How to be a Good Prospect at a Trade Show

Julia O'Connor

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Trade shows are fast paced, noisy with high energy and expectations. Rather than just wandering the aisles and collecting stuff, as a Prospect for any exhibiting company, you should take your time at the show seriously. Those who attend are better prepared than ever before, partly because of internet research and partly because trade shows are serious business.

These 7 Tips will make life easier.


If you define a lead as a person or company unknown to the exhibitor, that is probably 90% of the attendance at a large show, as an average of only 10% of the visitors to a show have an interest in a particular segment of an industry. So, as a prospect, don’t feel guilty bypassing companies with no remote affiliation for your business. On the other hand, in today’s competitive world, you must look for trends, which means looking quickly at all exhibiting companies to see what’s new.

2. ) BUT - I AM A CLIENT -

One of the sad facts about trade shows is that clients are often taken for granted by exhibiting companies. You may work with Mike in Miami and he’s not at the show in Chicago. Step up to the booth and introduce yourself as a client. Consider yourself a partner with the exhibiting company - and they should treat you accordingly. If they don’t, complain to Mike when you return home. No firm wants to lose a client, and not every person knows each client individually or as a company.


Review the questions you need answered by exhibitors. Make them short and be very clear in your statements. Industry jargon may confuse people. Acronyms may not be universal - ABC may mean Absolute Better Control in one segment, and Attitudinal Beaver Cages in another.


Listening skills are critical on both sides of the aisle. When you are clear in your questioning, you should receive clear answers to your comments and questions. Keep asking until you are satisfied they understand your concerns. If you believe you are talking to a brick wall - well, it’s just not a company you want to do business with, so walk away.

5. ) TAKE AN RFP -

You can take a simple RFP (Request for Proposal, or RFQ - Request for Quote) to selected exhibitors. If you don’t get a response within your required time period, call the company and explain why they didn’t get the bid. This is a simple way to test prospective companies, but be certain it is a real project, not just a test.


If you’re closing a deal, a trade show is face-to-face time to complete negotiations and sign papers. If you have serious interest in a company, ask for a specific time to talk about specific concerns. The appointment may be in a conference room at the exhibit or off-floor in a more casual atmosphere. No matter where, make certain you show up on time and are prepared to deal.


Can you build a lasting business relationship in 20 minutes or less? Yes, if you consider your businesses to be a partnership. Skills are necessary, but a successful business relationship requires more then that. Try humanity, ethics and morality. Good prospects learn to size up the exhibiting company quickly.

Trade shows can be intimidating when you're walking the aisles. These tips will help.

Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - writes about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of Trade Show Training, inc, , now celebrating its 10th year, she works with companies in a variety of industries to improve their bottom line and marketing opportunities at trade shows.

Julia is an expert in the psychology of the trade show environment and uses this expertise in sales training and management seminars. Contact her at 804-355-7800 or check the site


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