We’re approaching that time of year again, when companies take a bit of a punt on lobbing bucket loads of cash at 12ft of floor-space, so they can reveal their inner-most secrets in large halls crammed full of their competitors, with the hope of making a sale – genius!

If you’re planning on exhibiting at a trade show this year, you will of course be investing a considerable sum of money. According to Eventbrite, the UK Exhibition & Trade Fairs sector is valued at £11bn and with individual companies investing £000’s, the elephant in the room often ignored is this – how will you get your money back?

The question every business must surely answer before they sign-off their Trade Show budget (plus expenses) is this one: WHY are you exhibiting?

That Golden Circle bloke  Simon Sinek is right – “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” and if you subscribe to the premise that people buy people first, you’ll want to promote your WHY on the day and leave the WHAT you do & HOW you do it to the boys in the branded polo shirts and the big bowl of sweets on the next stand.

You see, despite your best efforts and that narrative the show organisers pitched you just before you signed up and handed them your cash, people who join you on your stand for the first time probably aren’t going to hand over their cash to you…probably.

…they are buying YOU though… definitely!

I want you to consider putting the ‘features & functions’ on ice. Yes, they’re very important, but a Trade Show is not the best place to reveal this logical stuff; not just yet.

As Jeb Blount explains in his best-selling book, Sales EQ, there’s a polar disconnect between sales people who want to start a conversation by justifying their existence with logic versus the buyer who wants to satisfy his/her emotions first…

Assuming your pre-show strategy is driving target-profile prospects to your stand (and it must), your WHY must simply be to establish a good-fit, by answering the five emotion-based questions that a potential buyer has when they meet you for the first time:

1. (Buyer) Will you like me? All things being equal, people like to do business with people they like. All things not being equal, people still like to do business with people they like. Being genuinely interested in them is a great way to start.

2. (Buyer) Will you listen to me? I mean really listen and not zone-out and start thinking about your next question while they talk.  I’m talking about listening with your eyes, not just your ears where typical genuine responses from you will be “really?”, “go on” and “tell me more.”

3. (Buyer) Will you understand my problem? If you think it’s about you and your product, you’ve missed the point – it’s always about them. There’s often personal objectives sitting alongside their business problem too, so can you uncover and understand these?

4. (Buyer) Will you help me solve my problem? Avoid being tempted to get into solution mode at the Exhibition. In my experience (and product specific), it’s often better to secure a meeting with them post-show when you will have their undivided attention and can get full commitment which may require others to be involved.

5. (Buyer) Can I trust you? If you’ve transitioned successfully through 1 – 4, then you’ve probably earned the right for them to start.

If your Trade Show strategy is geared up to ‘being more emotional and less logical’, you will not only focus more efficiently on seeking out those that really want your help, you’ll perform better in their presence and that will translate into getting you a return on your financial investment.


If you’ve enjoyed this blog and want more tips like these, head over to the website and check out the free resources page.

About the author: Matt Sykes is founder of Sales Training company Salescadence and author of the book Sales Glue. He works with Growing Businesses to help them logically convert more of their leads into customers.

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