Senior marketer and brand enthusiast This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. leverages years of experience in....more

How to Structure an Effective Sales Conference

After experiencing over 15 Sales Conferences in my career, I have learned a lot about putting one together. If your organization hosts Sales Meetings or are considering doing so, consider yourself fortunate that the leaders value the sales team enough to pull them out of the field and invest in them. If done right, this gathering could bring significant outcomes as it brings your sales, marketing, service and executive teams together in one place to focus on sales growth. In this two-part series, I’ll cover some of the critical elements to consider.

First, before anyone lifts a finger to plan, make sure your top executives are involved in setting the mission/vision for the sales conference. This will help ensure that the structure of the conference’s content aligns with the five-year, one-year, and quarterly business plan. You may find that the executive plan is primarily tied to operational strategy or financial expectation instead of market direction, so you’ll want to hone in on a concise vision by asking some of the following questions:

  • Where do we plan on focusing investments in technology and category expansion?
  • What are indicators of foreseeable changes in our market or competitive landscape?
  • What companies are on our radar as prospective strategic alliances that may enable growth?
  • How will our organization adjust to weather a downturn or scale for a growth spurt?

Next, you’ll need to establish the value of the conference. Define compelling answers to these questions:

  • Why take the sales/service teams out of the field?
  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • How will we determine whether the meeting was worthwhile?

Set objectives and agree on a system to measure success. It could be a simple equation that weighs the benefits against the costs.

Benefits: Consider how to measure the benefit of an outcome from a sales meeting such as the following:

  • A team approach among sales people to penetrate a large (possibly global) customer organization.
  • A finely tuned change in process for turning quotes around that lightens the load on Customer Service and enables the sales team to win more business.
  • Hands-on training of a new product being launched, which provides Product Management and Marketing with effective feedback and enables sales to deliver a strong, united front on bringing the product to market.

Costs: Develop a mechanism to present both hard and soft costs. Hard costs may include things like flights, hotels, mileage, food, conference room, and printing. Soft costs mostly include labor (value of people in the room) and the opportunities lost because the sales team is out of the field.

Thinking through your true costs will set you up to arrange the experience in a way that you will get a return on the investment in volumes. Determine what are the revenue quotas for each salesperson attending. Divide that number by each person's annual 2,080 hours (I know. . . many people work more than 40 hours/week, but this is for calculations sake.) Here's an example based on a three-day meeting with 10 sales people, and six people from staff.

The next step is to begin execution. Start with the end in mind, and then you will be able to assign the responsibilities for the logistics (where to stay, what to do, transportation, shipping, etc.) and establish a process for you to evaluate all of the presentation material to make sure everything is cohesive and supports the overarching mission and objectives. At the beginning of this stage of planning, develop milestones and preset meeting times/dates to get updates and collaborate with your planning team.

And the final step of this guide is to prepare the content. This topic is so large that I will leave it for further examination in my next post.

In the big picture, make sure you have two people owning the content portion of the Sales Meeting. The first is the host of the meeting, who plays a strategic role and champions the concept of WHAT is being presented so it aligns with the vision/mission and theme. This person should also have the authority to push back on what is submitted. The second should have talent at pulling together presentation material with various designs and formats to make a smooth, consistent visual presentation to support the facilitators and speakers.

Remember that when done right, a sales meeting isn’t something that hinders you from getting your job done. It’s an opportunity to grow your skill set and strengthen your team’s ability to drive business.

Make sure to take these steps in order: Set the mission/vision, establish the (measurable) value, and THEN take the steps toward executing logistics and developing content. Like many planners, I admit to have started the planning at the execution stage in the past, but now find that planning a conference with direction from a business objective and understanding how to measure success makes the project much smoother.

If you follow this guide in preparing your Sales Conference you will create an environment where everyone wins. And after all, that’s what a successful sales organization accomplishes, isn’t it?

Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter