• Niklas Hall

Trade fair takeaways

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

In many ways the industry of parallel imported drugs is a parallel universe based on deeply entrenched convictions and a low level of digitization.

If you ever been to a trade fair, you know the drill, the processes and the workings. In many ways it is a ritual dance of contacts, leads, business cards and short talks. In many ways it's professional speed dating and all the same tricks apply. This time, the scene is set at ExpoPharm in Munich.


As stated by Lee Atwater, advisor and campaign manager to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, "perception IS reality".

In the world of trade fairs, the number of square meters of exhibition space is a direct indication of success. Perceived. Everyone agrees. Consequently, the center stage is occupied by the major brands and the aisles packed with smaller players in more modest setups.

On this trade fair – with a large number of smaller players hustling for deals – the real stage is the international meeting center in the middle of it all. Cramped with people, the ultimate price is a table. Preferably a chair. Thus installed, traders camp all day or circulate exploring every option. Loose your seat and your job just got harder. Tipping our hat to British comedian Eddie Izzard, some even secure a table "by the cunning use of flags". Plant your flag and the table is yours. As stated, perception IS reality.


Looking at the activity at center stage, EVERYBODY uses a smartphone. Some use it all the time – looking up from time to time doing "other things" as they peak. Like its somehow part of their body. An extension of their arm.

Still, most business – all in fact – is done using printed Excel sheets and pen. Not a single tablet, computer-based interface in sight. Business cards is a big item. No QR codes leading you straight to a LinkedIn profile. No smartphone interaction. No, sir. Paper rules.

Consequently, all agreements to reach out is immediately followed by a "but not next week" as everybody is overwhelmed by the task of turning paper into orders, mails etc. A full week I to be expected one must understand.

Following up on contact formats, LinkedIn is also strangely void. This is a "a very conservative business" as one long-time observer put it. Being out in the open seems to leave you prone to "surveillance" by evil forces out to take over your trade and partners. Transparency is NOT the order of the day. Not even as an "emerging trend".


Especially two resources are in short supply: Attention and time. Meetings are SHORT, and everyone still seem to be headed for their next meeting. Cut off elevator pitches are quickly scanned for "kill potential". In a business supposedly ruled by personal contacts.

As for the third resource – money – this is partly being overcome by attenders cramming everything into a single day. This makes Thursday (in this instance) an even more frantic day as everybody needs to close their deals NOW. Just as would be true for the desperate dater at 03.00 in the morning, pretty much anything goes.

Also, free WiFi, power outlets and easily accessible water is in short supply. But that's another story


Being a technology provider for any kind of trade watching all this is equally fascinating and frustrating. But in any industry – any purchasing or procurement setup, technology can bring you ahead of the game. Easily. Here's how:

  • Perception is not reality Not relying on physical size, the tech savvy player is more efficient. Their weapon of choice is agility and data structure. A small tech enabled team can outmaneuver a large, largely analog team any time of day.

  • Digitization By applying simple tech tools you can change not only your efficiency but also your effect. Relying on system interfaces you can conduct all of your trade fair business on the spot. Enter data from the start, do the negotiation and conduct the trade - on the fly and on the spot. No more "please not next week" and being swamped by processing data locked in paper. Looking to your smartphone should spur a thought as to how to apply this immensely powerful tech tool and move you AWAY from paper. Digitizing is not done by using Excel. Nor by printing Excel sheets. Furthermore, LinkedIn is a great tool for keeping track of customers, potential and actual business partners, industries and any significant players of those industries. And hey - it's all available at the touch of your finger.

  • Resource transformation Applying technology allows you to transform your resource pool from scarcity to abundance. With all your trade conducted and finalized on the spot, at a fraction of the speed you would otherwise use, you free up ATTENTION and TIME which can then be spent making new contacts (flirt a little), grow and nurture any exiting contacts and speak in length with key stakeholders.

Trade fairs ARE speed dating. So, use your time dating. Flirting. Evidence shows, that spending time finding mutual ground before striking a deal is way more efficient that going straight for the deal.

All in all, tech allows you to be not only more efficient. It allows you to have more EFFECT. Using less resource to get better results - using your scarce resources to do the things that actually matter.

If you are in any kind of procurement or trading, we can help you out doing just that.








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