Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge
and the dissemination of truth."

John F. Kennedy

 
Meet our Thoughtleaders:
An Interview with
Richard Erschik
by Gordon Nary


Return to Richard's Webpage
 

Gordon:   Thanks for sending me the update on your website facelift.
     
Richard:
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  Youíre welcome. I just thought it was time to simplify the message about the education formats I make available to tradeshow organizers and individual exhibitors, because Iím seeing more and more exhibitors seriously looking for solutions. And thatís encouraging.
     
Gordon:   What kind of solutions?
     
Richard:
 
  Well, primarily to the problems of poor lead follow-up after a tradeshow, and a way to measure and prove the cost effectiveness of tradeshows. You know, ROI. And in todayís competitive market they are probably also trying to protect their job.
     
Gordon:  

Do you think there really is a solution to many exhibitorsí poor lead follow-up and ROI challenges?

     
Richard:
 
  Sure there is. And itís right under their nose. But most of them donít see it, because they donít have the necessary time to look closely and no one is teaching them. So they just keep doing the same thing, the same way, hoping for different results. And we all know what that describes.
     
Gordon:   Is this a new challenge?
     
Richard:


 
  Not at all. Itís been on-going. I know Iím dating myself, but I remember it from as far back as Penton Publishing and Jim Athertonís research and book on inquiry management in the late Ď70s. Cahners Publishing Company also discovered and quoted it in their CARR (Cahners Advertising Research) reports through the Ď80s and Ď90s. And, as recently as a year or so ago, CEIR research validated the incredible statistic that less than 20% of leads get followed-up after a tradeshow.
     
Gordon:   Why do you think after all these years the problem of poor lead follow up hasnít been solved or improved?
     
Richard:

 
 

Wow. How much time do we have? The answer is quite simply; people. Especially sales people who are most often blamed for the poor lead follow-up problem when in fact they are the victim. I have identified during more than 2 decades in the sales lead response management service business that 100% lead follow up is virtually impossible for salespeople. So they are forced to take the path of least resistance and call on their (existing) customers and virtually ignore the (new business) prospects that the tradeshow generated.

     
Gordon:   That sounds like a paradox. Exhibitors go to the show to get leads. Why do you say itís impossible for sales people to follow them up?
     
Richard:






 
  If you think about it, the electronic technology thatís in place today (phone, fax, email) that makes it easier for us to communicate with each other after a relationship has been established, actually makes it harder for sellers to make the initial contact with people (leads) necessary to establish a relationship. To put it another way, salespeople canít reach anyone after a show today by phone, fax or email, because of personal voicemail, new fax laws, and the fear of viruses in e-mail. So itís delete, delete, delete of unfamiliar emails. And letís face it, most leads today arenít worthy of salespeopleís immediate attention. Every salesperson that reads this will agree with me, as did 27 of 3Mís global sales managers when they invited me in to conduct a workshop at their sales meeting, and I presented statistics relating to the barriers of  their lead follow-up success. They actually gave me a standing O.
     
Gordon:   Some of our readers who may not have heard of or worked with you may question how you can be so sure you are right.
     
Richard:

















 
 

Well, first off, I lived it and know the lead follow-up problem and solution from more than a decade of my own personal experience as an exhibitor. Second, I am someone that:

Up to 1985, was an exhibit manager inside the company I was working for when I developed a practical process solution to the lead follow-up problem. 

In 1986, I founded what turned out to be a very successful national sales lead management service organization around the solution I developed. American Airlines actually named my company ďone of the most innovative companies in the country.Ē 

From 1986-2009, my company processed more than 1,000,000 sales leads for 143 customers across the country. My companyÖ

  • made more than 1,600,000 outbound telephone calls for its customers, 

  • transmitted more than 127,000 faxes and emails for its customers,  s

  • hipped more than 370 tons of fulfillment literature for its customers.

And my two-person company generated more than $10 million in sales before I sold it to one of its customers in 2009 and they internalized the process for a competitive selling advantage in their industry.

Based on all that experience, some people refer to me as an ďexpertĒ in the area of sales lead generation, response and follow-up.
     
Gordon:   If all exhibit managers experience what you have, why donít they do what you did?
     
Richard:








 
 

We could spend hours on this subject if you want to, but as I see it, there are no long-term exhibit managers in companies anymore. The professional exhibit manager title has been replaced with busy work. And those that have tradeshow responsibility today havenít been doing things wrong long enough to learn what doesnít work. So they just do the same thing the same way hoping for different results. Then they move on. And along the way, when they hear the statistic about poor lead follow-up, they think and respond one of three things:

1.    SO WHAT. Thatís not my problem. Thatís the sales forceís problem.

2.    NOT HERE. Our follow-up rate is much better. At least they think and hope it is.

      3.    NO WAY.  Our follow-up rate is even worse. But no one really seems to care.
     
Gordon:   We have primarily been discussing the problem side of the equation. Whatís the solution?
     
Richard:





 
  As I have been told by some of those who have attended my seminars and webinars, my solution looks too ďsimpleĒ to be effective. To which I say: It may look simple but itís not ďeasy.Ē People seem to want to build complex scenarios to address simple problems when they really donít have to. The solution to the lead follow-up problem today lies in the way leads are being handled and mismanaged in companies after a show. Dumping them into an expensive CRM system or throwing them over-the-fence to the sales department faster, so nothing can be done with them sooner, is no longer effective, because upper management is watching today. If most leads arenít worthy of salespeopleísí immediate time or attention, those that are need to be separated and removed, and only the ones that are worthy of immediate attention should be given to sales, first, for quick follow up.
     
Gordon:   How can exhibitors do that?
     
    Now we are getting into the secret-sauce of my teaching. If you want to try to make KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), they donít just give you the recipe do they? But I can tell you that the separation or qualification of the leads can and should be done in the marketing department after the show, not in the sales department. And since itís so difficult to reach people by phone, fax or email, to separate or qualify the good leads, there is a very effective way to reach and qualify prospects with another form of marketing communication that has resurfaced as positively effective when developed and applied properly to the application of initial sales lead response. Itís this development and application that I get paid for to teach exhibitors.
     
Gordon:   What are your thoughts about exhibitor education today?
     
Richard:



 
 

Others in the exhibitor education space, today, focus on ďPre showĒ and ďDuring showĒ subjects and offer only ideas and suggestions for ďPost showĒ lead follow up. I also cover Pre show and During show topics in my education sessions, but no one else is really teaching exhibitors the industry proven, do-it-yourself, post-show lead response and follow-up solution like I do, including 30-days of free telephone support to assure their success. And most certainly, no one else is coming at it from decades of exhibitor experience and the successful service business development and management background that I have.

     
Gordon:


 
 

I know that you have worked with many tradeshow organizers and have presented more than 350 international exhibitor seminars, webinars, and workshops including Canada, Mexico, Belgium, and South Africa.

In our conversations, you told me that as a result of the success of the business that you founded, managed and sold after 23 years, you have moved from Chicago and now live in South Florida.
     
Richard:
 
 

Yes itís certainly warmer here. And itís just as easy to get anywhere from MIA, as it was from ORD. While webinars virtually eliminate the travel requirement.  

     
Gordon;   You are an important Thoughtleader and we appreciate learning from your experience and insights in the tradeshow and exhibit industry.