5 Tips for Selling at Conferences and Trade Shows

Whether you’re selling tangible goods or are just there to prospect for customers, conferences and trade shows provide you with opportunities to connect with like-minded consumers or colleagues. However, if you’re trying to close deals without a solid sales strategy, you may find it tough to stand out among all the tables and booths competing for people’s attention.

Here are five tips for maximizing your impact — and selling your wares at conferences.

  1. Plan ahead. Find out in advance whether the conference provides tables and chairs. If so, how large is your table, and will it be near a power outlet? How many people are registered for the conference? Knowing the size of your space and the estimated number of attendees can help you to determine how much inventory to bring, notes Lillian Cohen-Moore, who sells books for Apex Publications. Bring too much and you’re stuck lugging the extras home; bring too little and you’ll miss out on sales.
  2. Create an eye-catching display. A tablecloth bearing your logo (or at least your brand’s colors) can give your table a professional air. Depending on the space available, signs or banners may also be appropriate. If you’re selling books or other media, Cohen suggests “making sure that covers are face up and that books aren’t stacked super close together” to avoid a display that looks cluttered.
  3. Run a conference special. Offering special packages or discounts exclusively at the conference establishes a sense of urgency and encourages customers to buy on the spot instead of ordering online after they return home (or forgetting about it altogether). For instance, Cohen-Moore says selling books in bundles (“three for $45″) allows conference attendees to save a few bucks on each title and entices them buy more. Accepting credit cards means attendees can buy your product even if they don’t have cash on hand — and gives them the opportunity to spend more.
  4. Buddy up. Asking a colleague to help man your table or booth means you’ll have someone to chat with during slow periods and to help collect cash or run credit card transactions during busy times. If you’re flying solo, Cohen-Moore suggests befriending the people at nearby tables or booths, so that they’ll cover for you if you need to take a bathroom break or duck out for another reason. And if you cover for them, she adds, they’re likely to buy something from you as a thank-you gesture.
  5. Read body language. Some customers want to browse in silence; others enjoy being chatted up. Depending on the person’s body language, Cohen-Moore may strike up a conversation. She often asks about favorite books, so she can make suggestions, or offers to answer questions. When someone lingers too long in front of her table to chat, she politely reminds them, “I’ve got to leave a little room for traffic behind you, so other people can see the books.”

About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in writing about business and personal finance. Her articles have appeared in or on The Boston Globe, Dance Retailer News, GetCurrency.com, Mint.com, PARADE Magazine, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and other places.
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