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?

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. A good salesperson can slip qualifying questions into a few minutes of conversation.

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.

We help our clients with two steps of capturing the information gleaned from the show. The first step is to use a follow-up system for all qualified leads. Note the word “qualified.” Only leads that have passed our list of qualifying show questions are entered in the follow up system. For the system you can create an Excel spreadsheet with the contact information or use one of the readily available software systems online like, ACT!, Nutshell, Batchbook, etc.

The second step is to assign one person the job of entering all the leads, and then assigning them to the right salesperson. If you are a small shop and that person is you, fill in leads during slow times at the show.

The key action is to get all of the leads into salespeople’s hands as fast as possible, but it is not enough to pass the lead to them. You also have to make them accountable. By adding a future follow up on each assigned lead, you can track the results of each salesperson’s efforts. The real goal is not to track the closure rate of your salespeople, but to track the success and dollar return on your investment in the show.

Remember the key is to give your salespeople qualified, live leads that have a chance of actually closing.

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