We’ve exhibited at several trade exhibitions over the years and we always like to check out what other vendors are up to. A lot of exhibitions are a desolate wasteland for exhibitors with nothing but tumbleweed and other vendors to stop the boredom but some can be pretty busy and bustling. By walking around you can pick up on things other companies were doing (right and wrong). Some of these observations are surprisingly apt for sales pitches too.

1. Work out your USP

Wandering around a trade show, you see 100s of stands that say something very similar, like ‘Blended learning solutions’. Yet if you stop to ask people what makes their blended learning solutions better, it can take a painfully long amount of time to get an answer. This is something that everybody should be clear on, and that should have made it on to the design of the stand. Similarly, when you’re writing your sales pitch, think less about what you do, and more about what makes you a better choice than your competitors. Learn more about how to answer the ‘why us?’ question here.

2. Remember to say what you do

It’s amazing how many stands are so full of buzzwords that it is almost impossible to work out what they actually do. By all means try to spark curiosity, but if that’s what you are aiming for don’t do it by over-using corporate buzzwords. The sales pitch equivalent is just remembering to include a single slide somewhere near the start that says in a clear, easy to understand way what you actually do.

3. Pick who you sell to

It’s obvious, but amazing how many people forget basic sales discipline at trade shows and exhibitions. Don’t try to sell to everyone! Identify your target, and when you qualify someone out, have the discipline to move on.

4. Support your sales pitch with visuals

The right visuals can make people stop and take notice of your stand. They can also help explain what you are trying to say. A really high proportion of exhibitors ended up showing things on screens and pointing to things on the walls. People have a natural need for visuals when trying to explain things, so don’t leave yours to the last minute or think a jazzy product image is enough. Our need for visual explanations is the reason why visual slides are so important for sales pitches.

5. Build credibility

First impressions count, and some stands don’t look worth stopping at. It isn’t so much the size of freebies – some of the most interesting vendors have smaller stands (and prospects know the stand size needs to be paid for somehow) – but the attention to design. Some stands look professional -and others don’t. Some vendors go further and talk about their awards and industry accolades – and these help. Big collections of logos are used for something similar in terms of building credibility – but this technique is almost overdone. Everyone has good logos to show, so it’s become devalued a bit. The same might be true in sales pitches – if every company has a good logo slide, the ability to stand out is diminished.

6.  Prepare for conversations

It is often surprising how many people at stands who are supposed to talk with prospects really aren’t equipped to say anything intelligent or to answer questions. It’s always really obvious (or at least it seems it) when people had a decent understanding of what they’re talking about and when they are simply parroting a line. Talking to a salesperson who isn’t really able to converse fluently is really annoying.

7. Have a clear next step

Some exhibitors try to make a complex B2B sale at their crowded stand, which is unrealistic. In sales, you need to know what the next step should be. We might, for example, take names for a complimentary Better Training Presentations event, or for one or two other reasons, and are always clear on what we are trying to achieve while visitors were on the stand.

8. Create urgency

A good example of how to do this at a trade show comes from the e-Learning Brothers. At an event we attended a while ago, they had an offer at their stand for a reduced price membership. It was only available during the show – there were no discount codes to redeem later – this offer was designed to get an immediate commitment. Given how often prospects just end up doing nothing, this makes a lot of sense.

9. Remember your competition will find stuff out

An exhibition is a tricky place to handle trade secrets. A few years ago a competitor came up to one of our team, asked information on pricing and walked away before we realised what was really happening. Now we put our prices up on our site anyway, so it doesn’t matter – but many companies don’t. Your sales pitch often ends up facing the same fate. Particularly if you leave a copy with prospects (which is why we recommend recording a narrated version, and controlling access with guestbooks and passwords if you must).

Conclusion for sales pitches

As with sales pitches, some people think the age of trade exhibitions is over, that they just don’t make sense any more. Well, in some markets we are a long way from that. It’s easy to create a bad exhibition stand, and it’s easy to create and deliver an awful sales pitch. But do it right and the rewards can be huge. Good luck!


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