How to Capitalize on Trade Show Leads

By kathryn a. clark

Trade shows represent a big investment both in money and time. Yet many managers walk away from a trade show thinking it’s over before the really important work – following up on leads – has even begun. In fact, according to the Trade Show Bureau, over 80 percent of exhibitors never follow up after a show closes. If managers fail to use trade show leads after the show has closed, they’re missing the whole point of going in the first place.

With the proper follow-up plan, trade shows can generate enough appointments to keep a sales team busy with qualified prospects for months.

Here’s a strategy for following up on every lead so that none escapes your net.

Pre-Show Planning

Planning your lead follow-up strategy before the show helps you maximize profits. Remember, your prospects are also visiting the competition, so you want to be the first to contact prospects after the show.

Before you leave for the show, prepare a simple follow-up sales letter that thanks the attendee for visiting the show and stopping by your exhibit.

This letter should confirm the benefits of your product(s) that you explained at the show. Close by promising a more personal contact in the near future or send a postage-paid reply card for your prospect to use.

Preparing the letter before the show gives you an edge on all the things that happened while you were away and will greet you when you return to your office.

You can send your letter right out, then attend to other business.


At the end of every trade show day check each new sales lead. Separate the leads according to priority.

Copy and give the information to the pertinent staff attending the show and facsimile or overnight mail the leads to those responsible for follow-up.

They will send out the prepared follow-up letter. This letter lets prospects know you value their interest in your products and you gain a little more time to call to arrange a definite appointment.

After The Show

Continue the follow-up process. Have your salespeople make calls on prospects who have received your letter. If salespeople can’t get in to see these prospects, send product literature or samples. One reason your company exhibited at the show was to reach people who are not ordinarily contacted by or accessible to a salesperson.

Many of your prospects are in a position to buy. It may only take one sales call to convert a trade show lead into an order, as compared with the 5.1 sales calls needed to close the average industrial sale.

Lead Requests

Fill literature and sample requests within two weeks. A University of Massachusetts Center for Marketing Communications survey found that over 40 percent of prospective buyers received the requested material only after they had made a buying decision. Almost 20 percent never received a thing.

Included with the fulfillment package you may want to offer a discount on certain products as a thank you for stopping at your exhibit. Another successful option is a direct mailing several weeks after the show, offering a significant discount on your merchandise. It will help keep your company’s name and your products fresh in the prospect’s mind.

Monitor Progress

Typically, hot prospects buy within 30 days after a show. As a result, your top leads must be contacted immediately. Have your salespeople maintain a daily telephone log and monitor their activity.

Ask your sales team to submit “Lead follow-up reports” every week for a month. Each report should record the action taken, the prospect’s buying needs, sales and comments.

Monitor the follow-up process for at least another month. Pursue every potential sale. In measuring your return on investment from a trade show, remember two-thirds of all sales aren’t achieved until 11 to 24 months after a show.

Make sure you keep in contact with those prospects. The more sales you derive from the leads, the more successfully you will have concluded the selling process. Used with other marketing activities, trade shows provide a unique opportunity to accelerate the buying process.

By Kathryn A. Clark