This past weekend I went to a wedding fair with my gorgeous daughter who is getting married next year. Obviously, the venue was packed with both exhibitors and also with hundreds if not thousands of people who were ready, willing, and able to spend lots of money.

What became apparent very quickly was that although there were many vendors selling exactly the same thing, some were surrounded by loads of people chatting about the products and services, whilst others were stood completely on their own with no interaction from with the public whatsoever.

But why was this? Why if two businesses with selling practically the same thing were one taking multiple orders and the other absolutely nothing. I wanted to know and as part of my never-ending research, I decided to stand back and watch. And this is what I found out.

The differences between the vendors making money and getting no business at all were blatantly obvious. My observations are below so that if you sell at a trade show, exhibition, craft fair or any other event and want to get those all-important sales rolling in, take heed of the points below.

1.      Be welcoming and smile

Obvious really. But as I walked past so many stands it was obvious that the vendors who looked happy and smiling and seemed to be enjoying the day were getting lots more interest than those who stood looking as if they had been dragged there with a gun to their head.  Yes really!  Some looked so miserable that I wondered if I ought to call the Samaritans for them!  This was supposed to be a happy day for brides to be.  They didn’t want to go talk to someone who looked like they were bored out of their brains.

There was also one stand where the lady was constantly on her mobile phone. Once I spotted this I thought I would keep an eye on her see how long it was before she looked up. I was staggered. I watched as reams and reams of people walked past her stand and were completely ignored. This went on for well over 5 minutes. So, I decided to walk over to her stand and pretend to take an interest in it. I pointed out a few things to my daughter and spoke loudly enough to make it clear that we may be purchasing something. But do you know what? She didn’t lift her head! I honestly couldn’t believe it to the point that I was so stunned I stood and took a photo of her with her head still staring at the screen. She still didn’t look up. Now I’m not sure whether she owned the business or was there to represent it and I was very tempted to send this photo and my observations to the business owner but my daughter has told me that would be cruel. I would welcome your thoughts on this. As a business owner if I sent someone to represent my business I would want to know if this was happening. My daughter sees it from the other side that I could lose someone their job. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments

2.      Start a conversation

The next thing I noticed was that the vendors getting interaction were also being proactive in getting people to their stand.  They spoke to people as they walked past and asked a question.  Many of the venue exhibitors asked if we had chosen a venue yet as we walked by.  Cake makers asked if we would like to taste a new recipe.  Photographers asked if we would like a free photo to remember the day by.  This sparked a conversation.  It wasn’t pushy or salesy.  We were at an exhibition for goodness sake and were expecting to talk to people and for them to show us what they had available.

The vendors not getting any interaction were those who stood waiting for people to come to them and strike up a conversation.  Wrong!!!  The proactive vendors were getting all the business.  If you’re too shy to get out and talk to people and to engage with them, don’t bother setting up your stall.  Either get someone else to do it for you or don’t bother exhibiting.  So often people buy people first and this was the case with us.  We are intending to buy from a lady who was so jolly and happy that she brightened our day and stood out from everyone else.

Smile and engage with prospects

3.      Ask questions

When you do get somebody to come and speak with you keep the conversation going by asking questions. The difference was staggering between those that simply asked what date is your wedding, have you booked ‘xyz’ yet and left it at that and those who then went on to ask probing questions to find out more about my daughter and her wants and needs. The interactive vendors such as a lovely cake maker we met asked questions such as how many people are coming to your wedding, do you have any guests that are gluten intolerant, what’s your favourite cake type, what does your fiancé prefer. All these questions made my daughter feel that someone was genuinely taking an interest in what she wanted and also gave the cake maker all the information she needed to tailor the rest of the conversation around specific needs and wants of my daughter.

4.      Two ears one mouth

Leading on from this, this cake maker also put into practice the art of knowing that she had two ears and one mouth and used them in those proportions.  Basically, she listened more than she spoke. This was in direct contrast to an exhibitor who decided to real off a list of facts and figures about what they could offer which was of no interest to us at all. This very quickly left us bored and disinterested and so we walked away. In all probability that particular exhibitor was selling what we wanted but as they took no interest in finding out our specific needs and would not stop talking so we couldn’t get a word in edgeways, they lost our business.

Leading on from what I have been discussing above I want to give you a specific example. As we walked past and anti-aging product exhibitor they pounced on me and told me they had exactly what I needed in my life. The woman then proceeded to grab an eye cream and start to try to apply it to my face. She told me what awfully dark patches I had under my eyes and how many wrinkles I had got. She then told me that her 60-year-old mother was using this product who it had worked miracles for. There are two key points here that I am now going to lead on to.

Ask questions

Image courtesy of www.bridetheweddingshow.co.uk

5.      Sell what people want, not what you want to sell

Firstly, how did she know that dark patches and wrinkles were my main concern? If she had bothered to ask any questions she may have found out that it was my dry skin that was more of a concern to me. It was obvious she had no interest in what I wanted to buy but only that she wanted to sell this particular product to me. Not a good move. If she had found out more about me it is possible (although highly unlikely when you read the next point) that I would have bought something from her that was suitable to my needs.

6.      It’s not what you say, it’s not what you do, it’s how you make people feel

I’m not quite sure what this lady was trying to achieve, whether it was the fear factor that I was old and haggard and needed to stop this ageing process in its tracks, or whether she was genuinely concerned at how bad I looked. The result though was she made me feel so bad about myself but I wanted to run away from her as fast as I could. Personally, I don’t think I look too bad but obviously, this woman thought differently. She had also insulted me by implying from her comment that has 60-year-old mother used the product that I was of the same age. I didn’t bother to enlighten her that I am actually a full 10 years younger. So be careful with your choice of words and be very much aware app how you make people feel.

7.      Know what you are selling

Well, you would think this one was obvious really but when we spoke to the man at the Limousine and transport section he had no idea what was on offer. He asked if we had booked our transport to which I replied no but I didn’t think he could help as we weren’t after a Bentley or limousine but were looking for a Volkswagen camper van. He then said, “well we might have one”. “Ooh, I said” getting excited “do you?”.  “Well, I don’t know.  I think I heard someone talking in the office about one but you’ll have to speak to them”. He proceeded to tell me that I would have to give them a call. Well, I didn’t really want to do that as the whole purpose of going to the exhibition was to get all the information we needed there and then, not to have to spend time scrolling through websites and making phone calls. But it got worse. He waved a leaflet under my nose and told me again I needed to make a phone call to the office. I asked to have a leaflet with the number on it to which he told me I couldn’t!

8.      Have enough business cards and info leaflet

He told me that was his last leaflet so I couldn’t have it. He didn’t have a pen or paper to jot the number down, the name of the company or the website address. He didn’t have a business card. He said he had only taken a few leaflets. Honestly, folks, if you are going to any type of exhibition you should be able to find out the likely footfall so take enough business cards, flyers, brochures etc so you don’t run out. And if all expectations are exceeded and you do run out at least have a notebook and a pen to take details so you can send information on. Which leads me on to my next point.

marketing material

9.      Take email addresses

When attending an exhibition, yes, you are there to make sales on the day, but also to create leads for future business. How are you going to keep in contact with all these people you meet and talk to if you don’t take any of their details? I really was amazed, quite possibly because I guess I’m the queen of follow-up, how many people after we had expressed a strong interest in what they were selling, handed as a leaflet and told us to get in contact when we were ready. Let me tell you, when we returned home we must have had a small rainforest of leaflets between us and there is no way that we could remember which related to which person we have spoken to. So, the people that impressed us the most will quite possibly lose our business to someone else. Simply because they didn’t take our details.

It’s so simple to ask visitors to your stand for their email address so why not do it? We were more than willing to give an email address to those who asked for it. That’s what people expect when they go to shows. There were those that asked for our email address in exchange for entering us into a competition and there were also those who quite simply asked for our email address to send us a quote, such as the cake maker I mentioned earlier. We were more than happy to hand this information over. If you don’t take details from people you don’t deserve to have their business in the future. There Is no way you are going to be able to contact them again. Don’t think they will remember you. They most likely won’t! And why should they have to follow up with you? You should be following up with them and standing out from the crowd. And this leads into my final point.

Take contact details

image courtesy of www.bridetheweddingshow.co.uk

10. Follow up

When someone has bothered to give you the email address and told you that they are happy for you to keep in contact do just that! Keep in contact and follow up! It was whilst discussing the number of people who don’t bother to do any follow-up be that my daughter told me a staggering fact. Two weeks previously, whilst I was away on holiday she attended another wedding fair. She told me that she must have given out her email address nearly 50 times. But guess what? Only one person bothered to follow up with her! I was stunned when I heard this and had to get her to repeat it to me again as I honestly thought I had misheard. People had taken her email address and yet only one had responded. Staggering!

But the one who had responded really shone out to her. Why? Because they responded the very same day. This impressed my daughter so much. By the time she had returned home in the evening there waiting for her was an email telling her how lovely it was for the owner of the business to have met with her that day. How did this make her feel? Going back to my point about it’s not what you say, it’s not what you do, it’s how you make people feel, she felt valued. She felt warm and fuzzy inside. She felt that someone had taken notice of her as a person and didn’t just treat her as a number. And as she said to me, that’s the lady I’m going to be buying from.

Let’s say the other 49 people at some point decide to get off their backsides and get in contact with her again. As she has already attended another exhibition she is more than likely to have forgotten them so their efforts will be wasted. It really doesn’t take a lot to set up an email thanking people for attending your stand and for chatting to you and to send that out to everybody the same day of the exhibition.  This really could be the difference between getting so many more sales and losing out on significant business.


So, there we have it. My experience of attending a wedding fair and the observations I made of those making sales and those who didn’t. If you have any tips of your own or any stories that you would like to share please put them in the comment below. I personally reply to every one.

P.S. I did a Facebook live on these points when I returned from the exhibition. If you would like to join in the conversation or simply watch the video hop on over and take a look.

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