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12 Tips For Successfully Selling At Trade Shows (From Someone Who Does)

Over the past year and a bit (before lockdown) my Husband Adam has been taking his business to trade shows. He's been an online seller for over seven years now and trade shows were something that he'd always been interested in trying. He creates and sells custom lego figures and kits for adult fans of Lego like this Lego Han Solo Blaster and his Lego Luke Skywalker Lightsaber which are among some of his most popular kits. Obviously, for now the shows have had to be put on pause due to coronavirus, but before that, he was selling very successfully at trade shows such as MCM Comic Con all over the country. 

Today, I thought I would ask Adam to share some tips and advice that he's learnt along the way for selling successfully at trade shows. 

how to sell at trade shows, selling at trade shows
(Adam with a Lego Cosplay customer at MCM Comic-Con last year)

1. Work out what your expenses are going to be in advance

The cost of attending trade shows can add up. You will need to work out the costs for your travel, your accommodation for the number of nights you will need to be away. Your food costs (perhaps breakfast if staying over, lunch and dinner - again for the number of nights you will be away). You'll have the cost of the table at whichever show you are attending and table costs can be pretty pricey especially for more sought after table spots. 

You will also need to factor in payment for a helper if you take someone with you and also their food and accommodation costs. There will also be the public liability insurance costs to consider too. And to begin with you'll need to factor in the costs of anything you may need to purchase for your first show such as banners, t-shirts, business cards, etc. 

2. Think about how people are going to pay you

You should ensure that you get some money out of the bank in advance so that you have change to give to people buying from you with cash. In Adam's experience, it's best to keep the cash on you for better peace of mind, so he has a money belt that he wears around his waist. Alternatively, you could get a locked money box, but you would need to keep an eye on it all times. 

You will also need to remember that not everyone pays with cash. Some people will only have their bank cards on them so you'll need to think about getting a card reader and setting up PayPal or even something like an all in one credit card terminal from northamericanbancard.com

3. Prepare your table display at home so that you know exactly how you would like your stand to look in advance

Mess about with different stand arrangments at home so that you know exactly how you'd like your stand to look when you are there. This will help you remember everything that you will need to take with you (such as blu tac for the banner displays etc). You will want your stand to be visually appealing to catch peoples eyes so play around until you've found a set-up that you're happy with. 

4. Think about branding

You can help make your stand and products look even more professional with the help of good branding. Design yourself a logo (if you don't have one already) and think about how you can better show off your brand. Adam has things like a banner hanging over the front of his stand and a standing banner behind him. He also takes hundreds of business cards and gives them out to everyone that he talks to. He even has t-shirts with his brand on that he and his helper wear at the show. 

5. Get some bags

If someone buys one of your products, will you give them a bag to carry it away in? Adam takes plain white paper bags with him that he orders online and on the bags he sticks stickers in the middle with his logo on for extra branding. 

6. Create a spreadsheet in advance to keep track of sales

After you've finished the show you will want to work our your profit so make sure you've recorded everything on a spreadsheet or a tally. Create this in advance so that it's ready to go as soon as you get there. 

7. Take a folding/portable chair if you have a helper with you

Trade shows usually only provide one chair per stand, so make sure to take another with you for the quiet moments. Adam picked his up for cheap from IKEA.

8. Create a price list for your products

Creating a price list for your products makes it easy for you to quickly refer to for your product prices. Having your price list on display also makes it easier for potential customers. 

9. Sort out parking in advance

Not all trade shows are held in places that offer parking, so do enquire about this and sort out your parking beforehand especially so as the venues will get very busy with other traders and all of the (potentially thousands of) people attending the show. 

10. Think about food supplies

If you don't have someone with you to help you, think about how you'll get lunch during the day or even go to the toilet. Taking a packed lunch could be a good option as it'll help keep your food expenses down as well as allowing you to to stay at your stand. 

11. Take a power pack for charging devices whilst there

The last thing that you want is to find out that there is nowhere to charge your devices whilst there, so take a power pack with you to keep your devices topped up with power all day. 

12. Be prepared to talk - a lot

Adam always comes home from the shows that he goes to quite exhausted. He finds them so much fun and says they're really exciting, but it's a lot of being on your feet and having the same conversations over and over. 

However, he's had a lot of feedback from customers who've bought his products to say how friendly and easy to talk to he is. Starting up a friendly conversation can be a great way to make a sale because people are more likely to remember you. A lot of people will say they want to have a look around first before deciding what to spend their money on and Adam's generally found that a lot come back to make a purchase and he thinks that being friendly and polite and not pushy in any way always helps with that. 

If you're planning on going to trade or craft shows with your products once they open back up again, then I hope these tips have been helpful and we wish you lots of luck! :) 

Thank you for reading. 
  Alex xo

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