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Welcome to Sterling Resource Centre

Whether you are an exhibitor, networker or delegate – we want you to succeed. Here we will regularly publish articles to help you grow your business and improve your networking skills.

Exhibition articles

Top Five

  1. Five tips to get you remembered at business shows


    Regardless of your industry or size, Business Exhibitions and Trade Shows are a proactive way of networking and gaining qualified leads. Meeting potential clients face to face provides you with an opportunity to begin building a relationship and can certainly give you an advantage over competitors. 

    You will no doubt be competing for the attention of a plethora of other businesses attending, so how do you make your business stand out and create an impression that will be remembered?

    1. Do your research

    Having a large amount of people in one place brings a wealth of benefits, and you should approach the event with the same care and attention as if you were attending a meeting with one potential client. 

    Trade shows and business exhibitions generate big business, in 2013 the UK exhibitions sector generated a huge £11 Billion and it is reported now that 81% of those attending business shows have buying authority. Taking the time and effort to research attendees for the event and connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Learn about the business that they are representing and do some personal research that will give you the insight that helps to start a great conversation. They may not end up as customer, but they could become great advocate or referrer.

    2. Get out from behind the table and doesn’t take a seat

    Nothing says “I am not really interested” more than sitting hour after hour behind the table (particularly if you are also behind a lap top or on social media)

    Sitting behind the table creates a barrier to good communication, preventing you from engaging with attendees. Get out from behind the barrier and be assertive; on average 51% of exhibitors at business shows said that they truly value the face to face meetings they experience at exhibitions. And don’t forget to smile!

    3. Tell me a story

    A company logo is great for brand recognition but business is moving beyond that. You are competing against other stands for attendee’s attention and you have a fairly limited time to create a lasting impression. 

    Aim to appeal to your prospects on a deeper level; don’t pitch or opt for shameless self–promotion. Ask questions, be authentic and tell them who you really are, where you have come from, why you started the company. Show some personality! Share your company values and explain how do live them to gain both their interest and their trust.

    4. Make a Stand

    Your exhibition space will say a lot about your company – it’s easy to opt for traditional methods to market your organisation but we are in the digital revolution, so try be innovative and creative.

    If budget allows try a unique style of stand with creative lighting that incorporates your brand’s colours. Digital presentations with sound will wow people and grab their attention. Interactive presentations or quizzes on handheld devices such an tablets or an iPad, are a fun and modern way to grab and keep the attention of those wandering around the stands at an exhibition. They are also great for capturing data.

    5. How about a take away?

    With your giveaways, consider your brand image, and what items reflect this. Move into the ‘tech’ realm with useful items such as customised USB sticks, mobile chargers, high quality branded note books and pens: All are both useful and in no way novelty.

    If you are you using the event to launch a new product or service, think about giving a limited number away, in exchange for a testimonial – providing you with all important content for a later date.

    Adopt these strategies and you will be engaged, memorable, and when you come to follow up after the event (and make sure you do follow up all your leads after the event!) you’ll be at the forefront of people’s minds, and making the most of your exhibiting investment. 

    David Tovey is Development Director of Sterling Growth Hub, an international speaker, consultant, coach and author.

  2. Costly mistakes salespeople make at exhibitions


    I’ve been around long enough to have rented the original Video Arts training film, starring John Cleese, called ‘How not to exhibit Your Self. I trained hundreds of salespeople using the film, it is as entertaining as it is on the button about the mistakes sales people make at exhibitions. It is a very entertaining film that makes you cringe with embarrassment knowing you’ve committed the same errors at some time in your career.

    After all these years it would great to see that sales people and business owners have learned the lessons contained in the film. Evidence would suggest that many still commit the same stupid mistakes.

    The distressing thing about making the mistakes I’ve spotted at exhibitions large and small over the last couple of years is that they cost the people who have invested in a stand lost leads, lost credibility, lost business and lost profit.

    Costly mistakes – not in any particular order of importance!

    Not being welcoming

    Too many people aren’t welcoming enough on their stands. They stand with their backs to potential customers who walk past whilst salespeople are busy talking to each other, not paying attention or looking out for people who would like to engage in conversation.

    Some attendees aren’t necessarily assertive enough to march right up to you on the stand and ask for details of your latest product or service. They’ll linger a little off the stand, trying to work out what you do and if they want to engage or not. If you and your stand look more hostile than welcoming they’ll move on to one that is!

    Look for opportunities to engage with visitors and make them feel more comfortable talking to you, rather than driving them away.

    Building the stand late or breaking down the stand early

    This a mistakes I think I have seen at every exhibition I’ve ever been to.
    I realise that exhibitions can be tiring and not it’s not everyone’s idea of how they want to spend their day. But – how could they know that their best prospect would not be first through the door in the morning or last to arrive before the published closing time?

    Think of the impression it could make on visitors, other exhibitors and even the show organisers to see a stand being built or broken down during the published opening times. At the very best most people will think they are not really interested in winning business, they might even equate arriving late or leaving early with the standard of service they would get if they became a customer. After all punctuality is a business courtesy that shows you can deliver as promised.

    Being over concerned with titles

    Far too many exhibitions stare at visitors name badges in order to find out their job titles, trying to work out if they are worth talking to or not.
    Prospects know what you are doing and they tire of it very quickly. You might as well be saying “Excuse me. Do you mind if I stare at your name badge in a really weird kind of way? I’m just looking at your job title to find out whether you’re worth talking to or not. If so, great! I’ll be really nice to you. If not, move along. And don’t think you’re taking one of our boiled sweets or entering our business card draw either”.

    Experienced exhibition visitors, including me, will go to exhibitions and either not fill in the correct details on the name badge because we don’t want to be leapt upon by every salesperson, or give a more junior job title – because we know that salespeople won’t bother us if we do. How many of those prospects are you missing out on by being over concerned with name badges?

    Eating on the stand

    You will have spotted this at most exhibitions you have attended and probably wondered why anyone would want to eat or drink in front of a potential customer? Would you go to see them at their offices, and then pull out a pre-packed sandwich from your case and eat it in front of them? The last thing an interested prospect is going to do is try to engage with a salesperson with a mouth full of cheese and tomato!

    Sitting down

    We have already established that exhibitions can be tiring, but sitting down does not show you in a good light. If you really have to do (on the stand), then make sure your stand is designed so you can sit on bar stools, rather than anything at normal ‘chair’ height. If you’re sitting down, the unconscious message you’re sending to prospects is that they have to disturb you to speak to you. So they probably won’t bother.

    Texting or using your mobile

    Don’t engage in long texts, social media messages or worse actually making calls. The message you are transmitting is that you are not interested or that other people are more important than giving all your attention to your stand and visitors to the exhibition.

    Ok, so mobile phones hadn’t been invented when the “How not to exhibit yourself” was first released, you can have that costly mistake on me!
    Your company or maybe even you personally will have invested time, energy and money in any exhibition you attend. Exhibitions and business shows can be a great way to build new relationships and win more business – if you avoid the above costly yet oh so common mistakes.

    David Tovey is Development Director of Sterling Growth Hub, an international speaker, consultant, coach and author.

  3. Now - what did you want to sell me?


    In my archive there is an ad from a Mcgraw Hill Magazine. It shows a grumpy ‘buyer’ leaning forward in his office chair – the words running alongside are:

    “I don’t know who you are
    I don’t know your company
    I don’t know your company’s products
    I don’t know your company’s customers
    I don’t know your company’s record
    I don’t know your company’s reputation
    NOW – what is it you wanted to sell me?”

    This ad first appeared in Business Week in 1958 – yes that’s right over 50 years ago! The moral of the ads story was relevant then and even more relevant today. We live in far more cynical times than the sellers of the 1950’s yet have so many more tools available to us all to address the problem.

    The problem? Never before has anyone trying to sell something faced with such a high level of mistrust – just because they are selling. Every day throughout the world there are more and more stories about the general environment of lack of trust. This is the real world that anyone trying to win business lives in – you and me. I’m not sure they were ever really effective but you can be sure the ‘old’ world of using sales ‘techniques’ is well and truly over.

    Some will blame buyers; some will think the problem is stupid customers who don’t ‘get’ the benefits of what is being offered to them, some will blame price. The successful will recognise there is a new world out there that needs a smarter, genuine, trust building and principled business approach. It’s about bringing that 1958 mind-set brought up to date using modern tools. It’s when we stop thinking about ‘selling’ things and start thinking about building a trusted relationship with target prospects that a weird thing happens – we actually win more business.

    Build a reputation BEFORE face to face meetings

    All our marketing effort should be focused on winning business with the type of customers who will build our dream customer base of the future. First identify who we want to do business with and start to build a relationship with them using the valuable content approach.

    By the way, cold calling senior decision makers (or any buyer), is a high risk strategy. Decision makers are time poor; they only have time to meet people who will help them address the critical success factors in their business. The key is to build a relationship with them BEFORE any face to face meetings.


    You’ll need social media strategies in place to address your target audience and of course a brilliant web site that visitors want to return to time and time again. If appropriate in your sector you may have some ‘corporate’ marketing in place that advertises your brand. Decision makers want to know you are a ‘player’ in their world and make quick judgments based on what they see and read in the digital world.

    Being a ‘player’ isn’t enough though. You will need to engage with your audience by sharing great content with them. In everything you do making sure that you are thinking like a client and only sharing content that will interest them – which is generally not what happens in the typical sales brochure which tends to talk about the supplier rather than the customer.

    If you want to meet with a specific senior executive you can build a valuable content marketing campaign just for them. It might be based on two or three tailored letters sent over several weeks with a different interesting and useful article attached. They are highly effective in getting meetings with key people and in helping to build a trusted relationship. When the prospect we are about to meet feels there is already a relationship based on your marketing activities they are motivated to meet us. They want to spend time with us to explore opportunities to do business with each other.

    Whatever marketing tool used the key is to build that relationship so that no potential customer starts a meeting with ‘now – what do you want to sell to me’?

    David Tovey is Development Director of Sterling Growth Hub, an international speaker, consultant, coach and author.

  4. Did price really lose that sale?


    If you ask people in your business network why they or their organisation have recently lost business to a competitor, what answer do you think they give as the most common reason? When I’ve asked clients or audiences the same question, without fail the immediate response is ‘price’ – and that happens pretty much anywhere in the world I happen to be working.

    When I hear the ‘price’ response I go on to ask about how they won their best client or customer - a dream client that they really value and who gets real value from working with them. In my experience the answer is rarely that a dream client was won on price.

    When I ask that question people tend to become really animated and they smile a lot. They explain about how the chemistry was right and how well they and the customer got on. They explain how much they invested in getting to know the client, their plans, critical success factors and their motivations. They explain how their proposal was carefully crafted, without any ‘cut and paste’ and that their presentation was like poetry in motion, hitting all the needs and wants of the client. They tell me the client got value from the selling process and that money was discussed but that both sides ended up with a price they were happy with.

    Too often price is blamed when in fact we got something else wrong – we didn’t understand the client as well as our competitors did, which meant they did a better proposal, a better presentation a better negotiation. Just like we did when we won our great clients.

    We choose who we allow to understand us.

    We all know that winning business, that selling, involves ‘understanding’ the customer. Just check out how many businesses claim through their web sites and marketing materials to ‘really understand’ their clients.

    One of the most profound comments I’ve heard from a professional buyer is “We choose who we allow to understand us”. Buyers know that sales people are taught questioning techniques. They know about open, leading and closed questions. They also recognise genuine interest. To today’s more sophisticated and internet savvy buyer it is obvious when questions are being asked just to get closer to a sale rather than from genuine interest. They see through those who ask questions to uncover ‘pain’ or ‘hot buttons’. They are annoyed when what looks like a buying signal is pounced on with an instant solution.

    What Ernest Hemingway teaches us about selling?

    Ernest Hemingway was an American writer who developed a style of writing called the ‘iceberg principle’. He learned to write in a surface level way where he omitted or hinted at the real point of the story. Hemingway believed that the crux of a story lies below the surface. Sometimes known as the theory of omission it provided him with a very distinctive but often frustrating style of writing.

    When people begin a new relationship they tend to share information that is in the same style as Hemingway – they give their surface level story, only sharing the full picture with those close to them or people they trust.

    You don’t have to be a ship’s captain to know that an iceberg is only around 10% above the water with 90% lying under the surface. For a ship it is the 90% that the Captain doesn’t see that is the dangerous part. The iceberg principle also applies to business relationships. Most potential customers and clients have their stories of ‘omission’ – the information about themselves and their business that they share with people they only have surface level relationships with. It isn’t an attempt to deceive or catch you out; it is just what normal people do.

    The risk is that a relationship is often sunk before it can flourish, not because of lack of understanding about the surface story, the prospects story of omission, but a lack of understanding about the full picture. To win a dream client you have to be the one who they allow to get beyond their story of omission and who gains the insight that comes from getting below their iceberg.

    Demonstrating genuine interest

    You have to earn the right to have the full story shared with you. It isn’t good enough anymore to go through the motions and only show interest long enough to find buying signals or explore ‘what keeps you awake at night’. We can all tell when someone else isn’t really listening, when they are on their own agenda not ours – and when that happens we feel misled because the behaviours demonstrated are not congruent with marketing messages that make claims about being client focused.
    When we earn the right to hear the full story, to get the full picture it makes it so much easier to produce that well-crafted proposal or presentation and to come up with exactly the right solution.

    You earn the right to hear more than a client’s story of omission when:

    • You ask insightful questions
    • You listen for understanding
    • You avoid manipulation
    • You behaviours are congruent with your marketing messages
    • You are authentic; selling ethically and with integrity.
    • You are human – remembering that buying is rationalised emotion.

    If you want to avoid being told yet again you came a ‘close second’, ensure you demonstrate genuine interest and get the full picture.

    David Tovey is Development Director of Sterling Growth Hub, an international speaker, consultant, coach and author.

  5. Five reasons you won’t win business


    The famous Zig Ziglar once wrote that there are five obstacles to gaining a sale, no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.

    Many organisations at that time went about developing training courses to overcome ‘objections’ under each of the obstacles headings as they sought to find short cuts to closing a deal. In my own sales career I was even provided with an encapsulated A4 sheet of ‘smart’ responses to reel out anytime a customers indicated they had no need, no money, no hurry, no desire or no trust. Each time I look at that sheet I’m embarrassed by how manipulative and sometimes less than truthful some of the techniques were.

    The five reasons you won’t win business still apply, how you deal with them in the 21st Century needs to be different.

    A 21st Century response required

    In the 21st Century when a seller pushes a product or service or uses any sales technique then todays buyers automatic response is to resist. Today’s buyer is just too sophisticated and aware to be taken in by persuasive sales or marketing techniques.

    If you hear words that suggest that a prospect is giving you one or more of the obstacles to winning business it’s not smart words you need, it’s insightful questioning and intelligent listening that’s needed. Only when you fully understand the prospects real situation can you hope to respond in the most appropriate way.

    No need

    Establishing a prospects needs and wants comes from a deep understanding of their world. Insightful questions and intelligent, mindful listening not only help the seller but they also help the potential buyer. Rather that pushing an idea (which often results in resistance) the best salespeople let prospects discover for themselves what their real needs and wants are.

    That way the potential buyer is motivated to buy rather than persuaded to buy by the seller. A much better basis for a long-term profitable relationship.

    No money

    If you have chosen your target prospects well then it is unlikely they can’t actually afford your product or service. It may be that they haven’t budgeted for a particular expense but that’s not the same thing as having ‘no’ money.

    Understanding that people have ‘wants’ as well as ‘needs’ and building relationships with buyers motivated to buy from you who also have the authority to re-direct budgets is the key here.

    No hurry

    The most embarrassing technique, and one of the least trusted in the 21st Century, that I was encouraged to employ in the past is the attempt to create some sort of false urgency. You’ve heard them all. The offer that only applies today, impending price increase, the product is in short supply etc.

    Let’s get one thing straight – the buyer is always in charge of timing. The more sellers use techniques to hurry things along the less likely a buyer is to be motivated to buy. Sales people who use ‘hurry up’ techniques just look and sound desperate.

    A seller with a full pipeline of well-chosen prospects never feels under pressure to ‘close’ business too soon. They understand early in the sales process the buyers’ decision-making process and their decision-making criteria and therefore how long it might take to arrive at a final decision. Of course the more a customer is motivated to buy the more likely they are to make a positive decision.

    No desire

    Desire is an emotional response closely linked to a customer’s motivations and ‘wants’. In terms of motivation human beings are more motivated to move away from undesirable outcomes (losing something) than move toward gaining something. All buyers want to reduce risk and ironically making a decision to move towards a particular solution, better supplier or even a better price can be seen as a risk.

    The job of the seller is to get under the skin of the prospect, find out the issues that are under the iceberg and fully understand how to minimise the perceived risk of doing and maximise the benefits of business with you.

    No trust

    Winning business starts and ends with building trust. No trust = no sale.
    Be congruent throughout the whole sales process, making sure that what your web site and marketing materials say is what customers actually experience. Do business with integrity, ethics and a conscience and trust will never be an issue.

    David Tovey is Development Director of Sterling Growth Hub, an international speaker, consultant, coach and author.

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