“You’re travelling abroad for business. You discuss. You shake hands. Then you return home and get busy. You must follow-up.” Mr. Sukesh Kumar, Partner and National Leader of India Practice in Canada at KPMG LLP
International business travel is a great way to investigate new markets and opportunities, but if you don’t follow-up with your contacts when you return home you will let all your time, energy and money go to waste. No matter what tradeshow you attended or Minister’s speech you sat through.
Hopefully, before you went on your trip, you identified clear, measurable goals to gauge your success.
It’s likely that one of those goals was to meet X potential new clients. And while it’s great that you collected all those business cards to achieve that goal, unless you pursue and develop the relationship, the purchase orders are unlikely to roll in on their own.
You’ll Never Seal The Deal If You Don’t Follow-Up
Post event reporting and follow-up are a crucial a part of your business development success.
A 2010 study found that while 98 per cent of exhibitors collect sales leads at trade shows, less than 70 per cent have any formalized plan in place to make sure those leads are followed. Even those exhibitors who do follow-up their leads, only 47 per cent track the leads to ensure they convert. With so few following up these leads, it provides a huge opportunity for you to capture the minds of those that you contacted with limited competition. But that’s not the only reason to follow-up:
- Get What You Paid For. The cost of a sales trip isn’t just measured in airline tickets, hotel bills and meals. It’s also the time you spend away from your business.
- Build Your Network. Even if the business cards you collected don’t immediately become customers, it is good to establish your company’s presence in industry circles and stay relevant. You never know when and where an opportunity will arise.
- Professionalism. Your closing remark was most likely to tell the contact that you’ll send an email with more information about your new Product. So make sure you do. Respect is important no matter what country you are working with, so it’s important to keep your word.
3 Ways to Follow-Up Your Leads
In an era when automated lead nurturing has become the norm, simply blasting all your leads with the same tired email message, instantly upon your return may not receive the best results. So what makes a perfect follow-up?
- Write Notes. Most business cards have at least some blank space on the back. Use it. Simply write the date and event you met the contact, and any promises you made for follow-up, or stand-out remarks in your conversation. If you’re hosting a tradeshow booth go a step further and use a notebook to include more specific info about your discussion, their needs and the next step.
- Make Your Call to Action Specific. When contacting the lead, use the information you have gained on them, especially in the subject line, to gain their attention. Make your closing specific and a tangible way for the lead to work with your company. Follow-up emails are the exception to most marketing rules of only having one call to action. If there are multiple ways your businesses can be involved, let the lead know. But don’t go too crazy.
- Keep the Memory Alive. Connect with your leads on LinkedIn and follow their company. Use the LinkedIn “how you met” function to remember where you met and who introduced you. This will help your lead remember who you are and your background and offer an opportunity for continued engagement.
When to Follow-Up
In all follow-up activities, timing is critical. Don’t let a hot prospect become a cold lead because too much time has passed before you’ve made contact. Leads from local tradeshows should be contacted one to three days after the event. Leads for international tradeshows may be a little more lenient, but make contact within seven to ten days of your trip.
However, follow-up can be time consuming. So prioritize your leads in terms of opportunity, and work your way through your leads.
Even if you lose a card and have to play detective, or you find a card that was stuck in a rarely used pocket with no notes. Send a note and connect. You never know where it may lead.
Remember, no matter how many Twitter followers or how much of an all-star LinkedIn your profile warrants – it all fades away if you don’t keep your word. So follow-up!