Even a Trade Show Samurai Master like myself is prone to mistakes. Last night I found myself at an event at the University of Chicago without a lead card. You might say it’s weird for someone to carry lead cards around with them, but you just never know when you will need them. I was forced to scribble notes on the back of business cards. Few business cards are designed to be written on.
A lead card is the essential piece of Trade Show Samurai weaponry. Its value should never be underestimated. A good lead card will have an incredibly positive impact on your success at the show. It’s like a Samurai’s sword. Great care is taken by the guy who makes the sword. If you ever saw Kill Bill, Volume One by Quentin Tarantino you will know what I mean.
There are three main parts to a good lead card labeled 1, 2 and 3 in the image. The first part captures contact information. This is fairly standard, but can vary a little from industry to industry. For instance, you may be at a consumer show and want to capture the names of a spouse or kids. I like to have a stapler handy so I can staple it to the card and not have to fill everything out. I still write down their name and number in case the business card falls off.
The second part is critical and marks the difference between a great lead card and a crappy lead card. This is where most lead cards fail. Most lead cards that I’ve seen (besides my own) have something about budgets and interest level and perhaps timing. Things like this are deceiving and difficult to value—the details as to why are more than I want to cover here…
The second part of the lead card captures the characteristics that will help you later score or rank-order the lead for your sales department. It will also guide your conversation during the Art of Interrogation. This part is made up of primarily checkboxes. The less actual writing you do on the show floor the better. If you can check, check, check the boxes you can move fast, like a gazelle.
The third part of the lead card is for capturing a few of your own sentiments. It consists mainly of a notes section and a few check boxes to indicate your overall vibe. I call the vibe check boxes Hank, Will and Carl. They are fictional salespeople that mean Hot, Warm and Cold. If someone is looking over your shoulder and sees you check “Cold” you may find yourself doing some uncomfortable and time-wasting explaining.
Good lead cards capture just enough information to be useful and nothing else. They evolve after numerous conversations and debates with your team. Discussion, debate and rehearsal will perfect your lead card. Never overlook this step.
A common excuse used by Trade Show Samurai novices is the notion that an attendee may actually be offended if you take notes while you talk to them. This comes up in my training sessions once in a while, but more often than I would expect and I’m not sure why. I think it is part of a human’s natural defense mechanism. Maybe when a human is confronted with a situation with which he or she feels uncomfortable they try to think of reasons why they should avoid the situation altogether.
Being a Trade Show Samurai means that you honor sales and to honor sales means you must provide meaningful information upon which they can act. Notes are an important part of the program and note-taking is not rude.
If you think about it, it’s sort of rude not to take notes. Attendees will see dozens if not hundreds of different companies in one show. Why put the burden of keeping track of your company on them? They are the customer, their needs are important. Taking note of what they want is step one in decent customer service.
Also, taking notes—structured notes—during a conversation with an attendee is a way to keep on mission when you are in the booth. It keeps your interactions quick and to the point. It also guarantees that your sales staff will be able to make informed judgments about how to prioritize the hundreds of leads you will be giving them.
It’s okay to be nervous about initiating hundreds of conversations with complete strangers at a trade show. But, create barriers for yourself like thinking that taking notes is rude. It’s not rude, it’s the point of being at the show.