This is the second of a three part series on Aviation Trade Shows.

We asked sales expert Mark Leeper for his top three things to do during the show.


  1. Pack your calendar full of appointments.
  2. Practice your “elevator pitch” and your product demos.
    Mark shares his “secret 3-part formula – here’s what we do, here are some people we do it for, and here’s what we can do for you!)
  3. Be prepared to network – curious about people and able to remember details.
  4. Know your competitors!

Transcript of Episode:

Paula Williams:             Welcome to part two of our three part series with Mark Leeper. Mark is the sales expert that has worked with ABCI on a bunch of different projects including trade shows. So, we’re glad to have him back again to talk about three things that you can do during the trade show to make it a whole lot more profitable and a whole lot easier for your sales and marketing staff.

Paula Williams:             So, happy to talk with you again, Mark. Last week we talked about three things people could do before a trade show, and this week we’re talking about three things that people should do and maybe even some things people should not do during the trade show. I know you probably have a few of those as well.

Mark Leeper:                Well, yeah, your customers are extremely busy and you, as a company representative, are going to be extremely busy because there’s more than just, again, waiting for people to show up at your exhibit.

Mark Leeper:                You’ve got to have your calendar really sharp. Your show planner has got to be broken to the increments of about 15 minutes, literally, which is a difficult thing for sales and business development people like myself because you wander in and just want to go meet people and talk to people. You’ve got to be very specific in terms of what you’re going to do.

Mark Leeper:                So, first, referencing back to our last meeting, you’ve got to have appointments. You’ve got to have targeted people and you’ve got to prepare for those obviously. And so, you’ve got to do that, and then you have to have a plan to address new people that are going to wander up that you’ve never heard of or seen before.

Paula Williams:             Yeah.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah. The great news about this group of people that we’re addressing, you know, people in aviation overall are extremely professional and focused. You know, we’re in a different, unique grid industry. I haven’t bumped into too many people that aren’t really competent at what they’re trying to sell or message they’re trying to relay. But, you do have to have a really good presentation outlined.

Paula Williams:             Right. So, even just like a 15-second, what do you say when someone asks, “So, what does your company do?” Not just do the deer in the headlights, it’s so complicated I can’t even begin to describe it to you, kind of feeling.

Mark Leeper:                Right.

Paula Williams:             Having that nailed down to a 15-second super simple explanation that will give them an idea of whether they want to continue that conversation or not.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah. That’s your elevator speech basically.

Paula Williams:             Yeah.

Mark Leeper:                It needs to be simple. You know, there’s three parts of this. When you address somebody, it’s what you do and the benefits that can be extended to their company. Lots of times it’s good to be able to reference another company in their industry that you’ve worked with or extended benefits to.

Paula Williams:             Yeah.

Mark Leeper:                If you can hit on those points, you know, we can do this, we’re doing this work for somebody in your industry already, and we’d love to have an opportunity to see if we could help your company have the same benefits.

Mark Leeper:                It’s that three parts of communication and it’s really so easy. It can be adapted to any type of business. Within a half an hour you can learn to sell and persuade people just by understanding those things.

Paula Williams:             That’s fantastic.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah.

Paula Williams:             And worth practicing, too, because I think you feel a lot more comfortable if you’ve practiced that before the show. Then you show up and you’re a lot more comfortable in your show, toe-to-toe with somebody.

Mark Leeper:                Right, right. Yeah, exactly.

Mark Leeper:                Another good thing that I don’t think I touched on or we touched on in our last conversation was you need to understand who your competition is obviously. Where they are at the show, what they’re doing to promote at the show, what type of specials are they offering. It’s never a bad idea to go over and talk to your competition. I mean, there’s plenty of business for everybody most of the time.

Mark Leeper:                It’s a good opportunity at the show to meet who you’re competing with and against and find out ways to maybe support each other. Not every company can do exactly the same great job as you can and vice versa.

Paula Williams:             Right.

Mark Leeper:                So, analyzing your competition is something you can do. You want to prepare for your two great grips. The appointments, you want to prepare for the new people that are going to wander up, and do some things to analyze your competition.

Paula Williams:             Fantastic.

Mark Leeper:                And, process is real important. You know, what is your process? If somebody walks up to you, what is your system? Do you have a business card scanner? You’ve got to have this really defined, your business process there, so that it all transfers into your follow-up because that’s where everything falls apart 90% of the time, is in follow-up.

Mark Leeper:                How are you going to get today’s conversation documented, remembered, and positioned to follow-up in the future? Paula, you know more about all of the systems that are available to capture those leads and get them into CRM systems of which you have an incredible CRM system that we use and absolutely love in Sharpspring.

Mark Leeper:                If we don’t capture the people, if we don’t track those people correctly and have a process in place… I know I’m restating, but if that process is not in place, and it’s got to be consistent through your whole team.

Paula Williams:             Yeah. Absolutely. Any system is only as good as what you put into it. I know some people who actually have a pretty good manual system for trade shows where they… You know, hot leads in the right pocket, cool leads go in the left pocket. They write on business cards. You know, you never let anybody see you do that because some people get really unhappy about defacing a business card. Some people write on little Post-it Notes on the business card. So, there’s manual systems that you can put in your system later.

Paula Williams:             Or, you know, as you said, there’s the hard scanners where you’re scanning people’s badges. I think you need to give people some reason to do that because it’s not very natural. I think it’s kind of a cattle process or something like that where you’re saying, “Hey, come here, let me scan your badge.” It’s kind of an awkward thing. I don’t like it as much as the manual processes, but a lot of people do that.

Paula Williams:             The third way, of course, is when you just take pictures of the cards and send them to somebody like ABCI and have them actually process that for you, or Seabright. ABCI and Seabright, of course, are working together on this so we have some systems that you could utilize for those types of services that keep you focused on your customers and take care of some of that backend stuff.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah, exactly. The overall, I guess positioning, or what you want to keep in mind, the most important thing you can do at a trade show is to be interested in other people and make friends.

Paula Williams:             Oh, yeah.

Mark Leeper:                You know, you want to make friends and make money at the same time, but usually A comes before B.

Paula Williams:             Yes.

Mark Leeper:                I guess as much as I’m saying “making friends,” gather information about other people’s needs and wants and some unique things about them or their history or something like that. You need to listen to people and you’ve got to take notes. The magic is in the follow-up. If you use our techniques that we exercise in our follow-up process, you’ll have such great returns compared if you don’t.

Paula Williams:             Right.

Mark Leeper:                You know, your mission really is to find out about people and to listen to them at a trade show.

Paula Williams:             Right. And, the people, not just the companies that they work with.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Paula Williams:             Yeah. Fantastic. Well, thank you. That was really great ideas there. I think a lot of people have been taking notes. Hopefully, we’ll have a much better show this year than last if they do it.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah. That’s great. Thank you so much.

Paula Williams:             Okay. So, a real quick recap of our discussion.

Paula Williams:             Number one, you want to pack your calendar. Number two, you want to practice your elevator pitch and your product demo or presentation. Number three, you want to be prepared to network and make sure that you do it well and remember what you learn about people and take notes. Then, the bonus is to know your competition.

Paula Williams:             If you’d like to work with us on your next trade show, go to You can see the options of how we can work together.