Getting your business into a trade show is of critical importance, but it is not the end all be all and solution to your business’s financial success. You have to show up to the show and maximize its efficacy. That alone is the goal when we talk about generating leads and capturing customers.
The biggest mistake people make in this world is to think that getting someone’s business card is your lead. It seems like some sales rep will think that a card from a potential customer is gold and, once acquired, it’s time to get on to the next person milling about the booth in the pursuit of another card. Oh, how many sales were lost when the follow up fell upon deaf or uninterested ears. There are ways to market your business that will get people to your show booth, but marketing and promotion is a mere surface scratch.
Cultivating a lead and turning that into a customer is done at the show, during the post-show follow up, and onward into the future.
It starts with the sales reps at the booth. First of all, they need to be well-training, and legitimately sold on the product. If they are not into the product, that will be detected by the customer. A lot of it is subtle, but it’s not going to be lost on the masses over many shows. Everyone who is part of the sales team, and even the whole company ideally, must be on board.
A sales lead has to be full of information, which is why a business card is not enough. Provide your sales reps with lead forms, actual full pages that can be filled out with a enough data collection that when it comes to follow up, the person calling remembers, or can claim to remember, a lot of pertinent information about the client. That goes a long way.
Before sending a lead to a sales rep, make sure the rep who was at the show does the initial follow up. Customers love the personal touch even if they claim not to care. When the person they actually met phones them, that will be well received.
When there’s a strong lead and you’re in the process where they are given to the qualified sales rep to close the deal, make sure you’re tracking the information in a database. Keeping close track of the leads will make sure none fall through the cracks.
So that’s the system, but what information do you need to acquire at the show itself? What should be on the lead generation form? Instead of just their name and contact info (i.e. a business card), make sure you know all of this after your sales rep interacts with the lead: complete contact info, product of interest, budget and buying time frame, other buying influences (powers that be?), comments made about special circumstances, name of trade show and date held, any information about follow-up preferences, personal information gleaned like attire/vacations/personal touches, name of rep filling out the form, and maybe most importantly: a system for prioritizing the lead. This last bit is purely subjective and not always correct, but it can help focus the attentions of sale reps in the right places so that a hot lead is cultivated first, and a cooler one wastes less time, even though it could turn into a sale.
A lead can be lost more easily than it can be gotten, so make sure you are maximizing your leads in a trade show environment.