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Read It and Reap...Software Doesn't Follow-Up Tradeshow Leads. People Do.

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At least people should follow-up tradeshow leads. But they can’t. So they don’t. And it’s having a devastating effect on tradeshow marketing programs where increasing sales is the objective. 

The Center for Exhibition Industry identified that the #1 Objective of trade show exhibitors today is lead generation, and the #1 Problem exhibitors have is lead follow-up. That’s quite a paradox.

 At the beginning of all the tradeshow exhibitor education seminars and webinars I conduct today for tradeshow organizers and their exhibitors across the country, I continually validate the CEIR research findings by asking the same questions of exhibitors. “What’s your biggest objective?” Leads is the answer!  And what’s your biggest problem? Follow-up!  

In fact, I know everyone reading this article has heard, read, or lived the statistics that continually scream the fact that less than 20% of sales leads ever get followed-up after a tradeshow. However, everyone must be thinking that it’s someone else’s problem and not theirs, when in fact; it’s the 600lb Gorilla in the room that everyone chooses to ignore.  

Why anyone (or everyone) isn’t doing something about the lack of lead follow-up in their companies today is beyond me. Unless, it’s for the reason, below, that I hate to admit is true, but becoming more obvious from someone that has made hundreds of sales calls on BtoB marketers in small, medium and large companies over the past 3 decades.  

Could it be that the problem of poor lead follow-up simply permits marketing to hit the ball over-the-net and then sales lobs the ball back and blames marketing for poor quality leads.  

Instant gratification that has become a normal expectation today makes one ask for the answer, or a quick-fix to the lead follow-up problem that I’ll first allude to with the word CHANGE. Then I’ll be more specific in where the answer lies with reference to the following statement made recently in an eye-opening luncheon presentation by the American Marketing Association (AMA.)  

Overworked marketing might not like it, but they better start warming up to the reality of the following expectation, because it’s as real as a heart attack.

 “The sales and marketing disconnect has reached a day of reckoning. Executive management is demanding that sales forces become more effective and that marketing departments help them get there. No more blame game… No more finger pointing. We are all on the same team, with the same objective: Sell more stuff profitably.”

 If you’re in marketing today and you missed the part in the above about “marketing departments help them get there,” I’d suggest you re-read the above statement because like it or not, I’m hearing it from every upper management person I talk to in companies today. They expect their marketing department to make it easier for their sales force to follow-up leads, by determining which ones are worthy of the sales force’s time. And marketers that don’t are on a slippery slope.

What marketing doesn’t seem to understand is that people buy from people, and that true lead follow-up initially begins with personal contact. The act of people talking to people establishes a relationship. And finding the people that want to talk to your salespeople is not only critical today, it IS the very answer to the pervasive problem of poor lead follow-up.

 What marketing may also fail to understand, is that while the communication technology in place today to make it easier for people to talk to each other (once a relationship has been established), actually makes it harder for sales people to make the initial contact necessary to establish the relationship.

 By that I mean today’s technology of automated switchboards, voice-mail, new fax laws and junk e-mail actually discourage sales people from trying to contact people (or leads) they don’t know, and with whom they don’t already have an established relationship. So they are being forced to spend their time trying to squeeze more business out of their existing customers with whom they have a relationship, and ignore the new business opportunities that exist in 80% (from the aforementioned follow-up statistic) of the leads that aren’t being followed up. 

Marketing needs to stop blaming sales for the problem and start empathizing with these additional barriers to success and the sales force’s ability to follow-up raw leads today.

 The following 3 statistics are derived from Reed Business Information Systems.

  • The cost of a personal sales call is $329.00

  • The number of personal sales calls necessary to close an order is 5.2

  • The number of sales people the average buyer sees in a week is 1.8

Do the math here. 100 raw leads (or names from GIGO ((Garbage In Garbage Out)) CRM or Contact Management software output) actually requires…

  • $32,900 of personal follow-up cost.

  • More than 500 personal sales calls.

  • Years to get in front of the buyers

 While the title of this article says it all “Software Doesn’t Follow-Up Leads People Do,” it’s both humorous and sad that I see people marketing people hiding from the real solution to the problem of poor lead follow-up, or trying to disguise it with incredibly expensive CRM and Contact Management software solutions that are doing nothing but getting raw sales leads to their sales people faster… so they can do nothing with them sooner. All while orders are being lost.

 If you laughed at that anecdotal comment, it’s no laughing matter that the “C” suite in companies today is beginning to ask why expensive marketing leads aren’t leading anywhere. And without marketing even knowing it, their financial management is gauging the cost-of-what’s-lost in all the non-recoverable expense of advertising and tradeshow lead generation media.  

Pro marketers need to take another look at that 600# Gorilla in their room and at least begin to admit it’s there. And that planning to take the family to an Orlando trade show to see Mickey Mouse, or sneaking off to Vegas to gamble, is no longer considered acceptable tradeshow venue selection criteria.  

I may have angered every marketing person reading this, but it’s time to forget the roller coasters and the roulette tables, because upper management is beginning to “get it.” 

In my previous life I personally walked in the shoes of a marketing and sales manager. And I’ll admit (now) that not only did my family see both Mickey and Minnie, what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas. Today, however, proof of marketing expense ROI has agenda priority. 

Times have changed again. Generating leads in marketing and throwing them over the fence to sales no longer works. So CHANGE the process.  

Earl Nightingale’s comment that” It’s a human nature tendency to think that whatever people are doing in large numbers must be right, because so many are doing it” is no longer something that marketers can hide behind just because everyone is “doing it.” 

Marketing needs to get over the important fact that everyone that responds to creative messages is not a prospect. So their names shouldn’t be given to their sales people to sort out. Those that admit or realize that, and assume the task of eliminating those that are not worthy of sales contact before they are turned over to sales, are going to win BIG, long before the blame game that they are obviously losing involves them.  


©  2016 by Richard Erschik