In past blog posts we discussed how by being different one can stand out and get noticed by trade show attendees and thus increase your presence, your traffic and your sales leads.

Now that you have them stopped, now what?

This article will discuss how to handle these sales conversations and make the best use of your time and resources while at the show

Open Body Language

You have people walking by the booth and if they are not interacted with, they will most likely keep on walking. It’s amazing how a little human interaction can go a long way to generating interest.

First of all you are going to be standing, not sitting in your booth. Sitting is a major no-no. It sends the message that you can’t be bothered to stand and meet people on their level. Chances are that these attendees’ feet are just as sore or sorer from walking on the hard floors all day. In my opinion, trade show booths shouldn’t have chairs unless they are for the exclusive use for booth visitors.

You are facing the aisle with a relaxed posture. You should always be aware of your shoulders and keep them open to the aisle. This makes you more approachable and keeps you from ignoring anyone walking by. Your body language should also reflect this openness. Having your arms crossed would send the wrong message. People might perceive that as bored or mad. It also creates a barrier between you and the booth visitors. It should go without saying, (but common sense isn’t that common) you should have a smile on your face

Greeting Booth Visitors

There are two different types of greetings you will encounter. Those where attendees walk right into your booth and then those where they are greeted in the aisle. We’ll first deal with the group of people who are walking right into your booth. These people have made a special effort to visit your space and you must be attentive to their needs. When I work with companies I often see untrained booth staff that are oblivious to their surroundings make these busy attendees wait. You need to think of your booth as your home and you should be a good host. You need to greet these people at the door and see what you can do for them.

When they first walk into the booth, be careful not to be what I like to call a “badge shark”. A badge shark is what I call people who are judging you based on the color of your badge. They are looking to see if you are a fellow exhibitor or if you are possibly a prospect. This practice is offsetting as an attendee. It can be interpreted as rude. What you should do instead is to greet the visitor and give them eye contact like you would with any other personal greeting. Once you greet each other and introduce yourselves it makes sense to look at the badge, but not before. Once you exchange pleasantries you can then start asking some questions all the while building rapport.

The Aisle Approach

Other attendees will walk by your booth and then slow down as they near. Others might give you eye contact. These are both indications of potential interest. When these situations present themselves you only have four seconds until the window of opportunity will close. Not everyone who walks by your booth is going to walk right on in. That’s where you can help them along. You’d be surprised how far saying a friendly hello can get you. If you are utilizing any giveaways at your booth this is an excellent opportunity to use them to your advantage. Handing out gift and pointing out your prize that you are holding a draw for often is enough to slow someone down and checkout what’s in it for them. You are not trying to make a sale at this point; you just want them to stop long enough to talk.

I really enjoy honing and refining my approach during the trade show. Eventually I stumble upon a phrase that seems to speak to the needs and desires of the attendees. Recently I was helping a friend who is a ghost writer at a small tabletop show. He was giving away copies of a book he wrote as a giveaway. As a ghost writer, he will either coach you through your book or write it for you. I gave him a line to use as part of his approach. He’d see someone walk by and he’d say “Do you have a book?” which worked on two levels. It helped qualify the attendees to see if they had already written a book and at the same time it hinted at the gift that he was holding and about to giveaway. It stopped people, qualified them hinted at getting something free.

Quick Qualification

I call this quick qualification because at a trade show you only have a limited amount of time to separate the wheat from the chaff. You must be on task and deal with all of your booth visitors in a time effective manner. At the same time you need to be conscience of building and keeping rapport with your booth visitors. You can’t be so “all business” that you treat your booth visitor like numbers. The important thing to remember in this whole process is to make the visit to your exhibit a positive experience.

When you and your guest begin to talk you want to find out more about them and their needs. You do this by asking open-ended questions. These are the 5 W’s. Who, What, When, Why, Where, and How. These questions will draw more out of this potential client so that you can determine how best to handle their inquiry. You want to not say “Can I help you?”. This is a closed-ended question that can only be answered yes or no. Instead you may want to ask “What brings you into our exhibit today?”

Here are a few more questions you will want to be ready with:

Who do you currently use as your widget provider?

What would you keep or change with your current provider?

What’s your biggest headache when it comes to dealing with Widgets?

What kind of time frame are you considering making a change?

Who would need to be in on a decision of this kind?

To properly qualify someone typically salespeople want to know B.A.N.T. This acronym stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing. Our questions above have dealt with these questions to some degree.

Budget: You want to make sure this prospect has the necessary funds in order to do business with you.

Authority: Finding the decision-maker and learning how the decision will be made is important. Sales people need to know who and how to approach this qualified lead.

Need: Asking about what they don’t like about their current situation taps into the pain that they are experiencing. Once a need is determined, then and only then can your solution be prescribed as the solution.

Timing: Sales people don’t like to work with prospects that aren’t quite ready yet. Knowing when the company is ready to make a change and when they are considering their alternatives is imperative. It’s okay to be a little early but it could be a costly mistake to be late.

Cross Selling

Depending on the size of the booth and the number of booth staff, and your role in the company you may come across the situation where the booth visitor you have greeted needs to speak with someone else in your company. In this instant you will want to formally introduce this person to your guest. Don’t just point them out in a crowded booth and let them fend for themselves. You will physically take them to the person, introduce them and you may even want to give a tiny synopsis of what this person is interested in. This saves the visitor of sharing his situation again and it also tells them that you were listening to their issues.


Depending on the show there will be different avenues for lead acquisition. The most basic of these methods is using lead cards or collecting business cards. Other methods include the various types of scanners which enable you to quickly acquire the prospect’s information. In most shows you have the choice of renting the show management’s scanner or not. If you opt against incurring the extra cost then you will be forced to use either lead cards or collect business cards. Below you can find the pro’s and cons of each method of acquisition.

Business Cards: This is by far the simplest and most basic option but it does come with one drawback. Grabbing your prospects business card and writing a few notes on the back is very straight forward. The problem arises on day 3 when no one has any business cards left, and then what do you do? You went to the show to create sales leads, don’t put the responsibility of your success or failure in someone else’s hands.

Lead Cards: These are cards with blanks for your name and contact information as well as check boxes that can be checked to indicate interest on certain products or services. These can be filled out by the prospect themselves or by the booth rep. One of the great things about this method is that you can jot down further notes on the card that may be helpful for follow up down the road. The flexability of using just a pen and paper allows you to do things that some of the higher-tech options don’t. This is method is favored in Europe and more “old school” companies because of the simplicity. The downside to this option is that it can be time consuming and the leads then need to be digitized in order to be entered into your favorite CRM (customer relationship manager) for follow up.

Scanners: There are 4 types of main scanners that are typically used. Magstripe, Barcode, RFID, and QR. The primary advantage of scanners is that there is all of the attendee’s information is captured instantly with the scan. This allows you to spend more time with the booth visitor and it saves you time after the event because your data is already to be imported.


Disengaging is a critical skill at trade shows. As I mentioned in my first article, you have a finite amount of time to generate as many quality leads as possible, therefore you do not have the luxury of “shooting the breeze” with everyone who wanders by. Even for qualified prospects, once all the critical information has been exchanged it is important to free yourself up to handle other possible inquiries. This becomes even more important if you have very few booth staff. Here’s how you do it.

Once you have determined that the conversation is no longer serving your company’s purpose (sounds harsh but you paid to be there) you need to politely excuse yourself from the conversation. One of the best and easiest ways of doing this is to thank them for coming by and give them a gift. You can never go wrong by expressing gratitude. Give them your business card and one of your inexpensive giveaways. This makes the booth visitor feel good and ends the interaction on good terms.

Here is a real live example of disengaging. Thank you reader for checking out what I have to say in this article, if you would like to get a hold of me my website is below. I appreciate you expressing interest in what I have to share and just for reading this I’ll give you a free gift. Go to and download your free copy of my eBook.