Managing your trade show leads – (make sure you turn those leads into sales!)

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Depending on the type and size of trade show you are attending, the amount of people you’ll meet over the 2 or 3 days of the event can often be overwhelming. Ultimately, as an exhibitor you are there to create sales for your business, but evaluating leads and separating them into categories such as hot, cold & …purely freebie hunting, can be a daunting and time consuming task. A good strategy, for collating leads from the outset, will save you time and help you focus on your most expedient leads successfully.

First up, you’ll need an effective and practical process in place for collecting and recording data at the show. If you generally use a CRM to manage your customers and sales leads on a day to day basis, set up a new category or project specifically for the one event. If you need to, you can simplify the process of adding leads to a spreadsheet or CRM by using lead retrieval technology. You can even get automated follow up services and lead evaluating software. We discussed a couple of these options on our article on AI (Plenty out there – just look up one which fits your needs best)

Try and create an interesting and engaging way for your visitors to relay their information to you. It might be one of the old faithfuls like a competition barrel, a social media platform or a touch screen. But with the advancements in technology, companies are becoming much more creative in this area and we have even seen robots greeting visitors and collecting data from passers-by. Obviously it will all depend on your budget as to how far you can go with it – but try and be a little bit creative and include some form of interaction if possible. It will get you remembered.

As well as purely collecting lead data, you will need to assess it; Hot leads / cold leads / luke-warm leads, etc. Decide how many categories you think you might need and sort your prospects accordingly. When adding names, addresses and emails etc. – also add notes when you get time, specifying any interaction you may have had.

Tip: When chatting with prospects, try and throw in something personal like asking after their kids, or favourite holiday spots, sports …..anything of any mutual interest which might flow easily into the conversation. Make a note of it, then when you come to follow up, you can re-engage by asking after their holiday, or “How did Johhny go with his football game at the weekend?”,  etc. – it’s a really great way for you to remember someone and it will make them feel they weren’t just one of the crowd.

If you’re dealing with a red-hot lead at the show and you don’t have your own meeting room space, suggest moving your conversation to a nearby café or restaurant. Trade shows are noisy environments that are not always conducive to discussing business. Leave your staff manning the stand and take your prospect for lunch or a drink nearby to close the deal.

Another tip is to remember that trade shows are as much about networking as selling. Liaise with other exhibitors and don’t be afraid to swap leads if you think they could service your prospect better. Potential customers will be impressed that you have their best interests at heart and what you may lose in this transaction, you may gain back in future business. You might also acquire some otherwise overlooked leads in return. Visitors who stop by your stand maybe better suited to a competitor, and vice-versa.

After the show, don’t waste any time – follow up with your warmest leads ASAP!  Then you can work through your list to the leads that may require more extensive pre-selling. Cool or lukewarm leads can be followed up using social media. LinkedIn InMail (a premium mail service from LinkedIn) is one of the best ways to get back in touch with prospects that you spoke to during the event.

If, after a couple of months, they’re still not ready to seal the deal, ask if you can add them to your email list and send them information about your company from time to time. When it comes time for them to buy – hopefully you will be top of mind.

Give yourself a set amount of time after the event and collate all the information you have. Make sure you review your original goals you set for yourself. Check the number of quality leads you generated against the amount of money spent. Track any leads which turned into sales and include in your overall evaluation. By tracking your ROI in this way, you can budget accordingly for your next event.