5 Keys to Planning Effective Sales Meetings

Mike Carr
September 24, 2014

Sales meetings, at their most effective, can be a great place to inspire employees, share goals, build connections between your team and have some fun. At their worst, they can be stale, uninspiring, disorganized, and a big waste of time and money. Here's a list of 5 key considerations to transform this year's annual sales meeting from barely tolerable to very memorable.

How to Plan More Effective Sales Meetings

1. Pick a GREAT location

Meeting planning usually starts with choosing a location, a decision that is typically based on your company’s size, culture and budget. If you have enough meeting space at your office, hosting there will likely be the most cost effective. If you want to keep it cheap yet still get outside, camping can be a great and highly memorable option. To coordinate (or surprise them), follow Nixon's lead and have all your reps fly to a designated airport within the same 4-6 hour window and have charter buses waiting to take them to the campground. You'll want to know your audience here as many reps with a passion for the outdoors will love this type of thing, while others may not. For a mid-range budget and smaller sized group, consider using AirBnB or VRBO to rent multiple houses in the same area. Throwing your reps into close quarters with one another will be an experience they’ll never forget. If you’ve got the budget and your team likes to play outside, the Treasure Mountain Inn located on main street in Park City, UT and the Shorebreak in Huntington Beach, CA will allow access to some of the country’s best snow & surf  (respectively) and you’ll also be able to walk to dinner & the bars. Alternatively, check out the Timberline Lodge an hour outside Portland, OR where reps will have the privacy of their own room yet the comradarie factor that comes along with being stuck in a lodge together. One important consideration to keep in mind when choosing locations: be aware of and sensitive to flight prices in the case that your independent reps are footing the bill for their own transportation. A flight that's too expensive could make or break whether your reps are willing to attend (or bring additional members of their staff).

 2.  Set expectations in advance

Relevant for both your internal staff as well as your reps, sometimes it needs to be stated directly that everyone is required to be engaged in the meetings and participate in the events. It’s easy for internal staff and sub-reps not directly involved with the meeting to wander off or spend more time at a bar watching sports rather spending time learning from each other. Make sure everyone knows that this time is valuable and the heavy costs associated with the event means that the company is looking for an ROI. Well in advance of the event, circle up with your executive team and talk about goals for the meeting. Would it be so bad to require each internal staff member to write a few sentences about the three things they unexpectedly learned during their time with the reps? When it comes to your reps, it’s likely you’ll want to gather some sort of information from them during the meeting, perhaps a forecast or a color curve. Regardless of what you’ll be asking for, make sure you prepare them well in advance so they can be sure to leave their hangovers at the door and keep their thinking caps on at all times.

3. Be realistic about scheduling 

Things happen; some meetings run late and others end early. If a manager says they need an hour for a presentation, be sure to plan for an additional 15 minutes of Q&A. In addition, you’ll want to include 15-30 min breaks between meetings. This will help account for meetings that run long and if things run smooth or early, you can keep the meeting rolling ahead of schedule or give your reps some additional time to check their e-mail. For respect of your employees and the venue staff, its way more considerate to build in this extra padding so you don't run late.

4. Consider a guest speaker

Outside of launching new products, strategies, terms, etc., chances are that motivating your internal and external teams will be a primary objective of your meeting. Adding a human element, maybe someone who overcame adversity or saw success in a field or practice that is close to home will make everyone in the room feel more connected to each other and your brand. Speaker types can include professionals from the David Allen group, nationally recognized athletes or even an athlete sponsored by your brand. If budget isn’t available for this type of thing, consider reaching out to someone within your rep group, talk to them about the topic and keep their identity secret until the event. Having the “guest speaker” on the schedule come from within will really get everyone’s attention.

5. Fun factor

Team bonding will likely be another primary objective of the meeting, so hosting a fun factor event will be key. If you’re camping, you’re already half way there. Plan the food to match and encourage any musicians within your group to bring their instruments… you’ll be singing campfire songs before you know it. If your reps like to surf and you want to keep it cheap, stay close to the beach and coordinate a bunch of rental boards along with donuts and coffee for a morning of fun. If your heading into winter and staying on a near a mountain, you’ve probably already allotted time to enjoy it. Play it by ear with snow and/or surprise your reps by cancelling the following morning meetings and invite everyone to join you at the chairlift before it opens to enjoy fresh tracks. If action sports aren’t your thing, take over (or rent) a local park to host “Olympic” type events – create a handful of teams and play a variety of games for point totals. Think outside the box by including drinking games flip cup along with more traditional activities like softball and tug of war. Consider a scavenger hunt documented by images, which can be displayed via slide show at the end of the meeting. Seeing the wacky things your comrades did while you were being equally ridiculous is always good for a few laughs! Hope these suggestions help point your planning efforts in a more interesting direction this year. Seen great things happen at annual sales meetings over the years? We'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below.