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How to Qualify Sales Leads at Your Trade Show

January 17, 2017

In a perfect world, each one of your trade show attendees will fall in love with what your company offers and make a purchase on the spot.

The unfortunate reality is only a small number of visitors are ready and able to commit to your product or service. How do you know when it’s time to label a prospect a sales qualified lead? Well, it takes a little bit of magic and a lot of strategy.

But before we dive into how to qualify sales leads, let’s get this out of the way first:

What exactly is a sales qualified lead?

Salesforce defines a sales qualified lead (SQL) as the following:

“…a prospective customer that has been researched and vetted ­– first by an organization’s marketing department and then by its sales team – and is deemed ready for the next stage in the sales process. An SQL has displayed intent to buy a company’s products and has met an organization’s lead qualification criteria that determine whether a buyer is a right fit.”

There are a few important things to remember in this definition.

First, identifying an SQL is a collaborative effort between your marketing and sales department. These teams need to be aligned on your company’s definition of a sales qualified lead, and the goals, roles, and post-show responsibilities for each team.

Second, the sales process varies between industries, services, products, and sometimes even between competitors. While one company’s sales cycle may be a few months long, another’s may be a few short days.

The takeaway: Understand your brand’s own unique sales process. It will position you to more effectively track and identify qualified leads.

Still, your company’s sales process is not the only variable in the SQL equation. You also need to know that…

Trade show lead qualification is different.

80-85% of trade show exhibitors claim lead generation as their main goal, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). But capturing “leads” at a trade show is not the same as capturing “leads” from other marketing channels, like online forms, direct mail responses, etc.

If you remember one thing from this blog, remember this: Scanning someone’s badge or recording his or her information can rarely be considered qualified lead capturing.

Your booth staff is likely meeting with dozens of people over an exhibition day, and often for only brief periods of time per person. Qualifying sales leads requires a deeper understanding of your prospects’ goals, needs, and pain points.

This vetting process will typically require more than a single conversation. But there are questions you can ask at your exhibition to help trim unqualified prospects.

When talking with potential trade show leads, get this information.

Are you a decision maker?

Although many trade show attendees have purchasing power, you should do your due diligence to determine whether or not an individual is the decision maker.

This rule applies mainly to B2B marketers, but in some B2C cases, consumers may need to consult with a spouse or family members before making a decision.

What do you currently have?

If you are on top of your game, you will have a deep knowledge of your competition’s products or services, including their pros, cons, and price points. Knowing what solution your booth attendee currently has will help determine if your solution can solve their problems.

Are you able to buy right now?

Sometimes, it’s just impossible for someone to switch products or services. Even if a prospect is interested in what you offer, contracts or other agreements may prevent any immediate action. Therefore, get to know if a sale is even possible; it will save you both time and energy.

Does your current provider better solve your problems than ours?

Trade show attendees have a lot of booths to visit, and a lot of things to see. If your product or service legitimately cannot solve a prospect’s problem better than his or her current solution, say so. Attendees will appreciate the honesty, and you will have more time to spend on the people who might really benefit from what you offer.

Here are some quick tips to help you along.

After you’ve learned the right information about your exhibit visitors, there’s still plenty of work to do to. Use these techniques to better identify, track, and nurture your trade show SQLs.

Fortune favors the fast

To make sure your company’s exhibit doesn’t get forgotten, follow up with attendees early. You will be less likely to get lost in the sea of your competition.

Do your research

You should know basic information about who you’re calling after the trade show. It’s expected. You can learn about someone’s company and role within the company by performing some basic research online. Check out their website and visit their LinkedIn – you’d be surprised what you could learn!

Continue to serve content to your trade show contacts

Disseminating tailored content to contacts acquired at a trade show serves several purposes. Gauging prospects’ appetites for further interaction with your brand is one of them. Content can help guide people through your company’s marketing funnel until, hopefully, they can be successfully identified as what you’ve hoped for: a sales qualified lead.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the strategies behind attracting, acquiring, and nurturing trade show leads. But all success starts with one organized plan. Check out Embarq Creative’s recipe for developing an effective trade show strategy for some inspiration.