Make the most of those in-person interactions.
Posted Oct 26, 2007
Take a look at your trade-show budget. Is it focused on developing sales or just on generating leads? Of all the line items in your budget, how many focus on converting the leads into sales? Chances are, if you're taking a traditional approach to allocating your trade-show budget, your marketing efforts may fall short of producing the maximum number of sales and amount of revenue.
Here's why: Industry statistics show that a staggering 80 percent of trade-show leads are not followed up. If your follow-up plan does not extend much beyond handing the leads over to the sales team, then you're part of that 80 percent. Developing trade-show leads into sales opportunities requires a more strategic approach. By helping your sales team at this crucial stage you can significantly impact its effectiveness and production.
It's critical that your trade-show marketing plan not stop at the show floor. There are several important steps necessary for leads to develop into sales opportunities. Leads must be called, decision-makers must be reached, and opportunities must be qualified to leverage the time of your sales team.
Allocating a portion of your marketing budget to qualify the leads before the sales team takes over will greatly impact the success of your show. Whether you invest in your marketing team, an inside sales team, or a lead-qualification company, the key is having the expertise that you need to execute the following techniques:
- Call every lead immediately after the show. This allows you to reach the prospects when their interest level from the show is at its highest. It also allows you to get ahead of slow-moving competitors and make sure that no leads fall through the cracks. While calling six weeks or six months later is a step up from not calling at all, it's far better to call every lead immediately. You invested a lot of money on the show in order to initiate a personal relationship. Mailing catalogs or a PowerPoint presentation and then merely hoping the prospect will call is not enough to maintain that relationship.
- Call until you reach the decision-maker. It may take several calls to reach the decision-maker. The higher that person's level of authority, the more calls are required. To make things more challenging, often the right company stops by your booth but not the right decision-maker. This is where the breakdown often occurs. It's very difficult for sales reps to make enough calls to reach the decision-maker. They either run out of time or become frustrated and do not make the necessary calls. Many sales are lost because it is difficult to maintain the follow-up needed to penetrate deeper into (and higher up at) the company to find the opportunity. Some sales will require extra resources to develop them; the investment will pay off in the long run.
- Grade and prioritize the opportunities for the sales team. The sales rep's time is valuable, and is best spent only with leads that have a qualified opportunity. However, even among these ideal prospects, a sales rep needs to know exactly who to focus his time with. The first priority is to target the prospects that want to meet right now to address a pressing need. The next targets should be the prospects that have a current need but want a follow-up within a specific time frame. This way the sales rep will never waste time with non-qualified prospects.
- Put your trade-show budget where your sale is. There is an old baseball adage: Every team will win one-third of its games and lose one-third of its games; what separates the winners from the losers is what happens with the remaining third. The same can be said of companies exhibiting at a trade show. There will be obvious leads that will be cherry-picked and quickly result in sales. There will also be leads that will never turn into sales opportunities. But how you budget for and execute the qualification process with the remaining leads will determine how successful your trade show will truly be.
About the Author
Mike Drohan is the president of Lead Generation Solutions, a Wayne, Pa., company that specializes in lead-qualification services to help companies leverage the efficiency of their field sales teams and increase the ROI on their trade-show and event-marketing efforts. For additional information visit www.leadgenerationsolutions.com.