Converting Show Leads Into Sales

Feb 17, 2011

As we move into the season of consumer-related events and shows, you’ll meet a variety of potential new and repeat customers. Some may be at an event purely for the entertainment value, while others will be looking for that next great find.

You’ve likely read and hopefully archived articles in this space in the past regarding reading the customer. An additional sales opportunity is to boost your company profile and garner valued customers through your participation in car shows and related consumer events.

Let’s explore the various aspects of connecting the dots to a more profitable show season. As we expand our challenge to overcoming the economy, you’ll need as many valuable tools as you can selectively fit into your business toolbox.

Quite an Event

When your shop or business exhibits at a consumer car show or related event, start your preshow planning with a candid look at the likely show demographic (who will be there), consider your booth’s appeal and possible enhancements, brand your business with brochures or apparel, and make sure your booth staff understands what must be accomplished in order to yield a positive ROI.

Customer events are a great way of boosting your profile, but they’re complicated and expensive projects. To make sure that you get a strong return on your investment, you’ll need to put in the hours before and after the event itself.

Your goal is to secure a healthy number of attendees who gladly have experienced an open discussion about your products and/or services. Your number one mission is to strengthen your relationship in the process of developing them to the level of customer.

People have asked me in terms of cost if it makes more sense to have in-house staff manage the event, or outsource the task. It all depends on the size and complexity of an event.

Outsourcing the work to an events management company may help keep other costs in line, such as travel and related expenses. A variety of smaller businesses are now tapping into professional show display companies that will tote your goods, including your product display and collateral materials, to a number of shows throughout the country for a fraction of the cost of a company expending the necessary dollars to do so.

This frees your company personnel to do other constructive operational tasks such as visit potential vendors, conduct company surveys, and meet and greet customers throughout the show.

A number of shows such as Goodguys, NSRA, NMRA and other events convert show attendees into buyers via their marketing efforts. Ah, a ready-made audience. Thus, it is critical you make the most of your two or three days by seeing as many people as you possibly can and thus generating an ongoing qualified leads list.

If your company has the budget to exhibit at multiple events, you can appoint a key point person for each show and have him or her make the arrangements and develop the entire show profile.

Likely you’re personally involved and may have anywhere from seat-of-the-pants show management skills to being a seasoned veteran with decades of experience. What you don’t want to be is the person who arrives at the show and then wonders what’s the next step in the equation to success!

Making It Happen

As with any marketing activity, it’s essential that you’re able to measure how effective an event has been, and this is, of course, tied in to what you’re hoping to achieve.

For example, you may want to establish a new business relationship, showcase new products, discuss a new industry initiative, and so on. The metrics you use to gauge success will vary depending on your goals, but some common ones include:

  • Number of visitors to the event
  • Number of inquiries at the event
  • Number of new contacts resulting from the event
  • Number of new sales leads resulting from the event
  • Changes in awareness of our company following the event

The prelude to the event is comprised of maximizing your chances for success in the areas you want to achieve. A productive show is dependent upon details such as letting people know you’ll be in attendance via brochures and mass communication via email blasts to car clubs and other potential attendees throughout the region.

Take every opportunity to advertise your company’s attendance as a reason for the attendee to seek you out onsite to possibly answer their questions, meet your key business personnel, and perhaps get an autograph from a notable personality.

You can develop a press release for the local paper or simply promote via many external-linking opportunities via the Internet.

Suppliers can advertise their attendance in advance in trade publications, thus building excitement for the event.

Create a dedicated website button

Posting useful information is a direct conduit to future and sustained sales. We live in an information-hungry society and the Web is a tremendous tool in your favor.

Within recent years our industry has gone from companies mainly having a website to actively using their website. You’ve expended capital to develop this information tool-”I recommend you use it.

As an essential medium of information delivery, it also saves time and money and there’s no need to stuff endless envelopes with forms and flyers when all the details can go on your website.

Many show promoters are willing to work with your company logo as an enhancement to drive show traffic and thus will list you on their website as well. You might also choose to have a site button that indicates your season show schedule-”highlighting each event, offering a snippet of info on the show, and extending a personal request to drop by for your show product drawing.

Consider the word ‘qualify’

Before you take on the challenge of incorporating names into leads, and leads into firm and suitable prospects, consider the word qualify. Your show lead-generation program may provide you a large numbers of leads, but not all of them will convert into sales.

Some may be poor prospects, while others may simply be gathering information rather than planning to do business with you. Good prospects have the following characteristics:

  • The financial resources to purchase your product
  • The authority to make a purchase decision
  • A genuine need for your product or service
  • The desire to learn more about your product
  • Plans to make a purchase in the near future

Car shows are a lead generation arena. And the leads you develop can be starting points for current and future development if worked properly. But also consider the variety of means at your disposal in reaching out to each well-qualified lead. How will you consistently reach out?

Consider that handheld communicator, the telephone, as an amazing tool. In a world of multi-communication choices, the communication tool most utilized within the automotive aftermarket industry remains the telephone.

Of course you can Tweet, FB, email, snail mail, or simply hang your banner at the swap meet. But people still talk as the primary outreach mechanism. Thus telemarketing can be used as a tremendous lead qualifier.

Call the contact and ask for more details of their inquiry and indicate you’d like to provide them additional information tailored to their needs. Just sending a brochure, with no accompanying letter and no understanding of the prospective customer’s needs, is a waste of effort and capital.

Qualifying questions can include:

  • Are you the person who makes the purchasing decision? If not, can you direct me to that person? Or, what specific application are you working with or project car you’re working on?
  • Is your company currently increasing its inventory or expanding this line? Or, are you thinking of finishing your project soon?
  • What quantities do you currently buy? Or, have you considered a new steering column to mate with your new steering box?
  • When are you likely to make your next purchase?
  • What information do you need on our product and company to make a decision?

Plan the Conversion Process

Lead conversion can be a long-term, continuous process, the duration of which depends on the complexity of the product and of the decision-making process.

For example, how many people are involved or how important is the product to the customer or the customer’s business?

For a complex product, the process could be:

  • Identifying key decision-makers
  • Sending information to key decision-makers
  • Arranging meetings with decision-makers
  • Providing sample products for evaluation by the customer
  • Bidding for a contract against competition
  • Final negotiations
  • Purchase
  • After-sales service and support

You must decide how you will handle each stage of the process, who will be involved in the sales team, and how you will manage communications with the prospect.

Another example could be where the product and the purchasing process are simpler, but the prospect is reluctant to change suppliers. This may be the issue within the jobber/WD relationship.

Frequently bonds are developed and relationships are difficult to disturb. Thus the conversion process could take a long time, so programming your step-by-step process and promoting the benefits of your product will require action steps starting with continued communication.

The same is indicated in vastly advertised products versus products of equal value and merit but not known well within the industry.

Common Mistakes

The initial question one asks is, “How do I know a right from a wrong prospect?”

Many a conversation can lead to, “Why did I invest time, effort, and capital in developing what I know was a long-shot at best?”

Sales teams have a natural tendency to deal with friendly prospects and avoid the difficult ones. From a business perspective, however, they may be dealing with the wrong people. The qualifying process should be used to identify the most important prospects in order to improve the targeting of the sales force.

Thus the car show scenario where Mr. Big approaches you for the deal. The dance proceeds and a substantial amount of time is invested without any time ROI.

This is where you ideally profile the prospect by asking leading questions depending on the product you are displaying. Also the kindling of the relationship is critical and your time is short. This is especially true when there are vast numbers of prospects who likely would be qualified to your lead generation list.

Consider exchanging contact information. If the lead prospect is withholding personal contact information, you’ll know to move on to greeting a more suitable lead. Don’t waste valuable time, but know when and with whom to invest your valuable time.

Another miscue is poor management. Lead conversion can be a long, complicated process, so it is essential to monitor progress and manage the program carefully.

Lead conversion can be likened to using energy. It is an effort, but without proper personal time and communication management you are destined to reduce your income stream due to improper management.

Remember that efficiency is a key to any lead generation conversation. I’m sure you’re in agreement that we’re eager to assist in providing answers and generating leads, but understanding your market and the demographic is essential to realizing success. Allocate personal responsibility and along with simple note-taking you’ll yield a sustainable track of progress. Rethink your steps after each opportunity and reflect on the principles outlined within this article.

Consider it homework as you reap the benefit of a solid ROI.

Your comments and suggestions for future articles to appear in the Professor Files are welcome. Please email me, Dick Dixon, at ddixon@csusb.edu.