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6 Tips for Engaging Sales Leads at Tradeshows or Conferences

Justin Summers


Tradeshows can be a battleground of attrition for vendors and attendees. Vendors are sharks in a feeding frenzy of attendees just trying to wade through the waters to get to their next breakout session. (Okay, this is a bit of an extreme metaphor, but, depending on the industry, conference and location, some may feel this way when trying to bring home a solid roster of sales leads following an industry tradeshow.)

Here are some tips to help you navigate the waters.

1. Have a plan

Having a plan sounds like a no-brainer, but many leads and deals are left on the tradeshow floor due to a lack of concise, attainable goals and objectives set beforehand. A good starter goal would be to talk to, or gain, at least 10 new business contacts (not everyone will be an out-and-out sales lead) every hour you are on the floor.

And if you don't have a booth to back you up or are simply attending, make three new introductions or contacts at every breakout or networking session you attend. (And you should attend as many as possible.) Know what you want out of the tradeshow, and work backward to set goals to focus your efforts and make effective use of your time with attendees.

2. Attention is everything 

Every vendor at a show is trading on attention. The more attendee attention you have, the more you maximize your efforts. This can come in many forms, and some can cost a pretty penny—but they can have measurable returns if thought out and tracked properly.

Look for sponsorship opportunities, speaking roles, a fun swag item or a door prize to raise your awareness to the attendees. Make sure that your brand is visible beyond your booth backdrop—it can go a long way in bringing in quality leads at tradeshows.

3. Don’t Sell*

This tip comes with an asterisk, because—of course—if a deal is ready to be signed right then and there, please close it. This is more of an attitude in B2B environments when sales cycles are slower and have more stakeholders involved. The types of scenarios where deals take much longer to be finalized, so relationship-building is of high importance.

Establish trust first. Let them know through your demeanor and attitude that you’re there to introduce your company and the value you provide to their businesses. While your solution can solve their problems, you’d like to schedule a follow-up demo, call or presentation that will allow both companies to evaluate a good fit. Make it easy and low-risk for your prospect to engage with you. Trying to get ink on paper at a tradeshow is like asking someone to marry you on the first date.

4. Be Memorable

There are hundreds of people shuffling through tradeshows and having conversations every day. It should be your job to create a memorable interaction with your prospects, because nothing is worse than following up with a lead and he or she having no recollection of you, your company or your service.

Of course, not every conversation is going to be memorable. But as a representative of your company, it should be top of mind to find a memorable or relatable experience through which your conversation has some recallability. Be yourself, and create opportunities in your conversation to find out more about a new contact individually—share a bit about yourself to create a memorable conversation to follow up on after the show.

5. Follow up

Speaking of which, the most important phase of the tradeshow with respect to sales leads is the post-show follow-up. Your contacts and leads are expecting you to do so. Take advantage and get as many leads into your CRM or database, and follow up with email, phone and even direct mail.

Try to personalize as much as you can with your email correspondence—batching and sequencing your emails can save massive amounts of follow-up time if you have an automation tool that connects with your CRM.

6. Follow up more

Keep in mind that most of your leads you bring back from a tradeshow or conference may not be in a buying frame of mind. It might be months before they’re ready to evaluate a new vendor or service. Keep in contact, and set follow-up tasks to touch base with your most engaged leads. 

Subscribe them to your marketing email list or newsletter to keep your company top of mind. Follow up with relevant and valuable emails and calls that pertain to specific challenges they expressed to you at the tradeshow.

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