A key to good boat show follow-up

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Making a sale starts with creating a relationship, and your post-show email is the place to start.

Dealers in boat shows from Houston to Chicago and stops in between were busy last weekend greeting visitors, seeing old customers and looking for those promising prospects who will feed the sales team for weeks ahead. So it’s important for each sales person to reach out for a meaningful follow-up with all promising prospects as soon as possible.

Most marine dealers use email as their primary method for reaching prospects and customers. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that most exhibitors who follow up after a show send out a static, unengaging email instead of making the effort to provide an experience that could shape the way the prospect thinks of the dealership and you.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that the first time a prospect opens an email, they’re interacting with you, and the impression they get can mean the start of a profitable relationship — or not. Here are some considerations to get a relationship underway using an initial email.

Messages that appear automated can be a turn-off. Remember, if you’ve had a conversation with the prospect and been given their email address, they likely expect something more than an generic “thanks for stopping by our exhibit” response. It’s important to understand that the value of the first follow-up email is very high because the open rate is believed to be much higher (reportedly up to 60 percent better) than the average email. Missing the opportunity to offer something concrete can mean the prospect will greet your next email with “delete” before opening it.

The subject line is pivotal, according to Ryan Pinkham of ConstantContact.com. It should catch the recipient’s attention and give them a reason to open your email. Something like: “The boat show is over. Now what?” Personalizing your email will not only improve the first impression you’re able to make, but it will also help set you apart from your competition.

In the email, try to make a reference to something specific about them — something you saw or they told you about themselves or their boating experiences and expectations. And always let them know you are available any time for advice. Give them your direct contact phone number.

So they don’t think you’re going to be hitting them with a barrage of sales emails, assure them of what to expect from you. If possible, note the type of informative content that would fit their interests, how frequently you might send such an email and some of your background expertise that can help them.

Don’t let your email get spammed. There’s no guarantee that your message won’t end up in a junk folder. Ask them to add your business to their safe senders list. That way, your emails will not only end up in their inbox, but they’ll also be more likely to be recognized.

If you intend to make a specific offer, make it up top, then provide details below. But don’t make the mistake of suggesting something that doesn’t apply to the prospect. In other words, don’t outline a special deal on a center console when the family is more interested in a crossover. Recommending items that don’t match interests can kill a relationship. When in doubt, it’s better to “sell” your availability and expertise, with no obligation.

What’s been lost in the easy-to-push-a-button times we’re living in is the effort to establish a relationship. People don’t want to buy what you’re selling; they want to buy what you’re saying. That’s why a relationship is the goal.

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