How To Lose Business At Exhibitions!

By Andy Preston | General Sales Tips

Feb 27

In this article, leading Sales Expert Andy Preston explains why most companies struggle when it comes to getting business from exhibitions……and how some simple tips on what to do instead can make a huge difference……

As the market gets tougher, more and more people are turning to other ways of generating new business – cold calling, marketing and in particular, doing business through exhibitions.

Now for most businesses, their experience of exhibitions, conferences and roadshows is fairly limited. They have perhaps attended a few, maybe even exhibited at a few in the past, yet are still unsure as to how to get the best return-on-investment from them. In fact, when they do exhibit, they’re probably guilty of making some of the common mistakes that most people make when it comes to exhibiting.

The Common Mistakes That Mean You Losing Business At An Exhibition…..

Most people lose business at exhibitions because they commit some of the following common mistakes. Let’s look at these in turn and then what we can do to avoid them.

Mistake No 1 – Not Thinking About Your Outcomes Beforehand

This is a critical step that most people miss. It’s essential to think about what you want from an exhibition in advance! Is it to ‘showcase’ a new product? To gain new sales leads? To have a ‘presence’ for buyers and show them you’re still around and want their business?

You also need to think about what will make the exhibition a success for you. Is it number of new enquiries? Orders placed at the show? Orders that come in afterwards?

In addition, which potential customers are you hoping to meet at the show? Have you sent them specifically targeted invitations, perhaps to an event you’re hosting after the show starts?

Mistake No 2 – Trying To ‘Sell’ On The Stand

This is a huge mistake that most people make. Think about it – you’ve invested all that money, time and effort in having a presence at the exhibition, all the staff costs you’ve incurred for them attending, and you’re letting valuable sales leads ‘drift away’ because you’re caught up in conversations with other people trying to ‘sell’ them on what you offer? Big mistake.

Exhibitions should only be about the first part of your sales pipeline – meeting and qualifying your potential customer. Anything more and you’re going to be losing business because of the number of people you missed speaking to because you were too ‘caught up’ in trying to sell someone else what you offer.

Use the exhibition as a way of meeting, identifying and qualifying prospects, then you could potentially set up one-to-one meetings with prospects during the event in a quiet corner of the cafe, or an external venue. Alternatively why not do a presentation on your company after the show one evening, and arrange meetings after that?

You’ve paid good money for your company and your staff (and yourself!) to be at that exhibition. Don’t let valuable sales leads walk away because you’re too focused on one person.

Mistake No 3 – Not Being ‘On Top Of Your Game’

I’ve lost count of the number of exhibitions, conferences and roadshows where the company has spent a large amount of money on the exhibition stand, taken the majority of the sales team off the phones or the road in order to ‘man’ the stand for the event and then proceeds to allow (and in certain circumstances encourage) them to get seriously drunk in the evenings.

Now I’m the last person to stop someone enjoying themselves and having fun, but think about it. The amount of time, money and effort you’ve invested in the exhibition could go to waste if when the potential sales opportunity comes along, your salesperson isn’t at the top of their game and fails to deal with it properly.

At far too many exhibitions, salespeople appear visibly hung-over, tired, and sometimes even still smell of the previous night’s alcohol – not a great first impression for a potential new client, is it?

Exhibitions can be long days. You need all your energy and focus to maximise the sales opportunities that come your way, without ruining the opportunities before they even have a chance to get started.

Mistake No 4 – Not Following Up Properly

This is probably the biggest mistake of all! I regularly speak at exhibitions and conferences and I often go over to stands, engage the salespeople in conversation and show interest in their products and services. Usually they take my details (I give them my training company card) and I then wait to see how pro-active they are in following up my interest?

I reckon about 10% of the time I receive a phone call, and about 50% of the time I receive an email. That means that 40% of the time, I’m not getting any follow up from that company at all! And even more scarily 90% of the time, the salespeople don’t bother pick up the phone and call me! And I’m not alone – whenever I speak to others about this, those numbers seem to be about right for them as well.

So why would that be? Their company has spent all that time, effort and money to generate that lead, yet the salespeople don’t follow up? Here are three quick reasons that explain in more detail……

Reason 1 – Your Salespeople Didn’t Take The Exhibition Seriously

Some salespeople still see exhibitions as a chance to get away from work and get drunk on the company (see mistake number 4 above). They don’t take the leads seriously, see it as a hassle, and can’t wait to get back to ‘normal’ work.

Reason 2 – You Gave It To The Wrong Person To Follow Up

Another big reason is that you gave to the wrong person to follow up! A lot of the time, follow up is done by marketing departments or office staff, not trained salespeople – and then wonder why the leads don’t result in much business!

Reason 3 – You Left It Too Long!

People that are visiting exhibitions will probably be talking to you, and your competition. If they’re in the market for your product or service, they may well be talking to other suppliers outside the exhibition as well. Yet you’ve done the work, you’ve met the person, you’ve got the lead…..then what do you do? Wait a couple of weeks to follow it up? Hopeless!

Make sure if you’ve took the time, trouble and effort to get the lead in the first place, that you follow it up within 3 days, maximum!

Follow the tips above and watch for the massive improvement in your negotiations. I look forward to hearing about your successes!


Andy Preston is a leading Sales Expert, Trainer and Motivational Speaker. He runs the Ecademy ‘Sales And Cold Calling Tips Club’ as well as writing for magazines, newspapers and trade journals all around the world on anything related to sales and selling.

You can get Andy’s free cold calling and sales tips HERE

You can also see more about Andy’s training for small businesses at www.salestrainingbreakfastclub.com

This article is copyright Andy Preston 2009. To copy or syndicate this or any part of this article contact Andy Preston for guidelines. Media enquiries – details here

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Andy Preston

Sales Motivational Speaker and Sales Trainer at Andy Preston
Andy Preston is a top International Sales Motivational Speaker, Sales Influencer and Master Sales Trainer.

Named as one of the World's Top Sales Gurus, Andy creates 'Stand Out Salespeople' worldwide, with his revolutionary 'Stand Out Selling' Sales System. 'Stand Out Selling' helps salespeople stand out from their competition, win more business, and do so at higher prices!

Previously a trained Professional Buyer, then the Top Salesperson in the UK, Andy Preston has now trained more than 130,000 Salespeople, in more than 40 countries, on 6 continents, since 2004!

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