Yes! Event Management is Really Sales

Heidi Thorne

Heidi Thorne

by Heidi Thorne…

Mention “sales position” to most newly-minted college grads and you’ll likely get an “Eeewww, I’ll never be in sales!” I find this a bit amusing, especially when you ask them what they want to do. The response is usually marketing, event management, advertising, etc. Well, guess what, you’re really in sales in any of those capacities.

Here’s the cold hard truth: Nothing happens until somebody sells something. (This gem has been attributed to both Tom Watson, founder of IBM, and Arthur Motley, CEO of Parade Magazine.)

When you’re in event management, your career success will be based on your ability to obtain enough quality attendees and exhibitors for your tradeshows or events. Sure, all the things you do to create a stellar experience for attendees—such as great food, comfortable atmosphere, well-organized show floor, signage—contribute to how satisfied they are with your event. That’s the customer service side of the business. But the most difficult thing is getting them there. And without the revenues that attendees and exhibitors bring, there is no show or event for you to manage. Period.

I began my tradeshow and events career in the hotel business. I needed a better job to get funds for college and got a position as an assistant to the director of sales for a major Chicago convention hotel. I was absolutely stunned at the amount of revenue that their sales team could generate for hotel rooms, meeting space, catering, and more. And I also thought, “Hey, I could that.” I kept bugging them to move me into sales. Finally jumped the administrative hurdle and my sales career was launched.

But I wanted to go farther in the industry. So after going back to school to finish my business degree, I got into the tradeshow management arena in exhibit sales. That was where the bigger money was! In fact, my commissions allowed me to pay off my college debt. Nice. Then after a few years, I moved into marketing and public relations for tradeshows.

Since 1999, I now own my own marketing and promotional product company. But none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t said yes to taking on a sales position. So don’t be afraid to take on a sales position in this industry. You’ll learn what makes attendees and exhibitors tick which will help you create successful events and be a valuable resource to your clients.


Heidi Thorne is a promotional products marketing and social media expert, specializing in serving the events and tradeshow industries. Her blog educates marketing and events professionals on how to select promotional products and strategies aligned with their marketing objectives, image, and values so that they can build their brands, businesses, and communities.

Author: Mike Granek, MBA, CSEP

Michael Granek, MBA,CSEP,PID is a successful entrepreneur and an award winning event producer with two decades of experience in the special events and entertainment industry as well as in business. Michael brings a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree with Management Consulting specialization, a Diploma in Adult Instruction (PID), and is an internationally Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP). For a complete bio, please visit:

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  1. Fully agree with you both,

    All aspects of business require its value to be proposed and accepted. Call it sales or persuasion, value proposition or building a business case etc… Its all the same assertion, “this is a good idea because A, B and C”

    My first job after Uni was sales at Yellow Pages, that training and experience provided the solid foundation for career progression in business over the years.

    Any wannabe corporate worker/entrepreneur needs those skills. Some get that idea sooner rather than later, and invariably they are the ones who succeed on a greater scale.

    Great post and keep up the selling Heidi!

  2. I so agree, Traci! Those who are not authentic are horrible sales people. Doesn’t mean you have to LOVE the product (imagine falling in love with something like electronic parts). But you do have to BELIEVE that you have the best solution for what the customer needs.

    And, no, I haven’t tried to talk my hub into going to a chick flick. He’d have to sell me on going to one. Ha!

  3. Heidi, I can’t think of any job that isn’t sales. Life is sales. Every try to talk your husband into going to a chick flick with you? I don’t think there are good sales people and bad sales people so much either. There are only people who believe in what they are selling and people who don’t.


  1. Heidi Thorne Guest Posts on Michael Granek’s Event Management Blog | Promo With Purpose Today - [...] Click Here to Read Heidi’s Post Yes! Event Management is Really Sales [...]

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