Over the next few weeks, thousands of companies will begin planning their annual sales meeting. Most assuredly, there will be lots of sleepless nights for the people who have to choose the location, facilities, and make sure all the details are in place to ensure the sales kickoff is a success. Having keynoted over a hundred annual sales meetings of companies ranging in size from start-ups to multi-billion dollar giants, here are five ideas to help ensure your sales meeting is a success.
1. Salesperson Success Stories.
Most sales meetings don’t include one of the most important topics—salesperson success stories about how they won their key accounts. These stories are very important because they provide models of successful salesperson behavior that can be emulated by the rest of the team. There’s two ways to present salesperson success stories. First, you can have the salespeople present the story themselves via PowerPoint. However, one of the hardest things for any salesperson to do is to present to colleagues. As a result, these types of presentations usually miss the mark in explaining the intricacy of the sales strategy and account management skills that were actually responsible for winning the deal. They end up being a high level chronological review of the deal as opposed to a real examination of account strategy.
Rather, I would recommend that you have your top salespeople be interviewed in a talk show program format by a moderator who has an extensive sales background. I have found these types of panels are the most effective way to relay both the tangible and intangible aspects of winning to the rest of the team.
2. Team Building
The goal of every team building event is to build "esprit de corps" or team morale. Unfortunately, some well intended team building events actually have the exact opposite effect. For example, one meeting I participated in required everyone to wear ridiculous costumes as part of the “mandatory” team building event. Believe me, this group which consisted of very senior salespeople were not excited in the least.
Conversely, one of the best team building events I have seen was based upon the TV show Survivor. At the beginning of the meeting, each attendee received a different colored bandana that signified which “tribe” they belonged to. Throughout the meeting after each presentation, random tribal representatives were brought up to answer questions about the previous presentation in attempt to win points. Prizes (cash and gift cards) were given out to the members of the top two teams. Consequently, everyone in the room paid very close attention to each presentation and took copious notes. The competition (and camaraderie) was fierce!
3. Competitive Analysis.
Most competitive analysis presentations given at sales meetings are too theoretical. They simply do not provide practical real-world strategies and tactics to defeat arch-rivals. Quite often, the marketing group that creates this session has never “sold.” As a result, their analysis is too simplistic or too generic to provide the silver bullets the salespeople need to vanquish their enemies. Other times, it is at the opposite end of the spectrum and far too complex to be implemented.
In addition, these presentations are built on the assumption that the customer is a logical, rational decision maker. In reality, the decision to buy any given product is a complex decision made by groups of people who have vastly different needs, personalities, and political aspirations. For all of these reasons, I strongly recommend that you conduct a true win-loss analysis where actual customer decision makers (from wins and losses) are interviewed before the meeting. The presentation of the study results is the best way to understand the decision making process of your customers. Better yet, it provides a true snapshot of the competition’s strengths and weaknesses according to the person who matters most—the prospective customer.
4. Product Training. Here’s two facts that might surprise you. The average person truly hears only 7 minutes of every hour they spend listening and within 72 hours they forget 95% of what they’ve heard. Given this information, you should think twice before planning a long, exhaustive product training session. A better strategy is to “chunk” it. That is, break the session into chunks of time no longer than sixty minutes. Also, break up heavy technical chunks with lighter topics, completely different subject matter, or audience participation activities. This way, the attendees will remain mentally fresh and have higher retention.
5. Sales Skills Development. The audience of the majority of the sales meetings I present at is composed of senior salespeople. Since they have been in the field five, ten or twenty years, they obviously know how to sell. Therefore, the assumption is that there wouldn’t be any need for sales skills development sessions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Heavy Hitters (truly great salespeople) are always on a quest to improve their game. However, they don’t want to hear Sales 101 advice. Rather, I have found that they are extremely interested in learning how to improve their persuasiveness and understanding the most difficult part of sales—people! Therefore, provide sales workshops on topics like advanced sales psychology, customer communication, and sales intuition development to manage the complex sale process.