This is the third of three episodes with Paula Williams of ABCI and Mark Leeper of Seabright Company, talking about aviation trade shows.

  • The first included three things sales and marketing people should do to prepare for an aviation trade show.
  • The second was about three things to do during the trade show to maximize relationships and future sales.
  • For the third episode, I asked Mark Leeper to give us three things to do AFTER the trade show.

His three things?

  1. Follow up
  2. Follow up.
  3. Follow up!

Transcript – Three Things to do After a Trade Show

Paula:               This is part three in our trade show prep series with ABCI and SeaBright. And Mark we’re really happy you could spend this time with us, because it is getting into the trade show season. And we’ve done one episode about how to prepare for a trade show, one episode about what to do during a trade show, and this is our last and third and final episode on this topic. And it’s what are three things that sales people should do after a trade show? So, I’m anxious to hear what you have in mind.

Mark:               Well, the three things are follow up, follow up, and follow up. So, as you know, the aviation industry is a relationship generated, developed business. It’s you’ve got to be persistent to build relationships with people.

Mark:               So, hopefully, we’ve all done a good job at the show of finding out some key points about your customer. It doesn’t have to always be about exchanging products for dollars either. Learn about people, where they’re from, what their kids do, where they’re staying at in Las Vegas. Get these key things in place. I think the acronym FORM, family occupation recreation and message, if you can go through those, and just discover some nice things about people it’s key for your fault process.

Mark:               So, I’ll stop there and tell a story about a company that I was working with at a trade show many months ago, a fortune 100 company, they sell big, big pieces of equipment for millions and millions of dollars. And so, we have a follow up system in place that is based on a personalized high impact mailing that we can talk about another time. But in essence, if you go back 30 years ago when I started selling things myself, then it’s this: If you’ll just do something to communicate with them that’s high impact, a handwritten note, whatever.

Mark:               So, the story is this is that we were at a booth, and I was there on a consulting basis. A person came up interested in a big huge piece of yellow equipment that moves earth, and the gentleman that was interested in the equipment was talking to the sales person and said, “Hey. I’ve got to run. I’ve got to fly back to Texas. My granddaughter’s in a recital. But I’d like to continue our conversation.” So, the sales rep shook hands, took the information, they part ways. I recommend that this guy send a handwritten note to this one contact from the show, and the handwritten note would contain nothing besides, “Hey. It was great meeting you at the show, and I hope your granddaughter had a great recital.” Don’t put anything about selling anything, don’t say anything about doing business just show him that you listened to him, and send that out. Well, he did that. The guy called him back and says, “You know, I haven’t had a nice card sent to me in 20 years, and I’m going to buy your piece of equipment.” It was a 1.5 million dollar sale based on a card.

Mark:               And I’ve had the same results on three occasions, good sized contracts, based on just communicating on a personalized basis to people. So, that’s on a one specific method, but the overall in terms of follow up. Sometimes I average 10 to 20 contacts with people over a year period of time or two years period of time to get their business, and there’s a lot of charts and graphs that say most people stop following up after three contacts or five contacts. The odds of making a sale diminish rapidly if you just don’t … If you stay in contact with them.

Mark:               So, most people run out of the show. If you’re there to buy something, or see something they’ve got stacks and stacks and stacks of brochures, they jump on airplanes, they go home, they forget who they talked to. We’ve got to really stay in touch with people, and plan that follow up process when you get back.

Paula:               I think the neat thing about that story is that you meet thousands and thousands of people at these events, and you remember so few of them because you don’t make that many actual human connections where it means something beyond the five minutes that you’re spending together. And you can have an entire conversation with somebody about a particular aircraft or business things, and it just doesn’t sink in the way personal things do. So, you taught me that FORM thing, family-

Mark:               Occupation.

Paula:               Occupation. I do remember it. Occupation … Geeze. I’ll let you-

Mark:               Recreation and then message.

Paula:               Yeah. And if you get into something personal with someone, and that’s the piece that I do remember … You get into something personal with somebody they’re going to remember you, especially if you remember them. And that just makes it so much more the one in a thousand is going stand out in their mind from everything that happened in the show.

Mark:               Yeah. Paula, here’s a good question too, and it goes back to our last webinar/podcast: When you invite somebody to your exhibit and they show up, would it be nice to have something right out of the gate for them for showing up? I mean, just a nice pen, something just to say, “Hey. You know what? Thanks so much for showing up to see us. Here you go.”

Paula:               And the most successful companies that I’ve seen have little personalized gift bags not just a pen that they’re handing out to everybody. But this is something that is special for you, because we knew you were coming and we planned for your visit. And maybe even having something specific to them in that bag, their favorite candy, or their favorite whatever.

Mark:               Right. Yes. That reminds me that story, quickly, about the guy, the great life insurance salesman. I can’t remember his name. But he said, “I’d sell a five million dollar life insurance policy, but the guy was all excited about the free golf balls he got.” So, maybe we should do a better job of rewarding people when they behave like-

Paula:               Like we want them to.

Mark:               Yeah.

Paula:               Yep. It’s all the Pavlov’s dog kind of thing, but-

Mark:               Exactly.

Paula:               In a good way. I do the same thing. I feel when I’m shopping some place, and they set up … They know I’m coming, and they set up a room with some things that they think that I would like based on my previous visits. And the same thing. You could do at NBAA if you know that this is what this person has been interested before. You know what aircraft are in their fleet, you know something about them personally. There’s a lot of things that you could personalize for that person, and the conversation that you have.

Mark:               Right. Right. So, again, back to follow up you got to just stay on people. Send them personalized messages, e-mails, phone calls, and always continue to get their permission to follow up too.

Mark:               A lot of people will keep saying, “Well, I’m busy.” I’ll routinely say, “I’m just going to do what I’m supposed to do as a good sales person. I’m going to continue to follow up until you tell me not to.” I tell customers that, and they go, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’m busy. The timings not right …” If they don’t want you to call them anymore they’ll let you know, and that very seldom happens really. And maybe I shouldn’t … Most people are courteous and polite, and they’re going to want you to stay connected with them. They may not be able to buy for a year or so, but you can put them in your database, and warm them up. And that’s a great chance too if people say, “Well, we’re not ready right now.” Then you can say, “Well, you know how good we are at what we do. Who do you know?”

Mark:               We don’t ask … Well, people don’t ask for referrals. I forget all the time. That’s my biggest thing. I get back and I say, “Why didn’t ask who they knew?”

Paula:               Yeah. The [inaudible 00:08:49] after the call.

Mark:               Yeah. You just don’t sometimes. So, that’s something you got to really practice on. So, in that follow up process see if you can take one contact and leverage it into several.

Paula:               Fantastic.

Paula:               So, if you do all those things, and if you follow up … And, I guess, a question that people ask me, and you kind of answered it, but just to hit it on the head, a lot of our clients ask, “How long should I continue to follow up with somebody after a trade show?” And it sounds like your answer is until they tell you not to, right?

Mark:               Yeah. Until they tell you not to. And in aviation what’s wrong with a Christmas card, or what’s wrong with finding out what birthday they have, and just make friends? Because you’re in this business long enough the next time you go to the NBAA in West Palm Beach they change companies, and now you’ve got a whole new opportunity.

Paula:               That’s true.

Mark:               So, I’ve egressed from companies that I’ve contracted with because our contracts done, and learned that the efforts that we put forth two or three years ago … I’ve bumped into people that have finally done business with that company three years later. It just happened to me with a key contact at Gulfstream, actually. They saw what we had to offer, and it took them three years to get into position and the budget to have it done-

Paula:               There you go.

Mark:               So, I guess, you never stop until you’re invited not to if you want a rich database.

Paula:               Absolutely. Absolutely.

Paula:               Great. Well, thank you very much. I think this was an excellent episode. And if anyone has any questions about trade show follow up, or anything else, of course, they can find you and me very easily with the links from the transcript, or from this episode, wherever it is that you’re finding it.

Paula:               So, thanks for joining us, and we’ll cut there.

Mark:               Thank you again.