The largest sale that I ever closed was negotiated over hot dogs and a soft drink at a refreshment stand, just off the exhibit floor, at a Superintendent of School Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I met an educator who was interested in the summer study abroad programs that I was selling at the show. He saw my nametag for the Foreign Study League and wanted to learn more about my products. His school district filled two and a half jet airplanes with over 400 students (at more than $1,000 each) who enrolled in my firms summer study programs in Europe. Exhibiting and selling at tradeshows, if handled properly, is the most cost-effective selling tool in which a business or professional organization can invest.
By attracting prospects, clients or customers to a single location, a tradeshow exhibit is an "ideal selling situation, because you can sell at your booth, meet prospects at vendor sponsored cocktail parties or even promote your products or services during the down times when the show attendees are supposed to be in meetings--like the school superintendent that cut a convention session to learn more about my high school summer study abroad programs. In a day or two at a tradeshow, you can meet more decision-makers than you can contact over many weeks of cold calling and/or in-person meetings. And, participants who visit your exhibit are for the most part pre-qualified, with an interest in or a need for what you are selling, giving you access to decision-makers in a non-threatening and fun environment.
Research shows that tradeshow participants rarely see the meetings and exhibits as a selling event, so there is less resistance to your product or service promotions. Also, Tradeshow Weekly magazine reports that: 86% of a tradeshow's attendees make or influence buying decisions for their business or professional organization. The magazine's researchers have also found that over 80% of the decision-makers attending a show were not even contacted by an exhibitor's representative prior to a given event. Yet, 75% of the attendees left an exhibit area having made a commitment (i.e. agreeing to taking the next step or setting an appointment) or actually concluding a purchase. As these statistics illustrate, often it's the little things you do prior to the show or with your exhibit that can make the difference in your level of success. To make the most of a tradeshow opportunity, you might want to call in an expert to help you orchestrate the many small details that can make the show a profitable event.