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How to Ruin a National Sales Meeting

The only time during the entire year when the worldwide sales team gets together is the annual sales kickoff meeting. Obviously, everyone wants this meeting to be a success. As a keynote speaker who has had the privilege of presenting at more than one hundred annual sales meetings, I thought I would share some of the ways companies sabotage their annual sales conventions.

Wrong Length. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered people forget facts at a predictable rate and that the greatest learning actually occurs by studying less. His famous “Forgetting Curve” (see figure) shows that meeting attendees will already have forgotten 80% of what they learned just two days before. You should keep this in mind when you are deciding on holding a three, four, or five day sales meeting.

Wrong Agenda. You’re making a mistake if every session at your meeting is a “deep-dive” about product specifications, features, and functionality. Ideally, your agenda should include at least six different types of sessions:

  • State of the Union presentations about the company and sales, marketing, R&D, customer support and other pertinent areas of the company.
  • Product-related sessions from the prospective customer’s point of view.
  • Competitive comparison sessions.
  • Personal sales skills development sessions that address your biggest sales challenges and complement your particular sales cycle methodology.
  • Sales strategy sessions based upon real-world win-loss studies and information.
  • Motivational guest speakers and humorous presentations, video clips, skits, games, etc.

Wrong Communication. Too many sales kickoffs are death by PowerPoint where presenter after presenter lectures the sales organization. These meetings don’t involve their salespeople in any aspect of the group presentations. Key salespeople should be asked to present summary overviews of their most important wins. Whenever I keynote a meeting, I will also moderate a panel that I call “Tales From the Field” where top salespeople are interviewed about their major wins and losses.

Wrong Location. There are three critical factors in determining location. First, how many airplane connections will it take for the majority of the salespeople to reach the meeting? Never select a location that requires three or more flights for non-international-based attendees. Second, stay away from “hazardous” weather locations during January through March (like the northeast or cities like Chicago). Finally, how much time, effort, and cost will take to get all your corporate presenters (and their demonstration equipment) to the meeting? This will help you determine if you should hold the meeting near corporate headquarters.

Wrong Meeting Facility. Consider the following when selecting the hotel and meeting facility. How far is it from the airport? This forgotten factor is important because no one likes the hassle of flying all day only to have to shuttle for another hour or two to a hotel. The hotel meeting facility you choose also sends a message to the sales team. Is the company trying to send a message of austerity based upon the economic climate or do you want them to feel appreciated for all their hard work? Whatever your situation is, make sure the hotel mirrors the main messages being delivered by the senior leaders presenting at the meeting.

Wrong Acknowledgement. No one has ever been fired for saying too many compliments or handing out too much recognition at a sales conference. Awards are extremely important because salespeople enjoy the acclaim and the public identification as a role model with their peers. Therefore, compliments to individual salespeople should be given out continuously throughout the sales kickoff and awards should always be done in full view of the entire organization.

Steve W. Martin Video Clips

Steve W. Martin Keynotes
What is Sales Linguistics
Why Salespeople Lose
Selling Power Magazine Interview:
How to Become a Heavy Hiter
Selling Power Magazine Interview:
Sales Warfare Strategies
Forbes Video Interview: Language, Rapport, and Customer Relationships