Rethinking Your Annual Sales Meeting

Bill Stinnett

While sales executives are pressing their organizations to achieve year-end budgets, someone else in the organization is usually planning and creating an agenda for an annual sales meeting. This year’s message, tone, content, and ultimate impact upon every salesperson will have a far greater importance than any meeting in recent years.The typical challenge will be to find the right combination of business strategy, operational model, and tactical execution to accelerate profitable growth. At the same time it is important to recognize that every member of the sales team may not be totally committed and convinced that their current position is the right one for them. After a tumultuous stretch with few job openings or employment options, many sales people may appear to be totally engaged, but are secretly waiting to make a change to regain their momentum and get their income back to the level they were at before the economic downturn.Your sales meeting this year should be designed to accomplish several important things. First, it must provide clear guidance and direction for accomplishing company goals and objectives. Second, it needs to instill confidence, motivation, and enthusiasm for the sales team and all the people who support them throughout the sales process. And third, it should have a powerful impact upon each individual salesperson to reaffirm their commitment and dedication to their own success as well as the company and its goals.Planning this meeting, therefore, is not a one-person administrative task. If your organization is like many, you have long ago committed to a timeframe and a venue, but have left the agenda to others as you have focused on one of the toughest sales years you have ever experienced. It is time to rethink that delegation and be sure the meeting will be the kind of up-lifting and transformational experience your team really needs.One Innovative ApproachHere is one recommendation: Let your sales team take ownership of your new year’s sales plan by letting them participate in the process. Don't just give them next year's objectives. Let your sales team help create not only the objectives, but also the strategy to achieve them.  This requires an entirely different agenda. The opening session, after the CEO kick-off and recognition for the past year, should have a financial focus and comprehensive review of the competitive landscape. Then, through a series of interactive workshops, the sales team can work in small groups to examine company financial requirements, customer and market needs, and competitive forces in order to develop preliminary sales goals and objectives.When the numbers don’t add up to what the company needs in order to achieve its financial goals, then the teams will have to go back and rethink the plan.  Let the teams discover the necessity for stretching beyond what they think is possible rather than being told to do so from above. Letting your sales team draw their own conclusions about the need for increasing sales numbers and quotas can make all the difference in their commitment to achieve them, not only from the start, but especially toward the end of the year.The next step is to have the small groups develop strategies to achieve these new, more aggressive goals and objectives. If this is the first time doing this kind of exercise, they will probably need guidance and instruction as well as some practical examples to get them started. One way to generate even more enthusiasm is to make this process competitive to see which team can develop the most innovative and compelling plans and strategies.The final step is translating company or business unit objectives into individual sales numbers. The compensation system should be clarified in advance, so sales professionals see the value of stepping up and committing to higher quotas. Once this process is complete, the rest of the discussion turns to how to achieve these new numbers through teamwork and sharing best practices.Getting your sales team involved in the planning process is just one of many successful approaches to ensure a powerful sales meeting. Here are several other ideas that are used by leading companies around the world.

Other Ideas for Powerful Annual Sales Meetings

Joint New Product Presentation DevelopmentRather than having marketing develop new product presentations at the corporate office, try having sales and marketing work together to create more effective and powerful sales presentations. Clear targets and instruction are essential. Coaching and feedback are also usually needed.SAM and GAM Team BuildingNothing beats actual teams interacting on real-world case studies and plans to win real sales opportunities. The cost of pulling together you Strategic Account or Global Account Management teams is repaid many times over in applying new approaches and strategies to win business. Teams will need experienced and knowledgeable coaching and mentoring.Competitive Sales SimulationFor a high-energy experience that promotes marked and long-lasting changes in sales behavior, try assembling  teams who will compete to win new business in a simulated but realistic customer scenario. This can produce a very memorable and effective sales meeting. Advance research and preparation is required by people knowledgeable in learning design.Personal Development PlansIndividual development plans are the bridge between performance and learning, empowering employees to reach their fullest potential while facilitating goal alignment between individuals and the organization as a whole. This should start well before the sales meeting and requires careful follow-up by each individual’s immediate supervisor.Virtual Sales MeetingFor widely distributed organizations, the only practical way to meet may be by video or teleconference. The key is to gain active involvement by all participants. Engaging and dynamic interaction must be planned and carefully orchestrated.About Sales ExcellenceSales Excellence, Inc., a global sales training and consulting company dedicated to helping companies grow their client base, increase revenue, and keep more profit. Sales executives call upon us at this time of year to help rethink their annual sales meetings, lead interactive sessions like those recommended above, and provide custom-tailored training programs that equip sales professionals with the tools and skills they need to excel. Please contact us at 1-800-524-1994 or visit us on the web at www.salesexcellence.com to explore how we can help you reach your sales objectives.

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