Your Trade Show Visitors LIE to You !

Your Trade Show Visitors LIE to You !

This article was first published at Linkedin on October 4, 2016 by Julien RIO. I'd like to extend my sincere gratitude to him for allowing me to re-publish it here.

You invest enormous amounts of time and money to prepare your participation in a trade show.

On the event day, you are full of energy, wear your most beautiful smile and hunt for new business. For three days, you talk with tons of people and business cards start piling in your pocket. Visitors show genuine interest in your products, like your offers, accept your price and have the will to buy from you.

You return to your office, fully motivated, images of success and glory in your head. And then, nothing.

You don't sign half as many contracts as you expected, you don't generate a tenth of the revenue you had envisioned and the enthusiastic prospects you met in your booth no longer return your calls.

What Went Wrong?

Your trade show visitors lied to you.

When it comes to trade show booth management, the golden rule is "Always qualify your prospects". Out of a hundred visitors coming to your booth, a small percentage will be what I call "Hot Leads": prospects seriously interested in your products, able to make a purchase decision and ready to commit.

The rest of your visitors fall under one of these categories:

The "guzzlers" never have enough. They don't care much about your product demo and are certainly not interested in buying anything. What they want is your freebies & giveaway. They will be willing to listen to your complete pitch if it enables them to get a free pencil.


Those I call "walkers" are people walking the aisles searching for something interesting. They are not looking to buying anything, they are just keen to be entertained. The most passive ones will want to access your product demo "just for fun". The most aggressive ones may be your competitors looking for product details, development roadmap, innovation, secret recipe or price structure. Identify them and politely push them away.


Worse than the walkers, you have the sales. These people are vampires, listening to your sales speech to suck your precious time away and sell YOU their products instead. They may be selling something great and useful to you, but now is not the time – invite them to get in touch AFTER the event.


The juniors are genuine prospects who really like your product. The problem with them is that they don't have any decision power – they would make the most beautiful promise of purchase but couldn't sign the check. Some would really like to buy it, others just enjoy the thrill of having the upper hand.

All these visitors can easily be avoided. All it takes is a proper qualifying process – a set of questions your booth staff will systematically ask visitors to identify them before spending too much time with them. Make sure, however, that your questionnaire does not feel like a police investigation: you want to know your prospects better without making them feel uncomfortable.

The right buyers

Once you've removed all the "low potential prospects", you have the right buyers. Yet, not all of them are good for your business. You have those that bring more problems than revenue, those that are still high in your sales funnel and aren't ready to commit, and you have the others: the good ones. The "Hot Leads". But even these, you may lose.

How to waste potential

The right buyers have very high potential. So high, in fact, that you are not the only one hunting them. They visit your booth, listen to your sales pitch and make promises. They certainly mean it. Unfortunately, after visiting YOUR booth and seeing YOUR products, they have seen others and made similar promises. Now, guess who will get that business?

The First to Follow-up

You want to take your time, make your best offer, fine tune your email and add nice pictures. That's understandable. However, while you spend 5 days after your event sorting your leads and planning your follow-ups, more prepared exhibitors have already contacted your "Hot Lead" and confirmed the deal. Too bad.

Get Ready!

What you should have done instead is preparing, BEFORE the show:

  • prices and contracts,
  • email templates,
  • qualifying process,

With the right preparation, you would have been the first one to respond buyers and sign deals. You could have sent an email, from your booth, with photos of yourself or your products, with a brochure and price details before your buyer even reached his office. You could have done all that if you had prepared your event early enough.