William Shakespeare once said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But he never worked a trade show booth… at least I don’t think he was out there at some renaissance fair hawking his plays! Had he had the extreme pleasure and challenge of getting names that mattered, names that were ripe for conversion from contact to sale, he might not have been so cavalier about names and roses!

So what is in a name? Quite a lot if you do it right. The name, the contact info, the fruit ripe for picking, the holy grail of the tradeshow, if not a sale right there on the show floor, can be the qualified lead. The most basic metric of tradeshow ROI is the qualified lead. A qualified lead is not the name of the grabby Gus that ran by your booth scooping up the mints with two hands, asked for an extra plush tchotchke for his second child, and then was, like the movie, Gone in 60 Seconds. Although he may have been well intentioned, a nice guy, and obviously the super cool dad, he in all likelihood is not the model of a qualified lead (or the model of a modern major general either).

So what is a qualified lead and how do you get one? Let’s be honest, you want more than one even though quality is infinitely more important than quantity in the trade show venue. Large quantities of qualified leads go down as #tradeshowgoals.  According to MVF Global Customer Acquisition, a company whose business it is to provide some of the world’s leading brands with high volumes of new customers (aka nothing but qualified leads), “a qualified lead is more than just contact details. It includes further information on the person or the company they represent, information that qualifies them for a certain product”. Typical qualifying questions relate to the IBM developed BANT approach:

  • Budget:do they have enough money to buy my product?
  • Authority:can they make a purchase decision?
  • Need:do they have a need that my product or service can fulfil
  • Timescale:do they have a specific time when they wish to make their purchase.

Most feel a qualified lead will be answering YES to the above questions and will have a specific need and timeframe for what YOU offer. MVF recommends “gathering answers to the above questions at the lead stage” that way a trade show exhibitor can “prioritize the leads gathered and focus on those most likely to convert to sales in the short term. These are then considered ‘qualified leads’.”

If you have done the foundational work i.e. you know and build on your sales and marketing strategy prior to the show, you have picked a good location for your booth, you have done targeted pre-show promotion, you have trained your booth personnel, then you are positioned well to garner qualified leads while at your chosen show. Hopefully, the training and pre-show promotion is paying off by getting the attendees to your booth and engaged in quality conversations.

Those conversations are key. Don’t let your booth staffers operate on autopilot; they should not merely be repeating a canned spiel at 10 minute intervals whether there are people actually listening or not. It is unproductive to “sell” to every person passing your booth. Smart Trade Shows recommends, “Use the first minute or two to qualify prospects before beginning a mini-presentation or a more in-depth conversation. You may find yourself talking to an enthusiastic listener who has absolutely no intention of ever buying your product or service. Use open-ended questions to quickly ascertain whether this visitor warrants more of your precious attention.”

The challenge becomes to use open ended questions that get answers to the aforementioned BANT approach questions. These serve as a roadmap for you to separate the wheat from the chaff. If nothing else, you can prioritize the leads that you do get, placing priority on those that are qualified by you at the show and deemed likely to convert to a sale – or those that have an action item attached to them that moves the customer that much closer to engagement with your product or service.

Smart Trade Shows also encourages you to talk with the attendees about “any challenges they may currently be experiencing then highlight the relevant features of your product/service; but keep the conversation focused on the visitor’s needs.” Remember, you are selling solutions not just products; to do this you must really be listening to the person’s needs. Figure out what aspect of you service or product provides a specific advantage in their situation. Work that angle.

Ed Marquez, President of Mark Bric Display reminds his booth staffers, “Don’t forget that last step in making a lead a qualified lead. If you can, right there at the show, find out if you can fill the need that they have mentioned. Ask for their input as to how they would like to proceed. Make an appointment to talk with them after the show. Get it on the calendar. Line up the appropriate sales person or dealer to meet with the attendee.” Be sure you have ALL of each lead’s contact info written down. Don’t only rely on show scanners. Have a backup for all action item leads!  Even though every show has a lead tracking or scanning system that makes it easy to electronically capture booth visitor information, realize though those systems are helpful, often a high percentage of the info on swipe cards is incorrect or incomplete. Do not risk losing all the time and effort you have put into a highly qualified lead by not having a system in place that all booth staffers are trained to initiate for tracking those specific leads. This does not mean tossing a stack of lead slips into a shipping case, the bottom of someone’s brief case or book bag to never be seen again either. Qualified leads are money. Treat them with care.

BANT is not fool proof and depending on your sales and marketing strategy and your goals for a specific show, the definition of a qualified lead for your organization may be a bit more nebulous. Despite variations of the definition for qualified, QUALITY – the very root word of QUALIFIED – aka the VALUE of a qualified lead does not change. They are priceless. So, define them how you will and work toward finding them through a good listening ear and thorough at show engagement. Quantity is nice too but the quest is not for hundreds or thousands that will follow you on Facebook and like your Instagram posts. You want, you need, those who will actually starts purchasing your product, using your service and hopefully begin an ongoing pattern of continued patronage with you.

A lead by any name is sweet, however, remember Shakespeare also cautioned us that “all that glitters is not gold” so be sure to do your due diligence and qualify that quantity of leads before you call them “Qualified”.

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