The Types of People You Meet at a Trade Show

18 Jul 2019

Every guide we’ve so far given you has to do with increasing foot traffic to your trade show booth, but we haven’t delved into the psychological nature of these visitors. You’re right to treat each and every single visitor as a potential buyer, but that’s a bit naïve and will certainly drain your energy by lunch time. Experienced exhibitors know that not every person who stops by their booth is there to buy and they learn how to spot them and how to act accordingly.

In this piece, we’ll perform a very rudimentary breakdown and distinguish between real customers and time wasters. We’ll also be talking about how to approach each group professionally, because next to leads a good reputation is crucial to maintain.


These visitors are the toughest to handle, because they’re either at your booth to kill some time before going to a meeting, talk or presentation or are really indecisive about their own needs. If you have all the bells and whistles at your show booth, then this type of visitor will be there and you need to be polite, but brief in your interaction. Offer a hook and if they don’t take it, leave them to their own devices. The trick is if they are a prospect buyer, but are uncommitted – in this case, you should try to establish a connection. Engage in conversation about what they’re looking at your booth and ask questions. You don’t want to be too aggressive, because that might drive them away, but it’s possible to convert them from lookers into buyers.


You do not want to waste your time with this category of visitors – they’re only at your booth to check out what freebies you offer. It’s easy to waste time on them, since more often than not they act incredibly interested in your products and may pretend to want to buy. But trust us, putting in effort to sell to them is just time you can’t take back. If you host giveaways, they’ll be there in a heartbeat and they’re easy to spot – you’ll see that they’re carrying goodie bags that are overflowing with branded merchandise from every possible booth. Certainly not what you’re looking for. The easiest way to handle them is to be polite and give them what they really like – a freebie early on in the interaction! These are the visitors you have to budget for when it comes to giveaway items.


As an exhibitor, you can’t underestimate the presence of competitors and their willingness to do a little comparison research. Chances are that you’re going to come face to face with a competitor spy, who is interested in how you’re handling business and what you’re doing differently. We don’t really view this as a serious threat. Ideally, you should make connections in the industry with companies who are your direct competitors. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be relaxed about what information you’re giving out. There are two ways you can identify the competition – 1) just know who’s there and learn their faces (chances are that they will be at the venue during setup the day before the event begins) and 2) pay attention to what questions they are asking (there are subtle differences between the level of detail a real customer will ask and the competitor will ask). Our rule of thumb is to be always polite, but never overly talkative. Keep out any sensitive details and trade secrets. It’s also not a bad idea to do research of your own in similar fashion – a casual stroll to evaluate design choices, any contests and activities that may take place.


This is the reason you’re here. Real buyers. The ROI for your business trip depends on meeting with as many potential buyers and then convincing them to select you as their choice from everyone else exhibiting at the trade show. How do you know that they’re interested in buying in the first place? There are two ways in general that their identity is revealed. One, they will tell you what they need and what they’re looking for. Another giveaway is that they will explain who they represent and what their line of business is. This is your opportunity to deliver your sales pitch and highlight the superiority of your product. Two, they will ask the right questions. When you have a prospect buyer, the conversation will circle around product strengths, pricing and conditions. They will also not be resistant, when you ask them for their details to contact later. Out of every other group, these will be few and far in between so don’t miss out on the opportunity to get their info and then follow through!