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Smart Ways to Capture (and Convert!) Leads at Trade Shows and Virtual Events in 2021

Planning and tech (devises, software and other apps). These are essentials when you want to acquire, and convert, leads at events and trade shows. Lead capture is critical in real life and in virtual events.

These days, with the rise of online events, the physical game plans are changing, but the principles are the same. While some 92% of professionals reported they plan to incorporate virtual events, 95% felt real-life B2B events would be back soon enough. Event lead capture is on ongoing priority, and this includes data capture.

We’ve got a bit of ninja-style tech for you, paired with 4 other cards to put in your deck. Use these and you’ll be loading your Salesforce, or other CRM, with quality leads. And you’ll be moving on them, even before they’re out the door, whether it’s a metal door or the Leave Meeting button on Zoom.

Plan for everything, and use event intelligence

You wouldn’t show up to a black-tie affair in a hoodie, unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg rich, and even then…. Dress and act accordingly.

  • What’s the size and layout? If it’s online, what’s the platform (Zoom, etc.)?
  • Who else is exhibiting, especially competitors, and how will you stand apart from them?
  • Who’s the crowd and what specific aspects of your offering align with their needs?
  • Who’s in your CRM or customer management system (CMS) already and will they be attending? Can you send them an advance email?
  • Can you plan a big release, or even a cool new feature, to coincide with the event? Then run it in the press.
  • Which rep will handle the key attendee(s)?
  • And how can you get the word out in advance via email blasts, social networks, and other media?

You can also call on event intelligence, which is (ideally) data-driven lessons learned from past events. Good intelligence shows what interested people, how an event went, and what people did. This will give insight into high-quality attendees and what attracts them.

Then combine this with your planning on who’s attending and what their needs will be. And prepare your offering accordingly.

Ask the right questions to qualify or move on

ABQ – Always Be Qualifying (and soon, ABC – Always Be Closing). It’s not to say you have to be a transactional robot. Such folks are rather unpleasant to deal with, and painfully easy to recognize. But do be mindful of how your booth and the event visitors’ needs align with your offering.

The BANT method is easy to remember, so you can hit on the essential points in a small time frame. These questions, however, can be direct, and you don’t want to be pushy or urgent at an event. Work with your sales team on these, considering the type of visitors (age, authority, culture, industry, etc.) so you have a mental deck of good qualifiers.

BANT stands for:


You need to know that they can afford your product and they have the money set aside. If they don’t, you might have a better or different offering. Or you might be able to hammer something out or give them a free 14-day trial.

Ask questions such as, “What sort of price range are you thinking about?” or offer a teaser such as, “This generally runs around $50 per user per month. We do have some flexible pricing options though. Is that in the ballpark for you?”


Does the person you’re talking to have an actual mandate to make the purchase? If not, how many degrees of separation are they? The person who is at the show is there for a reason, but they may be there in someone else’s place, on someone else’s behalf, or someone with better technical knowledge than the decision-maker.

Feel them out with, “Would you be deciding on the purchase?” or “Pardon my asking, but who in your company usually makes the call on whether to make an investment like this?” This ideally will give you some insight on to the chain of authority in making the purchase.


Are they just window shopping or are they ready for a test drive. Find out their level of need. And prioritize that over interest, because interest is more fluid than need. If they don’t need your product, it’ll be a tough slog indeed.

Whether before or during your conversation, ask them, “What sort of solution are you looking for?” and “What issues are you trying to solve?” Then you can proceed to espouse your great benefit or politely suggest this may not be a good match.


Is their hand on the company credit card or are they just getting a feel for what’s out there? Does they have a pressing issue that you can help them with as soon as they sign up?

Find out, “How soon are you looking to implement a solution?” or if you think they’re keen, “We can definitely help you out with [X problem] right away. Would you like to get into some more details?”

Scan cards as leads and follow up immediately

Apps out everyone. Lead capture software is trending, and your team should be well-equipped with a business card scanning app and perhaps a badge reader as well. Then as soon as you get a card and you’re done interacting, scan it to Salesforce or another CRM (like HubSpot) yourself, and have it delegated as a Lead or Contact for immediate follow up.

Immediate follow up, as in before your prospect even makes it to the parking lot or shuttle bus. And before someone else tries to sweet-talk the pants off of them (and subtly trash-talk you in the process).

This puts you so far ahead of the others, when the typical process is to gather all the cards and then manually enter them… eventually… back at the office. Or wherever and whenever.

To learn more about the how to scan your business card contacts straight to Salesforce or another CRM, read this article on an easy scanning method.and watch the video below.

If you’re tagging them as you go, with notes on where you met, and any specific details and preferences, you’ll provide guidance for Sales, Marketing, or yourself on how to tailor your future communications to them.

Even if they’re not a hot lead, you can have Marketing get them on the mailing list and hit them up later in the day with a personalized or semi-personalized message customized to their needs.

Reflect, coordinate, and close or nurture

One study found some 80% of leads after trade shows are never followed up. Another study found a lead time of 6 days after the event!

With all the budget put to trade shows, these numbers obviously not economical, or rational. The low follow up is likely to owe a mix of poor coordination, lack of resources, and poor contact management.

I expect the same occurs after online events, and you’re up against the added challenge of lacking that physical contact. The advantage with online, though, is you’re carrying right on in the same way you connected. Now just get them on the phone if they’re the type that needs a more personal touch.

Convene your team, online of off, and make sure everyone’s following up in a day or two.

As for the lost leads, if you cover three main steps, your and your team’s work won’t go to waste. Not converting leads are blazing hot.

  1. Follow up the very same day – This may not seems logistically possible if you have too many leads and/or haven’t scored them. If you do the previous step of scanning cards and contacts straight to Salesforce, on the spot, not waiting for manual entry and review, you’re already ahead.

    Speed is critical in the follow-up, but it’s no mistake for a personal touch. Refer to your notes and make the messages personal. For colder leads, same-day may not be needed, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

  2. Get requests to Marketing asap – Marketing needs to provide literature and other materials as soon as possible.

    You can coordinate your approach in Salesforce or in a dedicated contact management system. Marketing can also put new leads into campaigns or otherwise position them in the funnel, then use tools like MailChimp. They can track the event ROI as well.

  3. Share good contacts – Just because a lead was not a good fit for your product, region, industry focus, etc., doesn’t mean they’re not a potential lead for a colleague. Think of who else, first in your company, and then non-competitive and in your professional network, may benefit from knowing this person.

    Each contact is a person with their expertise and their value. Bring them together with others if you can’t (and maybe even if you can) do business with them.

Keep improving your event game.

Now the landscape is shifting to virtual events for the foreseeable future, shift to how you can exchange do your intelligence and shift your game to this new mode of contact. Everything’s an opportunity.

Physical trade shows and events will gradually re-emerge, in different way, and it may be years before they’re packed shoulder-to-shoulder, but what doesn’t change is the need to connect, coordinate, and be very human.

Start with keeping your leads together and putting them to work for yourself and others. With this at the heart of your event strategy, you basically cannot fail.

Watch this short video to see how Scan to Salesforce improves event lead capture