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Better Ways to Qualify Leads at the Trade Show

Qualifying LeadsYou’re on the trade show floor, ready to make the most of the time and effort it took to get there. People drift in and out of your booth throughout the day and you’ve got to quickly judge who’s hot and who’s not.

B2B Magazine Blog Post of the WeekThe trick is to start a conversation that will help you determine if a visitor is a qualified sales lead. The best way to do that is by asking questions.

Typical closed-ended questions such as “May I help you?” get you useless answers like “No thank. Just looking.”

So start off with an open-ended question like “Out of all the places you could be today, why did you choose to come to this show?” or “With all the exhibits you could visit this afternoon, what brought you to ours?”

Then keep the conversation going by turning your typically closed-ended questions about budget, authority, need and timing into open-ended questions. For example, ask “How does this kind of purchase get funded at your company?” and “Who all is involved in the decision process, and what are their roles?” and “What problems are you trying to solve?” and “When do you think you’ll be making the decision to go ahead?”

And one last tip…

If you have determined that a visitor to your trade show exhibit isn’t qualified, but he continues to monopolize your time, end the conversation quickly but politely. How? By handing him a brochure while saying something like, “Here’s some additional information about our product that you can review back at the office.” Next say “Thanks for stopping by.” and shake his hand. Then turn and walk away.


I know I am consistently frustrated at trade shows with how to bring back the best, hopefully sales ready, leads. But, I think you might be overlooking something Mac. Even if the person you are talking to doesn’t have budget authority, they might influence the person who does. At the very least, if you are at a targeted trade show, then you will want to get their contact info so that you have their basic company info and can then discover the right person. Not every person you talk to will be in a buying cycle or have budget authority, but if you can gather a list of targeted companies, you can discover the right contacts and increase the ROI of the trade show.

Full disclosure: I am the Director of Marketing at ReachForce and I am especially interested in this topic right now because we have plans to announce a new data service for events next week. Having been plagued by poor ROI from trade shows my whole career, I am hoping this launch will really help marketers to justify the thousands even millions that they spend annually on trade shows by bringing back better leads.


Anne, when I talked about a visitor not being a qualified sales lead, I should have been clearer. “Disqualified” might have been a better word. I was talking about the person who clearly doesn’t represent a sales opportunity.

Yes, I know that some people may not have a direct role in the decision process, but might represent a foot in the door for a sales opportunity. But others are clearly never going to be in a position to buy your company’s products or services, yet can monopolize your time at a show while other viable prospects drift in and out of your booth.

That’s who I was referring to when I offered the technique for politely disengaging.


Events can be useful. Unfortunately often at some events there are more competitors than customer prospects. Finding the right event therefore is the key to success.


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