I watch my woodworking clients spend thousands every year on home shows, building expos, and local trade shows in hopes of finding new customers.

After every show the salespeople come back excited about all the possibilities and leads. One month later, the champagne has gone flat and the excitement has fizzled to nothing. Where are all the leads? What happened to the great possible sales from the show? Why did we spend all that time and money for nothing?

The problem comes from not setting ground rules prior to the show and not using a good Lead Relationship Management (LRM) after the show.

Picture your sales efforts like building a house. The show booth is your model house. It demonstrates all the capabilities and unique products you make. The booth draws the prospects in and then the sales people can qualify them.

After you get the leads from people attending the show then the LRM comes into play. The LRM is the foundation that supports the walls, floors and structure of your sales house. Without a good system for following up on leads, the house will topple.

Prior to any show, the expectations should be set for generating and qualifying prospects at the show. We often help our clients by generating a set of qualifying questions that can be asked of any person stopping by the booth. These questions help the sales team define quickly which booth visitors are actual potential customers or just 'looky-loos".

For example, if you are a manufacturer of cabinet doors, your key questions of prospects would be: Do you make your own doors or buy them? How often? Which types of doors give you the biggest headaches? Who do you like to use for your doors now? Would you want us to send you a quote? A good salesperson can slip these questions in to a few minutes of conversation without seeming too pushy.

The goal is to qualify each attendee quickly, get their information into your LRM and move on to the next attendee. Contrary to popular practice, show exhibiting hours are not for meeting with outside salespeople, current accounts or vendors. All of those customers and people are already on your daily call lists during normal business hours. The money spent on shows is for building new business. If you have to meet with other people, set aside morning meetings prior to the exhibiting hours or evening get-togethers after the show has closed.

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