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  • Thomas Pannell

The best way to sell your products

So you’ve got your new product and you need to sell it. Where do you go? What do you do?

I see so many adverts online and on social media for products and brands that this seems to be the default choice for most people now. I’m not sure how successful these adverts can be – for me adverts like this are an annoyance and get skipped without a second thought. I guess they are great if you are selling directly to customers, but I don’t feel it is appropriate for business to business sales. Sure, being top of a Google search helps, but only if people are searching for you or your products. What if you’ve got something innovative and new?

I always fall back to a more traditional method of selling, one where I can get direct feedback and build relationships with buyers. Yes, I like face-to-face meetings.

Now, I don’t mean knocking on office doors to meet every potential customer – industry trade fairs are my go-to events. Covid has impacted everyone’s ability to attend these in 2020, but I am certain that once we are all allowed outside for work and travel again these shows will be more popular than ever.

Trade fairs are a great opportunity to showcase your products, meet people from all levels of the industry you’re in and get valuable feedback. Understanding trends and the direction for your industry is something that is hard to do without spending time immersed in the community that surrounds a trade fair.

For the past 10-years or so I have attended the same shows for bathrooms, DIY/hardware, medical and rehab products – and I’d credit everything I have achieved to the contacts and relationships I made along the way. Even if you don’t have the money to exhibit at a show, you can always attend as a visitor, co-exhibit with another company or get a partner to display your products on their stand. If you are planning to attend a show soon, here are my ten (yes, TEN!) tips for how to make the most of a trade show:

Visit before you exhibit – without fail, every time I get a call from an agent selling exhibition space the show is “a perfect fit for you and your company”, I have “just the right products for their visitors” or they have “a great offer for me because they love what we do”. It’s easy to believe this, but its seldom true. They just want to sell as much stand space as possible and I can respect that. Trade shows are a big investment, in terms of money and your time, plus having a bad show can also be very draining and demotivate you. I would therefore always advise visiting a show the year before you exhibit. Speak to the exhibitors about how the show has gone, look at the kind of footfall there is and ask how much they paid for their stands. If everything seems good, come back next year with confidence that it is, in fact, the right show for you.

Talk to everyone – yes, there are plenty of people “just having a look” or that won’t be buying from you, but they could be your best customer and unless you engage with them you won’t know! Plus, having people at your stand and looking busy creates more interest than you stood their staring at your phone or laptop. Just make sure you have rehearsed a polite way to get out of conversations and keep moving. This also extends to you visiting other exhibitors stands, make sure you get around the show and engage with as many people as possible.

Ask a lot of questions – information is so valuable to developing your products and brand. Finding out about potential customers and knowing who you are talking to is crucial in the short time you might spend with them at a show. I have seen a number of people miss opportunities by assuming the middle-aged couple in biker gear aren’t going to be buying anything and not giving them the time of day. In fact they were one of the biggest distributors in Europe and you just missed out!

Don’t go alone – events can be full-on and last for a couple of days, so make sure you have someone with you who can help out. When I’ve exhibited, I have spent 13-14 hours on my feet and chatted to people for most of the day – it is exhausting! Being able to take short breaks gives you some respite and also an opportunity to visit other exhibitors or attend seminars.

Don’t overdo it – It’s tempting to look at other stands that are enormous and flashy, with a man making omelettes on demand or a ice-cream van reeling in leads, and want the same for yourself. I can assure you that this isn’t necessary and most of the people getting that free food couldn’t even tell you the name of the company whose stand they are on! Focus on what’s important: a simple and clear display of your products and a concise explanation of their function and benefits. You don’t need more than a basic shell stand with a nice looking table and a few posters to make sales – and if you really want that big stand come back and get one when you can afford it!

Keep the stand compact – unless you have very large products, like vehicles, you don’t need a vast stand. Most visitors will walk the pathways and don’t venture into every stand. I never understand why trade fairs try to sell you a 3x3m stand as this has always felt like a difficult space to work with. I normally opt for a 2x4m space which puts your products much closer to where visitors are walking. If you need a storage space, thing about making a false wall and creating a 2x1m cupboard space. You then end up displaying your products on a 1m deep section – putting them right where everyone can see.

Be prepared – definitely make sure you have everything you need for your stand and displays, but more importantly, make sure you have all your pricing and marketing materials sorted in advance. Speed sells – and having price lists, data sheets and product information on PDFs that you can email out to people you meet on the same day makes a huge impact and will put you way out ahead of any competitors. I have sometimes waited weeks after a show for people to get back to me and the momentum for their products is gone.

Set meetings – when I am exhibiting, I also get in touch with people in advance of the show, using it as an opportunity to connect or reconnect with people who could be a buyer for my products. You’ll be surprised how many people go to these shows and would miss your stand had you not got in touch. Having a meetings prepared on each day of a show is where I see a big advantage over other face-to-face meetings. If I was to head out on the road to visit 10 customers, this would be two full weeks of journeys. At a trade show I could see all 10 in one day, which is why they are so effective.

A space to sit? – you could be lucky and get a stand opposite a seating area or coffee shop. Busy at lunch time, but great if you need to have a meeting with a customer and run through lots of details. If not, getting a small table and a couple of chairs on your stand is important so you have a space to sit and have a discussion. I have on a few occasions taken a couple of cheap benches from IKEA a with me too – renting furniture at shows can be expensive!

Finally, and most importantly, don’t expect to sell at the show – crazy, why are you there then? Well, this isn’t to say you won’t or can’t sell at a show, because you can. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself to close a deal. Things can take time and most sales will come in the weeks and months after a show. Make sure you take everyone’s details and notes about the conversation you had, a few personal details always helps to write a more personal follow up email too. Stay in touch with them regularly after the show and don’t give up, the sales will come!

If you want to find out more about how we can help your business drop us an email at or call our MD Thomas Pannell on 07917 606 208 for a chat.

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