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Trade Show Strategy

By: Alice Heiman
Categories: Building Relationships, Business Owners, Closing the deal, Follow up, lead generation, Productivity, Sales leadership, sales relationships, Trade Show

77% of executive decision makers found at least one new supplier at the last trade show they attended (Spingo).

Did they find you?

Lead Generation

Many of you have sales plans for 2019 that includes attending and exhibiting at trade shows to generate leads. In fact, trade shows top the list for lead generation methods for most companies with a business to business sale, “88% participate in trade shows to raise awareness of the company and its brand” (Spingo).

Disappointing Results

It got me thinking when one of my clients told me he spent more than $200k annually on one trade show and got disappointing results. The show was huge, and thousands of people walked through the exhibit area. His salespeople swiped a lot of badges but unfortunately, the booth visitors were not the decision makers they were hoping to meet. They did some follow-up but got very little response. He felt sick about it. He wasted all that time and money.

While trade shows could be a good source of leads, they are expensive and typically yield disappointing results. I hear things like, “We got one good deal from that show that was six figures, so it paid for itself.” WHAT!!! Tons of leads but only one deal. I’ve heard this many times. Why not 10 deals?

The problem is multifaceted.

  1. The right people have not been attracted to the booth.
  2. The message wasn’t clear.
  3. The follow-up is rarely sufficient.
  4. People find it hard to track leads from trade shows.

Stop! Don’t leave money on the trade show floor.

No More Disappointment

You never have to be disappointed again. Here’s my proven 3 step process to increase the results of any trade show, whether you are exhibiting or just walking the floor.

Create, Dominate and Generate

A successful trade show plan has three phases:

  1. CREATE – What you do before the event to plan and prepare.
  2. DOMINATE – What you do during the event to stand out from the crowd.
  3. GENERATE – What you do after the event to generate revenue.

I’ve developed a process for each phase.

CREATE: Plan A Winning Strategy

The key to ensuring success at a trade show is to plan ahead. Planning starts when you pay your fees to secure your booth. At least 8-weeks before the show you will meet with your team and plan all of your marketing and sales efforts.

Here are some of the most important actions to take before the show:

  • Think about the results you need and set goals.
  • Plan to stand out! Think through your booth’s appearance and how it will attract prospects.
  • Figure out how your team will connect with prospects in advance.
  • Make a plan to follow-up after the show and prepare all the follow-up messaging.
  • Train everyone on what to do before, during and after the show.
  • Make a social media plan and follow the hashtag even before the show starts.

By taking care of these items well in advance, you’ll set the stage to DOMINATE at the show.

DOMINATE: Standout During the Show

It’s surprising to me to see what’s happening at most booths. The booth staff is talking to each other or looking at their phones, the booth is messy, the staff is standing behind a table making themselves unapproachable. Worse, they are dragging people in from the aisle, practically strangling them to scan their badge and then pitching to them. These are the things we all fear most when walking anywhere near a booth.

While you’re at the trade show, focus on these activities to DOMINATE and maximize your results.

  • Attend prearranged meetings.
  • Attract people to your booth.
  • Ask the right questions and listen to build relationships.
  • Don’t pitch.
  • Make connections and build relationships.
  • Give booth visitors a high-quality consistent experience that leads them to want more.
  • Don’t neglect the other exhibitors — they may turn out to be your best leads!
  • Use the event hashtag to interact with attendees who are posting.

The work you do in the CREATE phase before the show should make it easy to DOMINATE at the trade show. Proper preparation will assure you meet the prospects and customers you planned to meet, attract ideal prospects to your booth, ask good questions and have time to walk the show, attend sessions and interact on social media.

I would say that more than half the contacts that are made at a trade show are wasted because the salespeople don’t follow up and marketing doesn’t have a plan to stay in front of them. Click To Tweet

GENERATE: Turn those LEADS into DEALS

The work you do after the trade show is vital to success and following up correctly and promptly is crucial. Follow-up with something great so you stand out from all the post-show noise. The hard work you put into the CREATE and DOMINATE phases will pay off if you do the follow-up right.

  • Be prepared to reconnect with your leads within 48 hours.
  • Have a series of personal touches ready to send over the next 3 to 6 weeks.
  • Be creative, use video and hand-written cards to send personal messages.
  • Connect on social media and learn information you can use to build the relationship.
  • Don’t try to sell right away.
  • Offer useful information and insights so they want to meet with you.

Everything you have done up till this point will not turn those LEADS into DEALS. It’s what you do when you get back to your office after the show that gets you results.


Because so many companies leaders I talk to are getting disappointing results at trade shows, I have Co-Founded a new company with Dianna Geairn, called TradeShow Makeover™. To launch this new venture we are holding a FREE 3-Day Virtual Summit, Tuesday, November 13th – Thursday, November 15th. 

We have over 30 guests who will share how to turn trade show LEADS into DEALS. Don’t miss it! Register Now!

Alice Heiman
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Alice Heiman

Founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC
Alice Heiman has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. Her innovative sales leadership programs, coupled with her top-down approach to creating long-term change, set up sales leaders and sales-managing business owners to get consistent and sustainable growth.
Alice Heiman
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