How to follow up leads after an exhibition

A man gives his business card to a sales rep on an exhibition stand

Unsurprisingly, everyone says that they do follow up after attending business events - but statistics don't bear that out. Simon Naudi explains how to effectively follow up leads you've acquired at a conference or exhibition, and why it's so crucial to do so

There are some terrifying sets of figures floating about the industry suggesting 62% of leads are not followed up after an event.

The fact that any are neglected at all seems rather embarrassing, and more poignantly, rather pointless. It is the equivalent of walking into a shop, paying for your goods and walking out without your purchase.

Here's how you can unlock the value from your precious sales leads, instead of letting them slip through your fingers.

Capturing visitor data at events

In order to follow up effectively, you first need to capture contact details. Think about your visitors and what they are used to. Would it be better to hire a laser scanner and scan their badges, scribble on their business cards, or use a laptop or pad to manually take down details?

Many exhibitions now employ QR codes, so that exhibitors and visitors can exchange details with people they meet as they go.

At some consumer shows, visitors will not have badges or business cards, so a manual system may be best. Remember that the quicker and easier it is for you to capture their details, the smoother and more pleasant it will be for your visitor.

Record also any special details and timescales, who else they are considering, and any buying cycles or budgets.

Amongst the best systems I have seen are those which additionally categorise their leads into some sort of urgency list - for example, hot, warm and cold. In this way, when the leads are being followed up (and let's face it, often it is not the stand personnel who subsequently follow up), the salespeople know who to contact first.

A good tip is to ensure everyone involved understands and adheres to the same definitions of hot, warm or cold or a scale of one to ten.

When should you follow up?

Smart exhibitors, who are more on the ball than most, follow up their leads whilst the show is happening, rather than waiting until the dust settles afterwards.

All you need to do is prepare a standard email in advance of the event, thanking them for visiting your stand that day and promising that a named individual will contact them within the agreed timescale. These can then be sent out at the end of each day to all your stand visitors.

You can also use this opportunity to direct them to your website or email a PDF brochure in the appropriate format for them to look at, rather than hoping they'll sort through their over-stuffed carrier bags and find your literature.

Converting your leads to sales

Once the show is over, by all means analyse your new data and get it into your database - but also ensure a copy goes straight to the sales team. Some of the leads may be so hot that a more switched-on competitor could steal a march on you while you're still debriefing.

Most leads gathered will need to be properly pursued within three or four days of the event. Some can wait longer - but an acknowledgement or commitment to the next step should also be agreed within those post-event days.

Research suggests that salespeople need to make contact up to six times before a lead converts - so be prepared to be (politely) persistent before you'll see results.

Written by Simon Naudi of Answers Training International.

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