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I'm a Buyer and a Seller.....just not at the same time!

by Claire Martinsen on Tue 15th May 2012 03:37

Like all small business owners I wear multiple ‘hats’ and juggle multiple roles.  Sometimes I’m in selling mode [promoting my soft drinks], others I’m in ‘buying’ mode [buying products and services from other companies].  As a product based business I buy plenty of items – bottles, labels, ingredients, design, printing, accountancy services etc etc…….the list goes on!

I exhibit at a number of Trade Shows through the year – and these are a key platform for promoting my drinks to would-be buyers. Visitors to the Trade Shows are looking for new food and drink products [ie in buying mode] and we are there sampling and showing the Breckland Orchard range.  It works well.

But there’s a really annoying trend at Trade Shows that’s growing and almost spiralling……..where would-be suppliers try to sell to exhibitors actually at Shows.  The very worst kind ‘pose’ as would be buyers, and are happy to chat away for a few minutes, sampling away before pitching in with their ‘sales patter’.  And that feels like the worst and most underhand way to attempt to build a supply partnership with someone.

Here’s an example to illustrate……….At The Source a few weeks back a married couple came to the stand and wanted to enquire about the range.  They sampled most of the range, asked lots of questions before the gentleman revealed that he sold industrial clothing and presented me with his card.  I was more than a little dumbfounded and I saw him going round the whole show doing the same thing to lots of other stands.  The most annoying thing was that whilst I was busy chatting to him, there were probably ‘real’ buyers who passed by but who didn’t stop because they thought we were busy – and that represents a lost opportunity. So not only did Mr ‘Industrial Clothing’ take lots of my drinks, he also probably lost me potential sales – and like I said earlier that doesn’t feel like a good way to start a supply partnership with someone.

I know that its impossible to erase all would-be sellers at Trade Shows, so I’ve thought up a list of do’s and dont’s from an Exhibitor’s perspective if you do want to ‘sell’


  • Come at either the start or the finish of the day – its likely to be quieter at these times.
  • Be polite
  • Be upfront that you’re there to sell
  • Stand to the side of the stand, not right in front of it…that way you can be prepared to move away if some ‘real buyers’ approach
  • Put all your information on a card/letter.  The most considerate people leave a pack of information and say ‘take a peek later’
  • Have done some research before you come – not just cruise the room dropping off cards with everyone
  • Send an email a week in advance asking if your ‘product/service’ is of interest and whether you can set up a meeting at the Trade Show


  • Pose as a customer – eg by hiding your badge or not putting down ‘manufacturer’ as your industry sector
  • Help yourself to lots and lots of samples before revealing why you are there
  • Launch into a full sale patter – explaining your product in great detail [its just not the right time or place]
  • Stand right in front of the stand, preventing other potential vistors from stopping
  • Just help yourself to cards/sales literature……going back to the office having garnered a whole fistful of cards surely isn’t the best use of time?


I know some trade exhibitors are abrupt and tell would-be sellers to clear off in no uncertain terms…..I like being friendly but sometimes even my patience is tested.  Anyone else have a good way of coping with these ‘sellers’?

All advice gratefully received!






Posted in: Trade Exhibitions


Mike Craig
Tue 15th May 2012 11:52
Clare, just be polite and offer them a choice of words before the word of, either push or clear tends to work for me

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