No doubt about it: A computerized lead database beats piles of scrap paper. And many exhibitors now import their lead information directly into a sales-contact database at the show with a computerized lead-retrieval system.
Every major lead retrieval company has a software rental option; software companies like American Exposition Technologies and NewLeads offer customizable software compatible with any card-reader system. This software can be purchased outright by exhibitors and reused at all shows.
After installing the software on a laptop or computer station, you link an external card reader or scanner to the computer. These scanners also are provided by the show's lead retrieval contractor. At most shows, attendee badges are imprinted with a magnetic stripe or bar code containing the visitor's relevant contact information. Once you swipe or scan the name badge, these vitals pop up on your computer screen. You can then correct the errors and add missing information, and most important, you can take notes.
Their convenience makes it tempting to simply swipe a computer-coded badge and then move on. But remember, the coded information on that badge initially was input by a human being. When thousands of visitors need coded badges, mistakes are going to happen. To provide your sales force with the most accurate leads possible, confirm the following information before sending your prospect merrily down the aisle.
Verify that the attendee's name is spelled correctly, and that his job title and mailing address are up-to-date. Occasionally, a prospect will list a P.O. box in place of a street address. In this case, ask if he prefers to receive mail at the P.O. box or if the street address would be more efficient.
Make sure that the phone and fax numbers are accurate. Ask for the numbers if they are missing. With incorrect or missing phone information, how will the sales force follow up with the prospect? You might also ask if your visitor has a direct extension where she prefers to receive calls.
Ask for the best time to call. Don't shy away from this; it will save your reps much time and increase their sales and efficiency. Simply ask, "If someone were to follow up with you, what is the most convenient time for them to call?" Subtly press the issue if needed. For example, you might ask, "Are mornings best?"
Ask for an e-mail address. Most people proudly will give it to you. This makes it easy for a laptop-equipped sales force to zip instant information and updates to prospects.
Include specifics about their product interest in your on-screen form. Take detailed notes whenever possible. The more you include in your lead, the better chance your rep will have in gaining a customer.