How to Qualify High-Value Leads on the Trade Show Floor

How to Qualify High-Value Leads on the Trade Show Floor

The connections you make at trade shows shouldn’t be treated like another business card in your collection; they are the lifeblood of your sales pipeline. In fact, trade show leads typically are far more qualified than website leads and are invaluable to achieving revenue goals. In this article, we will show you how to take your lead qualification process from ordinary to extraordinary. We will explore how creating an attendee journey and using technology results in highly qualified leads. You will understand how to align your sales and marketing teams with a strategy that drives meaningful conversations and grows your sales pipeline.

Preparation: Communication and Brand Messaging

Before the trade show begins, laying the foundation for a successful lead qualification process is crucial. Your exhibit experience should be an integrated campaign that starts long before the show opens and continues after it ends. By leveraging pre-show and post-show communications, you can increase booth traffic and prepare your team and audience for a more meaningful trade show experience. Here’s how:

Invite Your Attendees: Many attendees are motivated to attend a trade show because they are personally invited. Extend a personal invitation to contacts within your target audience. Inform them of the details of your exhibit and give them a reason to stop by your booth.

Plan 1-on-1 Meetings: When it comes to meetings, quality over quantity is the name of the game. Schedule one-on-one meetings with high-quality attendees. Give them a compelling reason to visit your booth, whether it’s access to exclusive content, a preview of a new product launch, or a chance to win a giveaway.

Craft Key Brand Messages: Your brand story and key messaging are the foundation of your conversations. Develop key messages that communicate the purpose of your exhibit presence, your product and service offerings, and the latest developments in your brand. Let your words captivate your audience and leave a lasting impression.

Training Booth Staff and Sales Team

Now that your foundation is set, it’s time to train your booth staff and sales team for lead qualification success. With the right training, they will seamlessly guide attendees before, during, and after the trade show. Focus on the following during training:

Understand Objectives and Brand Story: Your sales team and booth staff should have a thorough understanding of your trade show objectives and how to communicate your key brand messages with confidence. They should know your products and services and be able to guide attendees through the booth experience.

Pinpoint Attendee Needs: Encourage your staff to pinpoint attendees’ pain points and challenges by asking open-ended questions. This is the key to gaining insight and understanding where your products and services can truly make a difference. The more you know, the better you can qualify.

Develop Qualifying Questions: Prepare your booth staff with questions to qualify their conversations. These will serve as their compass, guiding their conversations and ensuring that important insights are not lost. By capturing detailed information in a lead retrieval system, your sales team will have everything they need to continue the conversation post show.

Measure Conversations: Time is precious and so are your leads. Keep track of how long attendees are in your exhibit, as your most qualified leads will stay longer. Dwell time is a valuable qualifying factor that indicates the most promising leads. Also take note if attendees return to your booth.

In-Booth Attendee Journey: Qualification in Action

Once you’ve successfully drawn traffic to your booth, effectively engaging with your attendees is the next step. The in-booth attendee journey is where the magic happens. It involves understanding their needs and interests and tailoring their experience in your exhibit. Asking the right questions and understanding your attendees’ challenges and pain points means your sales team can focus on the most promising leads, increasing the likelihood of converting them into clients. A well-executed lead qualification strategy streamlines your post-event follow-up and enhances the overall return on investment from your trade show participation.

Open-Ended Conversations: Start conversations with powerful, open-ended questions that ignite interest: “What brought you to the show today?”, “What are you most interested in?” or “What are you currently in the market for?” Encourage attendees to share their needs and challenges to align your product and service offerings to them.

Interactive Experiences and Brand Storytelling: Create an exhibit experience that feels tailor-made for each attendee. Whether they are new to your brand, a client of a competitor, or your existing client, understand their perspective and guide them to the most relevant parts of your exhibit.

Digital Tools for Qualification: Technology is your ally for lead qualification. Leverage digital tools to gather information about your attendees’ preferences, pain points, and requirements. But remember, digital tools are only as effective as the hands that wield them. Ensure your team is taking good notes in a timely fashion.

Continue the Conversation: Integrating Sales and Marketing

The trade show may be over, but the conversation shouldn’t end there. Develop a sales and marketing post-show strategy to ensure no leads go to waste after the trade show. It’s vital that the conversations within your exhibit are continued, extending the attendee journey. Customize your follow-up with attendees based on the conversations and data collected at your trade show. High-quality leads need to be continually nurtured. The more details provided to your sales team, the more successful they will be in nurturing leads and turning them into sales opportunities.

Email Follow-Ups: Develop a series of programmed email follow-ups with specific call-to-action items. Map these communications in your sales and marketing strategy. By staying top-of-mind with your leads, you increase the chances of conversion.

Extended Engagement: Don’t settle for a single touch. Treat your post-show follow-up as an extension of the trade show. Implement a multi-touch approach, as it often takes 8-9 touches to reach someone effectively. Be persistent, but always provide value.

Sales Team Alignment: Ensure that your sales team is aware of the exhibit experience and the conversations that took place. This alignment will help them continue the dialogue seamlessly, preventing the need to start over. No need to start from scratch when you’ve already established a foundation at the trade show.

Qualifying leads on the trade show floor is a strategic process that requires careful planning, effective engagement, and seamless post-show follow-up. By following these steps and integrating digital tools with the human touch, you can turn trade show leads into valuable assets for your sales pipeline and revenue goals. Trade shows are not just about the few days spent on the show floor; they are an integral part of your broader marketing and sales strategy.


  • Brian Lanning

    Brian Lanning is senior managing director of key accounts at Skyline Exhibits. Skyline Exhibits partners with marketers to create brand-elevating trade show experiences through modular structures, digital activations, high-impact graphics, custom fabrication and comprehensive services.

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