That’s right. National Sales Meetings, Sales Kickoffs, Annual Meetings of any kind have the opportunity to be 6 months long! At least in the hearts and minds of your attendees. Sales Meetings, for most large corporations, are in the neighborhood of 3 days long. Often consisting of morning plenary sessions (or general sessions), with breakouts or district/regional meetings in the afternoon and maybe an Award Ceremony on the final evening. They often use a “Sales Meeting Theme” to help get their message across. In the scheme of things, and in the life of your typical, hard-driving sales rep, it’s flash-in-the-pan. Merely a moment in time. You’ll have to really impress her to make the take-home value stand out. I’ve heard many, organizers and sales executives ask “How do I get better sales meeting ideas?”
It doesn’t have to be that way. I know, you’re saying to yourself, “How can I possibly keep them out of the field any longer? You don’t. One of the most-overlooked opportunities for communication is the maximizing of the National Sales Meeting.
This moment in time exists in the reps mind as a meeting concept, or a destination. “Oh, yeah, I remember that one, wasn’t it the Space-Race meeting?” Or “That was when we were in Phoenix, wasn’t it ‘ and we did those goofy Olympics?” Typically, your sales people forget the “message” of the meeting, or what they are supposed to do, fairly soon after the event.
The way to avoid making your meetings a “moment in time” that exists for a long weekend in November, or for 3 days in January, is to begin to build excitement and enthusiasm for the event a few weeks, or even as much as 3-months earlier. And not in just any-old way. Make sure that you do this with a purpose. What’s that? “I just want then to sell more!” you say? Of course, that’s always the goal. So let’s look closer at the opportunity. If your sales team has been kicking butt for the past year (or most of it, remember, you are starting out 3-months early, plus a month or so of planning), and they have significantly increased the bottom line, and your stated plans require that they keep up the growth for another year. Further, if you have determined that with greater customer focus, you will retain more customers ‘ which costs less than developing new ones, then that becomes the message for your meeting ‘ and your Pre-Meeting Communication Campaign.
Create a lasting impression. Plan your meeting, thematically, several months out. Devise a backdrop for your current scenario that embraces the idea that Customer Focus is critical. 3 months prior to the National Meeting, you send out a communication to the field in the form of a flash-email, or postcard, or even a voice mail from your VP Sales that sets up the theme of your National Sales Meeting, and the concept of Customer Focus in a fun and creative way. You’ve just started your meeting. Over the next 3 months, send another communication every 2-3 weeks setting up another concept or take-away you would like them to have. If these talk about, “The Customer is Always Right” and “Customer Focus Keeps Business”, and “Success Begets Success”, you begin to show your reps that you mean business in this Customer Focus thing.
Then, your folks arrive in Phoenix (or Orlando, or Chicago) for your event. It is all geared round the message of customer focus. They have been hearing about it from “corporate” for 3 months, now, and in fact, you are beginning to see it show up in the numbers. Your opportunity at the meeting is to celebrate! This does not mean to party, and forget the business, but you can give everything an air of celebration ‘ with more…
During your event, announce a contest that runs for the next 3 months. Have reps contribute their stories of Customer Focus and their successes. The best story wins. The prize can simply be a gift certificate to dinner, or an i-tunes gift card. Sales reps love to compete. Use it to your advantage! In the meantime, you publish the best stories every month to keep it top-of-mind for everyone!
There you have it. A 6-month long sales meeting that your people will remember long after it is over as “The one about Customer Focus”. The message stays in their minds, and, more importantly, in their actions. Over this time, you have established terrific new habits that will serve your sales people and your company for years to come.