It’s Day Two of your Sales Meeting. Pete is droning on about his customers in SouthWest II territory. It’s the eighth regional sales presentation of the day. No-one is paying attention (maybe not even Pete…)

You’ve taken your sales team off the street for three days, spent thousands of dollars to fly them to a conference room in Chicago, and now, as you look around the room at everyone surreptitiously emailing or trying not to fall asleep, you realize that it has all been a waste.

But it’s not a waste of time or money. It’s a waste of an opportunity. An opportunity to Engage your front-line team.

So, before you make the same mistake next year, here are some thoughts on how to make the sessions more valuable.

1) Ditch the Sales Reviews. The only people interested in a review of accounts in the Texas panhandle are sales and marketing management. Don’t waste everyone else’s time with them – most of the info is in your CRM, and if it’s not, set up individual Skype sessions with each team member before the meeting.

2) Share Best Practices. You’ve brought together a hugely talented team of sales professionals, so let them teach each other. Give everyone 10 minutes to present on a specific selected topic. Some suggestions – “Three most unusual applications I’ve seen for Product A”; “The most difficult objection I’ve overcome this year, and how”; “What I’ve seen our competitors do to sell against us”.

3) Mix it Up. Whatever you put on the agenda, focus on variety. Limit speakers to 30 minutes each (ask two people to present together if you need an hour to cover the material); mix up the subjects – for the best practices sessions above, sprinkle them throughout the agenda, not just in one half-day segment; and move locations throughout the day.

4) Less Talking, more Doing. Use brainstorming or whiteboard sessions to keep the energy up. Ask a general question, (“What’s the #1 sales tool you don’t have?”) and take 15 minutes to debate it as a group. Show a short promo video from a competitor and open the floor to comments. Bring in the product managers for a lively, unscripted, “Ask the Expert” panel. For larger meetings, use interactive technology such as livecube to increase participation.

5) Build a Bigger Team. This is a great time to forge stronger relationships between the sales team and the product/service/support teams. Don’t allow random groups to form for “team-building” activities – plan ahead and pollinate groups with cross-functional people. A great activity for this is the Marshmallow Challenge, beautifully presented by Tom Wujek in his TED Talk.

6) Outside Thinking. Bring in a speaker to share a different perspective. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Ask a supplier, a channel partner, or a customer, to come in and talk to your team about a subject they are passionate about (just so long as it’s not a sales pitch!). Or reach out to a local professional organization, such as the BMA or the Chamber of Commerce, for volunteers.

7) Shut it Down! Running late is endemic to sales meeting, but also counterproductive. During lunch breaks, before dinner and everywhere in between, your sales team will need to return calls, send a critical email – and take time to network with the corporate team. The more you overrun, the less time they will have, and the more frustrated they will become. Set up a projector or a laptop with a countdown timer, preferably one that flashes or makes sound when the time is elapsed. Put someone in charge to interrupt the speaker when time is up. It may seem rude – but it’s actually the speaker who is rudely stealing time from the other participants.

8) Time to Bond. If the budget allows, include an evening activity that will create a shared experience. It could be a go-cart challenge, a harbor cruise, or a Segway tour of the city. Anything that gives a common subject for people to talk about, and laugh about, long after the sales meeting.

Here’s a quick test. Take a look at the agenda and ask yourself “If I was hiring a new sales person, and showed them the schedule – would they take the job, or run away screaming”! Adding just one or two of these items should increase your chances of engaging the newbies, and the veterans, in your sales team.

[Note: This article was originally published at http://www.DittmanIncentives.com – please visit for more articles on Engagement and Incentives]

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