Get a jump on boat show follow-up

Bob McCann, Director of Education, ARI - We find that most new prospects who visit a dealer’s booth at a boat show for the first time aren’t ready to commit on the spot. In fact, most sales are closed with prospects that dealers have been working with for quite a while, even as far back as past shows. Boats are luxury purchases that often require a long-term research and buying process, so this first visit usually marks the beginning of the sales process rather than the sale per se.

While your focus is naturally on closing sales at the show, don’t lose sight of potential sales in the near future or further down the road. Beginning follow-up at the show will translate into more sales at the show and in the long run.

In your lead management solution, set up a simple, “Thank You” email to go out to prospects as soon as their contact information has been added to the database. Wouldn’t you feel special if you came home from a show and found a friendly and helpful email from the salesperson you met only a few hours ago? Wouldn’t that salesperson, dealership, and brand stand out in your mind?

Most dealerships don’t bother following up at all and others wait until the show is over. However, surveys of dealerships that have committed to immediate follow-up show that you stand a very good chance of reconnecting with the customer and getting a deposit over the phone, followed by an appointment at the show or a few days later at the dealership.

Be sure to add an automatic, email template to your lead management solution before the show, so a lead management associate can expedite this process with a couple of clicks. The email should be short, and branded with the dealership’s logo. It should be set up to come from the salesperson that the prospect met at the show.

Thank prospects for stopping by, mention the boat that they looked at, offer further assistance and include a link to your website for more information on your dealership, inventory and events. For hot prospects, you can also suggest providing a small, refundable credit card deposit via phone to save them a trip back to the show. By starting follow-up right away, you increase your chances of being the first dealership to show genuine interest, which demonstrates a high level of customer service immediately and builds trust.


A prompt “Thank You” email is a good start, but you have to call prospects the next day to get results. Go the extra mile and have your lead management associate sort leads by salesperson and print them out at the end of each day. The following morning, while the show is still slow when it opens, have your salespeople make follow-up calls to thank prospects for coming by (they may not have read your email) and to find out where they stand in their decision-making.

Beginning the follow-up process at the show makes your dealership stand out in a crowd of fierce competitors and establishes that crucial personal connection with potential buyers. What are you doing to build the pipeline for future sales when you’re at a boat show?

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