knows what they are.
These could be as simple as knowing:

  • How many visitors do you need your exhibiting team to talk to each day?
  • What exact products and/or services are we focusing on for this exhibition?
  • How many appointments do we need each person to get for post-exhibition?
  • Who is responsible for what on the exhibition stand?
  • How many ‘A’ leads are we targeting for the exhibition?

These are just a few examples and you may have many more, but the key message to get across here is that your team need to know exactly what’s expected of them and armed with this knowledge they are in a much better place to monitor how it’s being achieved. After all, you can’t achieve an expectation if you don’t know what it is!

Having the right resources

By resources I mean the collateral that your exhibiting team needs to have to ensure that the visitors get all the information they need to help make a purchasing decision or at very least walk away off your exhibition stand will all the information in-hand. You also need to have these resources readily available for the sales team so they are not scrambling to find things when talking to the visitors. Ideally, you want the information packs all to put together pre-show. They also need to be on hand so you don’t lose your train of thought when trying to find them.

It’s up to you to have it ready, not for the visitor to go looking for it. I see this time and time again at exhibitions where the sales brochure is here, the spec card somewhere else and the price list at the back of the exhibition stand. Make it easy for your visitor, and yourself, and this will help increase the volume of conversions. Including a showcase in your exhibition stand from Quadrant2Design is a great idea, just ensure that it’s fully stocked and always looking its best!

Conducting the right training

As with any products and/or services you offer, it’s important that your team know how to go out and find prospects, as well as effectively sell the services/products to those people. Exhibitions are exactly the same but where they differ slightly is in the approach. Traditional selling may see the sales representative and the potential client meet at a previously arranged time and place, whereas at an exhibition, you don’t know who is going to approach you on your exhibition stand, nor do you know anything about them!

It’s a positive as well as a negative in not knowing them. Of course, you don’t have any preconceived ideas about them which are good but that can also be bad, unfortunately! I would go so far as to say you need to be even better prepared at an exhibition because there may be more pressure on you as you may (hopefully!) be talking to one visitor while a queue of other visitors line up to talk to you.

In this regard, you need to have a clearer and more succinct plan to get the correct information from them to help them to buy, whilst also being aware that you can’t spend all day with them either. The best advice I can offer here is that you have a really strong qualifying question to ensure they are serious buyers so you don’t spend too much time with them if they are not.

You also need to consider training your team in how to engage with strangers off the exhibition stand and how to get them engaged in what you are selling. This is so important; I’ve dedicated a module in my training course specifically on how to engage visitors and how to spot time-wasters. Don’t underestimate how important body language and time-wasters are at an exhibition. The hours at a show are limited; you need to ensure your team has been trained into how to use them wisely.

The whole area of a dress code at an exhibition has been brought up on my courses a few times so it’s worth mentioning here. 25 years ago when I started in the industry, I attended many shows and pretty much everyone “dressed up”.

Business has changed a lot and the humble tie is seen less and less these days. I’m not saying that is a good or bad thing, but in most industries, it’s quite dated. I think the exhibition dress code has gone more casual, also. I actually think this is a good thing, if the most impressive thing you have is a fancy suit to “woo” your visitors then I think you should look again! I’m not suggesting you turn up in a tracksuit, but the reality is by dressing more casually you come across as more approachable. It’s a personal choice, of course, and does depend upon the industry but give it some thought. My observation is that more people wear suits and ties at B2B exhibitions than at B2C ones.

In a nutshell, I would advise you to train your staff well and don’t assume because they are good on the road or in telesales that they will be the same at exhibitions as it’s a different selling environment and a better one to deliver results with the right approach!


Stephan “The Exhibition Guy” Murtagh has 25+ years’ experience in the exhibition and events industry and has worked with many of the biggest organisers in the industry. As a qualified Fetac trainer, he set-up The Exhibition Guy to educate and train people on how to sell more, his website features module-based courses and coaching for real-life situations within the sector.

Contact The Exhibition Guy to learn how he can help manage and educate your exhibiting team.