3 Costly Lead Management Mistakes to Avoid

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Photo: iStockphoto/Tolimir

No matter whether you’re brand new to exhibit marketing or have been exhibiting at trade shows for years, there’s one area where your mistakes are costing you – big time!

Connecting with leads/prospects are the reason for exhibiting at any show, so if you’re not doing that part right, you might as well stay home.

Costly Mistake #1: Failing to define what makes a qualified lead.

When you exhibit, do you come home with a stack of business cards that you call leads?

You’re fooling yourself! A lead is not a piece of paper or business card with a name and contact information. Instead, it is a solid contact that is pre-determined to have a high probability of producing future sales revenue.

A qualified lead for your business might be based on the size of budget the prospect has, their timeline for purchasing (if they’re serious about your product at all), or their role in the buying decision. Once you’ve determined the characteristics of a qualified lead, you can create a list of questions that need to be answered about each person who comes to the booth, even if you’re using badge scanners to collect contact information. If you’re coming home with just a name and a phone number, you’re missing the point – and the potential sale.

Costly Mistake #2: Avoiding objections, or not pre-planning how to overcome them.

Most exhibitors know how to present information about their products or services, but get flustered when attendees begin to raise objections. Here are some tips (as presented in Build a Better Trade Show Image) on how to smoothly handle objections without losing the prospect:

  • Begin by acknowledging the objection and empathize with the attendee’s concerns. Say, “I’m glad you brought that up. I can appreciate how you feel. Many of our customers felt that same way, but they found that …”
  • Ask questions to clarify and and determine the true obstacle. Often you’ll discover an entire series of objections that are simply a smoke screen for their ultimate concern: fear, risk or cost. Treat each question as an opportunity; if they weren’t truly interested, they wouldn’t bother to raise objections.
  • Present alternative solutions. Ask, “If I could eliminate that problem for you, is there anything else holding you back?” If that’s their true objection, you’ve calmed their fears. If there’s something else bothering them, they will tell you that too.
  • If you don’t know the answer to their question, be honest and admit that you don’t know. Never try to bluff them! You should know who else on your team might have the answer and bring them into the conversation. If that’s not possible, write down the question and affirm that you will get back to them as soon as you have an answer. Then do what you say!

Costly Mistake #3: Not having a system for following up with leads.

It’s amazing how even seasoned exhibitors who do an awesome job at the show often struggle with follow-up skills. Here are some results from one show I attended:

  • Only two companies followed up within a week of the show, both with brief e-mails. Now why can’t all exhibitors do this? E-mail is quick and relatively inexpensive, and at least it keeps the company name fresh in the attendee’s mind!
  • After two weeks, four more companies followed up, yet still several of those I was most interested in failed to contact me.
  • By week 3, everyone should have followed up, no excuses. But after three whole weeks, less than 50% had made any contact at all. I was still waiting for information from one of the most splashy exhibitors and another who had promised a catalog and sample kit.

Now the rest of those exhibitors probably didn’t go into the show planning to ignore the leads … at least let’s hope not! Following up shouldn’t be incredibly difficult or expensive. In fact, it should be the part you look forward to, because having a list of qualified leads to follow up with means that you did your job well at the show. It all goes back to having a lead management strategy in place before the show, and being disciplined to stick to a quick follow-up timeline after the show.

Want to avoid these lead management mistakes and more? You can! Earlier this month in the Exhibit Marketers Café we covered how to gather and nurture leads, as well as how to get marketing and sales in sync to create an effective lead management system. Become a member of the Café now to access these recordings and action guides.

© 2002-2012 Marlys K. Arnold (from the November 2012 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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