We exhibited at a large trade exhibition a couple of weeks ago, and I went along to see 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. This show was actually pretty busy though, and by walking around l think I managed to notice things companies were doing (right and wrong). Some of these observations are surprisingly apt for sales presentations too.

Work out your USP

I must have seen about 100 stands that said something like ‘Blended learning solutions’. At one stand I stopped and asked the guy what made their blended learning solutions better, and it took about five minutes to get an answer out of him. This is something that everybody should have been clear on, and that should have made it on to the design of the stand.

Remember to say what you do

It was amazing how many stands were so full of buzzwords that it was almost impossible to work out what they actually did. 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 presentation equivalent is just remembering to include a single slide somewhere near the start that says what you actually do.

Pick who you sell to

It’s obvious, but amazing how many forgot basic sales discipline. Don’t try to sell to everyone – try to identify your target, and when you qualify someone out, have the discipline to move on.

Support your 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. Which explains why visual slides are so important for sales presentations.

Build credibility

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

Prepare for conversations

It was surprising how many people at stands who were supposed to talk with prospects really weren’t equipped to say anything intelligent or to answer questions. It was always really obvious (or at least it seemed it) when people had a decent understanding of what they were talking about and when they were parroting a line. Talking to a salesperson who wasn’t really able to converse fluently was really annoying.

Have a clear next step

Some exhibitors would try to make a complex B2B sale at their crowded stand, which was unrealistic. In sales, you need to know what the next step should be. The people on our stand took names for a complimentary Better Training Presentations event, or for one or two other reasons, and were clear on what we were trying to achieve while visitors were on the stand.

Create urgency

The e-Learning Brothers had an offer at their stand for a reduce 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.

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 presentation 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 presentations

As with sales presentations, 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 presentation. But do it right and the rewards can be huge. Good luck!

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Joby Blume


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    A big and sincere thanks for all of your superb help and effort in preparing such fantastic material and for all your excellent coaching tips. Look forward to working with you again soon.

    Greg Tufnall Siemens