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Why Do Salespeople Only Follow Up On 20% Of Trade Show Leads?

It seems kind of crazy from a marketing person's perspective that 80% of the leads collected on the trade show floor are not contacted by the sales team after the show. For years, this statistic was reported by the exhibit industry.


My personal experiences in researching the contact management systems of most companies I’ve worked with proved that about half of the leads are contacted. Still, the number is frustrating to a marketer as well as the executive staff, so I started getting serious about finding out, “Why?” I found out two major points.


1. The definition of followup from a salesperson’s perspective and a marketing person’s perspective is different.

2. The statistic in the industry wasn’t backed up by hard facts.


I’ll address the definition point first. In talking with salespeople, most of them called all of their leads but considered the act of leaving a voicemail or email completed the followup. As a professional salesperson, they feel that multiple calls and emails would be considered ‘bugging’ their potential customer. If there was a quote involved, they were more aggressive with the followup, but most leads from a show are contact names that request literature and do not specify a project. In that case, they feel a call/email is appropriate to give the requested information and provide their own contact numbers. Many marketing people define a followup as a belly-to-belly or live telephone conversation with a ‘next step’ reported. You may think there is a disconnect with the sales and marketing organizations, but it is more in the preparations of properly defining and communicating the expectations and providing an easy and useful way of reporting the results.


Now let’s address the myth of 80% of trade show leads are not followed up. In 2010, Exhibitor magazine was so frustrated with not having the proof of this statistic that they conducted a survey themselves. They found that less than 47% of companies that exhibit actually track their trade show leads, and only 28% have some way of evaluating ROI from the leads collected. Only 5% had a computerized system of capturing and then providing follow-through on the life of the lead.


Sales and marketing need to be aligned in their objectives and expectations before the show. The two people responsible for these roles need to collaborate and then set and communicate the goals. This includes not only establishing the target number of leads but also the expectations for taking action such as the timeframe, type of information to report, and appropriate way to communicate results.

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