A reader writes, "For the last several years our company held annual sales meetings at our home office. This year, the budget was approved for an offsite meeting. We've selected the location. Do you have any tips for making our first destination sales meeting a big success?"
To answer your thoughtful question, I turn to veteran conference planner Shelley Griffin, president of the Griffin Conference Group (GCG), a full service meeting planning company. Her insightful tips include:
Define the Objectives
Before you do anything else, think about why this meeting is being held. What results are you looking for? Some objectives for the meeting might include:
- Improving product knowledge
- Sharing ideas on handling prospects' objections
- Developing a plan to shorten the sales cycle
- Building energy for the coming year
Ask yourself this: what needs to happen for everyone to feel the meeting was a good use of time and money?
Don't Forget the Reps
Solicit your sales team's input as you develop the meeting agenda. Via email or a survey, ask them what they would like incorporated into the gathering. This gives you valuable information about what your sales force considers important. Make the sales team feel this meeting is worth the time away from selling.
Include Other Employees
Invite some non-sales employees from the home office to attend. Having the sales reps and home office staff meet has real benefits. People work better with folks they know. Give them some face time together.
When a key goal is to get the sales team and the home office to interact, don't seat them on opposite sides of the room or put them on different teams.
Acknowledge Great Performance
Everyone loves to be recognized for their accomplishments. This is especially true for sales professionals. Acknowledge superior performances at the meeting. Applause feels wonderful. Recognize the top sellers at the largest gathering. Make a large sign with their picture and "Top Sales Person of the Quarter." Unveil it at the meeting. Display it in the home office until the next recipient is named.
Build the Agenda
How long should the meeting be? One day? Two days? Your meeting objectives will help you to determine how much time is needed. Don't add more to the agenda just to stretch out the day. Participants rarely think that a meeting is too short.
Passive vs. Active
As you develop the agenda try to alternate time spent passively listening, say to the president's or VP of Sales' presentation, with time spent more interactively.
- Break into small groups to brainstorm ways to handle objections
- Ask one or more of your star performers to share some of their best practices
- Stage a mock sales call with the prospect from hell and a sales executive; humor is great
- Organize team-building activities that allow people to get to know each other better
Manage Electronics and Other Interruptions
If your meeting is worth having, it is worth having everyone's complete attention. This is hard to accomplish with attendees checking their phones and working on their laptops. Your sales force will indicate a need to be responsive to their clients with statements like, "There is a big contract about to be signed." Potential solutions to this include:
- Build time into the agenda for participants to get back to clients
- Let reps dealing with emergencies leave meetings quietly for a brief period of time
Evaluate Your Results
Did this meeting meet your expectations? Does the sales force feel the same way? The only way to know is to ask. Create a survey. Limit it to 3-5 questions. Have attendees fill it out on-site. Potential questions to consider include:
- Overall what grade would you give this Sales Meeting? A-F
- What aspect was most valuable or useful to you?
- What aspect was the least helpful?
- Should this be done next year?
- Any other comments?
Be sure to build in some time for informal socializing. Consider having a reception to kick off or conclude the meeting.