Along with 150,000 of my closest friends, I recently attended the event everyone is talking about, DreamForce 2015. For exhibiting sponsors and vendors, this is the holy grail of sales opportunities, as thousands of sales professionals and executives literally walk by each day. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered just how many companies squandered their (massive) investment by failing to do one simple thing: Follow up.

The Experiment
As the CEO of a company that helps sales people build a predictable pipeline sales by connecting with more leads in a more meaningful way, I wanted to do a little research project to see how effective (or ineffective) sales organizations are in their lead follow-up. Since #DF15 is no inexpensive endeavor, I assumed companies would be at least as diligent (if not more so) in following up on #DF15 leads than any other lead. Time to put my plan into action and see if my theory was sound.

The Sales Methodology to My Madness
As a Salesforce.com AppExchange partner, my primary goal was to learn as much I could about solutions that could help FRONTLINE and our clients. But it was easy to combine my primary goal with my research project so as soon as the expo began, I hit the ground running. I visited as many of the vendor display booths as possible. I went out of my way to have my badge “scanned” and collected and handed out as many business cards as I could. At least 75% of the 200+ vendors scanned my badge. I handed out over well 100 business cards and collected 215. (These numbers will be important in a minute!) With the targeted audience and significant financial investment, I fully expected every vendor to employ the ‘full court press’ for leads acquired at the show. So I braced myself for the avalanche of emails, phone calls and automated voice messages that were to come the next week.

The Shocking Results
So what actually happened when I returned? Very little. After more than one week, I received a total of just 24 Dreamforce follow-up emails from 19 different vendors (some have followed up more than once). Most of the emails were automated and highly impersonal. (And evidently I was supposed to be in some sort of post-#DF15 rehab because almost every one of the emails mentioned the “recovery” I should have been going through.)

Now here is the mind blowing part.
I have only received six (yes…..SIX!) sales phone calls. Four went to voice mail and only one of the messages was done well. There were two calls to my office line that I picked up: On one call I booked an appointment (we are really interested in their solution) and on the other call, the sales rep clearly had no idea what he was doing. Not impressed. Almost every blog I read talks about the importance of speed when responding to leads—it’s Sales 101. So why did so few reach out to me in the critical days following our first interaction? I understand that there are a lot of these vendors who know I am not a fit for their solution, but 24 emails and 6 phone calls from over 200 vendors and 100 business cards? That’s unbelievable.

The Bottom Line
If the #DF15 follow-up is any indicator of how sales are typically pursued, then something has gone seriously awry with how companies approach sales prospecting. Sponsors and vendors spent thousands (even hundreds of thousands) to get in front of the decision makers at #DF15 and what did they do with it? If they weren’t calling their leads in the weeks following the show, they flat out #missedtheboat.

Nobody plans to fail but don’t fail to plan.
No matter what type of marketing or sales activity you invest in, create a follow-up strategy. And do it BEFORE the event/promotion, not after. Time is of the essence and a well-devised, methodical plan for lead follow-up will pay dividends in the end. I promise you that the companies who didn’t have a post-#DF15 plan will be looking at their ROI soon and wondering what on earth went wrong. I think we know the answer. Do you have a follow-up plan for sales events and initiatives? I would love to hear how you maximize your marketing and sales investments.

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