Trade Show Chronicles – Back to the office (chapter 15)
This article belongs to the “Trade Show Chronicles” series. It tells the story of Andrew, young sales executive newly employed by a Hong Kong company that will attend his first trade show in a few months time. From understanding what exhibitions are all about to organizing the booth, recruiting promoters and following-up on leads, Andrew will live a complete adventure unique to the world of exhibitions.
It is 9am and I am walking in the office.
Some people are already on the phone, others are staring at their screen with a cup of coffee in the hand. Some seats are still empty. I pass by Karen’s desk but it is still empty. When was the last time she and I arrived AFTER everyone else in the office?
I arrive at my desk, turn on my screen and go make a coffee while my computer starts.
– “Hi, Andrew! How was the weekend?” my boss is already here, which is quite unusual for a Monday morning.
– “It was great, thank you for asking” I say with a smile. “How was yours?”
– “Terrific! I’m glad the event is behind us. You must be relieved too, aren’t you?” he says, obviously teasing me.
– “Well… I will be. Soon. But there is still work to do!”
– “Oh, really?” he says, genuinely surprised. “What is there for you to do now?”
– “We have sent automatic emails to all our leads, and it was a great initiative to make sure they don’t forget us, but I’m afraid that won’t be sufficient to generate business. Now I want to organize our leads based on qualification criteria we defined earlier with Karen and start following up more precisely.”
– “I see… and when do you believe you will be able to do that?” he asks, cunning.
– “Well, I will filter our leads today then wait for another day or two to follow-up, see if people answer my first email before spamming them again.”
– “We’ll see about that!” he says while leaving me, laughing. What does he mean? What is the problem exactly?
As I sit at my desk, I put my hot coffee on the side, open my mailbox, take a sip and… nearly choke. 458 emails. All unread.
I nearly forgot that with the booth planning, the event itself and all the side projects I haven’t neglected my mailbox a little. I decide to go to the essential and go through email subjects to highlight those that require urgent follow-up. All these where I am only in copy end-up in a different box I will check… later.
It already 2pm. I am still going through my emails and I haven’t had lunch yet when my stomach starts growling. I decide to go downstairs buy a sandwich when I bump into Karen:
– “Hi, there! How are you doing?”
– “Quite busy actually, I thought I would qualify all the leads today but…”
– “Yeah, about that…” Karen does not let me finish, she looks somehow upset. “Look, my mailbox is full and I can’t seem to be able to empty it so it looks like I won’t be able to do my part after all.”
– “Same here” I say, appeased to not be the only one in this situation. “Here is the plan: just focus on REALLY important emails and clear them up. For all the less important stuff, postpone a little. I will manage to get you the list by the end of the day – all you have to do is plan the campaign to be sent out tomorrow during lunch time: that’s it.”
– “I’m not sure if…” Karen tries to turn my offer down but I won’t let her.
– “We have spent SO much time and effort working on this project. There is NO WAY a full mailbox stands between us and victory, alright?” I can feel my hands trembling. It seems I am losing control and getting angry against my will. It may be a good thing as Karen suddenly seems to agree with me:
– “You’re right! Let’s get done with it! I will clear my mailbox while you prepare the list for me. Hey, where are you going by the way?”
– “Heading out to buy a sandwich. You want me to get you something?”
– “Make it two!”
As part of our trade show strategy, Karen and I elaborated a plan where we would qualify the leads and break them into three categories:
- hot leads – to be urgently followed-up by me
- warm leads – second priority, but still managed by me individually
- cold leads – these are not ready to buy and Karen will manage them with a simple EDM
As I take a bite of my sandwich, I open our leads file and start looking through the 196 contacts we collected. Luckily, we had the smart idea to using tags and filtering leads is just about clicking a few buttons: order by lead quality (hot, warm, cold), order by type of prospect, order by size of the contract… done!
Originally, Karen planned a one-fits-all EDM. It was already setup and ready to send out before the show. Unfortunately, we did not consider the fact that there would be many types of cold leads and this “one-fits-all” strategy does not make much sense anymore.
Karen is creating a few different EDMs with various messages and calls to action based on the type of leads we captured.
My lists are finished, I head towards Karen’s desk to share it with her.
– “Why do I have to wait?! Did you not see this email was important?!”
My boss is yelling. Apparently, he has a problem with Karen and I feel like it is somehow related to me. She does not move, staring at her feet, apparently about to cry.
– “Sir?” I dare to interrupt. A few weeks ago, I would have been looking at my feet, hoping his anger wouldn’t suddenly come my way. But today I am a different person. I know what it takes to manage complex projects, to handle people’s expectations and deal with 10 problems at once. Today, I am no longer shy and obedient: I have an opinion and I want people to know it!
He turns his head in my direction, looking threateningly at me.
– “I am sorry but I really need Karen’s help to finalize the leads follow-up.” He is obviously not used to having people responding to him and let me continue. “We have all spent so much time and efforts in this project. The company has invested so much money.” I can feel I have stricken the right cord as he seems to ease off a little. “It would be a shame to throw all that in the trash now that we are so close to our goal. Please give us half a day to finalize everything and we will both go back to our routine tasks.”
He does not answer immediately. He seems to be considering my request but very concerned about not losing face. After a few seconds of silence, he turns back to Karen with a soft voice and says:
– “I want a reply no later than 11 am tomorrow.” then turns back and walk towards his desk. What a great victory!
– “Wow, you saved me here” says Karen, still shaking.
– “Don’t mention it. I got us another half day but realistically it will take me 5 to follow-up with everyone. I can’t even imagine what those people taking pen&paper notes are going through!”
– “Let’s keep our focus on the task at the moment. You got the list?”
– “Yes, I have it.” I pass her a USB stick with all the leads she must follow-up. “This is your part. Manage it quickly so you could go back to your normal job. I will handle the rest.”
– “Thank you, Andrew”. She looks at me and, as I am not leaving, asks: “Is there something else?”
– “There is. Listen, I know you are very busy and all bit… I need a favor.”
– “What is it?”
– “Can you please go one last time through the budget and expenses sheet? I want to make 100% sure nothing is missing while it is still fresh in your mind. Later you won’t remember everything.”
– “Will do.” She turns back and sits at her desk, ignoring my presence.
It took me three complete afternoons following-up the 34 hot leads and 52 warm leads we collected. I emailed all of them, call many and set up some meetings. I had to stay behind every day of the week to catch-up with my normal emails.
It is already 11pm when I arrive home and I realize I haven’t called Charles a single time since the event. If someone deserves feedback, it is him!
– “Hi Charles, it’s Andrew. Am I interrupting something?”
– “Hi, Andrew! No, you’re not! Glad to hear your voice, how are things going on your side?”
– “I’m sorry I did not call earlier, it’s just that…”
Charles laughs very loudly over the phone.
– “Don’t worry! I’m sure you are drowning right now! Between your daily tasks, all the work that accumulated while you were at the show and your follow-up job, you must be very busy!” He suddenly becomes much more serious: “You ARE following-up as I taught you, right?”
– “Yes, I am. I was, actually. I’m done now.”
– “Congratulations! Your job is done now! All you have to do is keep pushing these leads like you would any other sales lead.”
Charles and I keep talking for another hour, sharing anecdotes and stories of the show then I head to bed, happy the event is now behind us.