Written By: Dave Hutchinson
All Canada Shows Ltd.
Originally Published in the March 1987
issue of The Outfitter Magazine.


Knowing the techniques of selling at sports shows is easy. Doing it is the hard part.

Most anyone who has ever worked a sports show booth knows that the secret to success lies in a few basics: a sincere smile, good appearance, an attractive booth and a few other tricks that always (well, most of the time) work.

And don’t forget to ask questions. How’s the weather outside? Been fishin’ lately? Go to Canada often? What’s the biggest Northern you’ve ever caught? Have you ever been through the Sault? What’s your favourite fish? Where’re you headed this summer?

Oh yes, bring your video equipment. Your prospective customer can get the real picture now. All you have to do is bring your reservation book and a dozen or so Bics. Seriously, all of the above are important and contribute to your success at the shows but like all sales what the answer really boils down to is: “attitude”.

The Big “A,” as we might call it, is always there. If we charted out on a scale of one to 10, what mark could you give yourself?

It’s there when you get up in the morning and go down to the hotel for breakfast. It consists of four ounces of fresh (so they say) orange juice (cost $1.75 US), two eggs over easy ($3.75 US) and the bargain of the day, a bitter cup of coffee (just 75 cents US) you’re positive you had a thermos when you were waiting to get through customs three weeks ago. At this point your attitude number is hovering around 1.5. The only thing going through your mind is going home.

Okay, it’s shower time. You haven’t had two interested parties, much less a booking, at this show. The big A is still with you. Walking on over to the expo centre with Jim Smith, from Smith’s Long Tale Resort, good old Jim tells you about yesterday’s action at the show. Not only did he sign up 23 of his old guests, he also ran into a guy from the local office of IBM who is going to bring his entire sales staff up and apologized because he couldn’t make it until late August.

Now it’s time to give the Big A a real test. You need some bookings bad and it’s the best crowd of the week. It doesn’t matter that the guy next to you has fly-in fishing-by helicopter - or that the lady on the other side has fly-ins at half your price…and is she ever a good cook.

About the time that you start to feel the attitude meter hitting an all time low, you decide to “go for it”.

Somewhere deep down, you find the resources to do some business at this show. You start looking at the show guests…maybe one of them visited your place last year. Whoops, someone just accidentally spilled their beer on your table. You laugh. They’re surprised you didn’t call the cops.

Pretty soon you find yourself talking to the most unusual character. He kind of looks like he was on an African Safari. Should you talk to him and waste some time or just try to get rid of him, you ask yourself. You talk. He listens. He talks. You listen. He wants to book…now. Can you handle a party of 13? You get out the reservation book (there’s nothing booked the entire month). “Sure we have room for ya.” He’s happy. Boy, are you happy. Your attitude meter just nudged the magic “10.” No one can always keep their attitude rating on or near 10. But you can try. And when you feel it sagging around 5 or below, the best thing to do walk away from your booth and take a break…a pile of nice brochures will do a better job selling.

A good example of a perfect 10 was provided by one of my veteran exhibitors. It was kind of a slow night. Virtually all of the crowd was gone as were most of my exhibitors.

But there were still a couple of catches to be had. And sure enough, Gary was in the process of a booking. As we turned the lights out afterwards, I congratulated him on his success. When we walked past the security guard, Gary gave him a broad smile and said, “When are you going to Canada?”

I thought he was kidding the guy. But after thinking about it, I realized that Gary had no prejudice toward security guards…or for that matter anyone else who entered the hall.


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