Maximizing Sales Conference Success

Maximizing Sales Conference Success

9 Ways To Ensure Your Sales Event Will Impact On Sales

We are regularly asked to act as a key note speaker at sales conferences. That gives us a great opportunity to see what happens with international sales teams get together and to understand the key factors that determine whether they return to their markets and territories with renewed energy and determination.

More importantly it is an opportunity to see why some sales conferences significantly impact on sales, while others don’t. With this in mind we put together a list of these factors to help in planning your next event, together with an explanation of how as a guest speaker we can contribute.

1. Give the event a purpose, not just a slogan!
Too often managers find themselves faced yet again with the challenge of organizing the annual sales conference, or event. It seems no length of time has passed since the last event, and now a destination, venue, topic, format and so on must be decided upon, often with little time to spare.

All of a sudden sales managers and directors find themselves in the event management business. They can easily loose sight of the purpose and get lost in the practicalities and logistics of the event. However a well planned and executed sales event is a waste of time unless it has a meaningful and measurable impact on sales.

The challenge for managers is to focus more on the purpose of the event and how it will be achieved, with specific reference to key sales strategies and priorities, sales capabilities and campaigns. Unlike the other aspects of planing the event, this goal setting element cannot be delegated.

The most effective sales conferences have a clear purpose, a clear message. That is one message that is continually reinforced in the run up to the event, throughout the event, and after it is all over. It is not just a marketing slogan, hype, or a theme, but a message, a rallying call, a clear purpose, a strategic agenda.

2. Make it a working event, with some social activities
If your sales event is seen as a junket then it is certain to be a failure. People are well able to entertain themselves on their own time, without the company organizing social outings that have no other purpose. A sales event should be a working event, people are getting together to make decisions, shape priorities, review performance, set goals, develop skills and so on. The social activities are the icing on the cake of a productive event, not the main event itself.

In tone the event should be business like. That means; a well organized venue, communication in advance re the structure, events starting on time (and finishing on time too), presentations that are well prepared and professionally delivered.

3. Share The Learning – Sales Best Practice
Get people working together at the sales event is a powerful way of developing synergies and sharing the learning between different parts of the organization. We have worked with many sales organizations spanning different markets and geographies and are continually amazed by how the strengths and indeed gaps in one team are very different to another.

We are often left saying ‘if only each market had the lead generation skills of the Spanish sales team, the consultative selling skills of the English sales team and the levels of pro-activity of the Nordic team, what an organization it would be.

Internal best practice is to be found within pockets of an organization. The answers to challenges faced by one team member are often to be found in the approach of another, perhaps in a different market. This makes sharing the learning vital.

4. Celebrate Success
Keeping the sales event positive and inspirational can be a challenge in difficult market conditions. It is not that a sales event can, or should be cocooned from reality, but that the sometimes dour reality of the marketplace should be balanced with a recognition of achievements (not just failures).

The facilitator(s) of the various elements of the sales event must make sure to keep the tone of the conversation positive. The fact that sales successes may be fewer than in the past makes them all the more worthy of celebration.

While the event must confront the realities of the market and what it requires of the sales team, the dominant message must be one of hope and direction. The leadership and motivation element of the conference cannot be neglected.

5. Achieve A Coming Together Of Minds
Bringing the sales team together into one location is a lost opportunity unless it results in a coming together of minds as well as people. By that we mean achieving a shared perspective on performance, prospects and priorities for sales.

That includes a shared sence of realism – that means combining a realistic view of the market and in particular the competitive environment, as well as a warts and all assessment of the sales team’s peformance, its strengths and weaknesses.

It is OK for salespeople and sales teams to arrive at a sales conference or event with a disparate and perhaps even contradictory set of priorities. But it is absolutely not OK for people to leave a sales conference or event without a shared and consistent view of the top priorities for sales and more over how they will act to progress them.

As the saying goes ‘you cannot blow an uncertain trumpet’. A sales conference is aimed at creating certainty. That means clarity of purpose, a clear set of priorities, and even a vision that get people fired up.

6. Make It A Call To Action
At a conference people should make a commitment, a public commitment to address particular sales challenges, or priorities. A commitment to which others are witness is one that is much more likely to be followed through. But go one step further again. Get people to detail the actions they will take by putting them on paper and ensure that progress against the actions set can be tracked.

In 6 months time the Sales Director wants to be able to look back to the sales event and track the progress in respect of particular priorities, events, campaigns or initiatives conceived, or launched at the event. For example, since the event we have increased the level of sales activity by 12%, with a particular focus on the selected new segments where activity is up by 40%.

7. Don’t Let The Event Simply End!
The momentum and enthusiasm gained at a sales conference, or event can quickly dissipate as salespeople return to their markets and to the requirements of making the next sales call. The challenge for managers is to ensure that this does not happen. To ensure that the event makes a difference managers must ensure that the momentum is maintained long after the conference is over.

Coaching after the event is essential to ensuring it has a lasting impact. This must happen with managers as well as between managers and their teams. It entails follow-up and discussion regarding progress in respect of the priorities set at the event. This should take place at a one to one level, as well as for example commanding a particular segment of the weekily, or monthly sales team meetings.

Before the conference ends there should be a programme of specific follow-up actions from the sales event, from the basic post event e-mail to, periodic reports of progress on key initiatives from the conference and mini-events to follow-on from the conference at a 3, 6, or 9 month interval.

8. Involve Those Attending In The Planning
Before the event, see what people want to get out of it, check their mood, find out what issues they are most concerned with. Then use this information in planning the event.

Repeat back what people have said they wanted to address during the event to show people have been listed to and to compare priorities and shape the agenda. Involve all those who have an indirect involvement in sales too – from marketing to operations.

9. An Outside Change Agent
There is no doubt that external input to, facilitation at a sales conference can help. In particular, it makes sense to set aside a slot at the event for an external speaker who can propose some new ideas/strategies, challenge old assumptions and bring an outside perspective. Of course as conference speakers we would say that, however it can be easier for an external speaker to raise sensitive topics and challenge the status quo.

If you would like to talk to us about speaking at your sales conference, or event please contact us.