Salespeople and executives from the woodworking industry, from manufacturing companies to distributors such as Stiles Machinery, attend countless home shows, building conferences and trade expositions each year.
But too often, they lack the focus, time management and preparation needed to develop new customers during the finite, but primetime hours of an industry event, according to Custom Woodworking Business magazine.
Rick Hill, a consultant who specializes in advising clients in the woodworking field, told the magazine that making the best use of time at industry shows to cultivate new business should occur in three stages – preparation before the show, focusing on new contacts during the event and follow-up on qualified leads after the show.
When leads don’t materialize into new business, it usually comes down to two factors. “The problem comes from not setting ground rules prior to the show and not using good Lead Relationship Management (LRM) after the show,” Hill stated.
Before the event, companies should outline their expectations for qualifying potential customers. Hill suggests coming up with a list of “qualifying questions” that can be asked of those who stop by the company booth. Having those questions ready ahead of time helps the sales force determine quickly the potential that particular attendees have in becoming customers later.
“The goal is to qualify each attendee quickly, get their information into your LRM and move on to the next attendee,” Hill advises.
Once the company representatives return to their home ground, the LRM is put into action. Hill recommends putting all the information on qualified leads into an Excel spreadsheet or similar software system, based on those who “passed” the list of qualifying questions at the show.
Next, company executives should assign salespeople to the leads. At Stiles, customers from both large and small wood product companies could be among the leads if they are in the market for high-end machinery such as CNC routers, sliding table saws or profile sanders from top brands that include Altendorf, Ironwood, Weeke, Heian and Homag.
However, assigning leads to salespeople immediately after the show isn’t enough. Follow-up on each assigned lead is crucial to track the success of sales efforts, Hill told WoodworkingNetwork.
“The money spent on shows is for building new business,” he states. “The real goal is not to track the closure rate of your salespeople, but to track the success and dollar return on your investment in the show.”