Sales conferences can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a lot of work, and require significant resources in the form of time and money. But making sure the sales conference is a worthwhile investment for the company, as well as for the sales team, is entirely achievable. Here are three things to keep in mind when planning your sales conference to make sure it is a success.
1. Goals and Objectives
When planning a sales conference, it is critical to begin by determining the goals and objectives of the event. This may seem obvious, but it is easy to lose track of what you set out to accomplish if you don’t have it clearly defined and articulated. Whether the focus is on a new product kick-off, team building, sales skills development, or process improvement, it is important to ask: what is the change in the sales team as a result of this sales conference? What does success look like back on the job?
When you have the goals of the sales conference clearly defined, you have what you need to begin thinking about a solid theme to tie everything together, as well as what possible components and activities will achieve those goals.
2. Attendee Expectations
The next thing to keep in mind when planning an effective sales meeting is what the sales reps who attend want to get out of the experience.
- Value - Just as company stakeholders want value for investing in a sales event, the sales team wants value for the time they are taking away from selling; they want relevant information, sales tools, and skills they need to maximize their performance.
- Variety - No one, especially busy salespeople, likes to sit through monotonous meetings for hours at a time. When planning a sales meeting, ensure that you give your attendees variety in the agenda so that it keeps their attention throughout the event.
Making a sales conference fun and engaging isn’t frivolous — it is an important way to maximize the impact of the investment for both stakeholders and attendees. Even as you plan activities that are motivational and engaging, the key to balancing fun and value is to make the takeaways clear, memorable, and actionable. There are several different ways you can do this, but regardless of the speakers, training, and activities you choose, always go back to the central goal of the event as your selection criteria. Ask yourself, will this activity help achieve the sales conference goal?
As Ray Makela points out in this article, motivational speakers may be interesting and inspiring, but there won’t be much lasting value if there is no link between the speaker’s presentation and the organization’s priorities. So, if you plan to have a motivational speaker at your sales conference, find one who will work with you to tailor their presentation to your objectives and weave useful action items into their takeaways.
Experiential activities are an excellent component to include for team building and sales skills development because they use hands-on learning that, by definition, teaches new skills that are immediately applicable for your sales team. If you decide to incorporate experiential activities into your sales conference, be sure to choose a provider that will customize the activity to emphasize the most valuable lessons that tie back to your event goals, the realities of your company, and challenges your sales team faces.
3. Lasting Results
The final thing, and arguably the most important to keep in mind when planning a sales conference, is how to translate the goals you’ve defined and the agenda items you’ve planned into results back on the job. Sales conferences are exciting, and there’s a lot of information flying around — when it’s all over, the information and new skills need to be applied back on the job. Without this, it is another fun event that does not drive the organization forward.
It’s important to provide tools that help sales reps organize their thoughts so they can remember and apply the key messages and new skills. Assigning homework throughout the conference is a helpful way to do this because it requires follow-up action. In your event materials, or even in each session, provide attendees with a card that has three columns: in the first, they will record the key takeaway from the session; in the second, the action item they will complete; and in the third, the deadline for that action. Giving actionable items that are tied to a deadline ensures there are takeaways that can be applied back on the job.
In order to make a sales conference worth the time and investment for both the organization and the sales team, it’s important to begin by defining the goals for the event. Using the goals as the framework, you can then create a fun, engaging, and valuable event for the team that they will enjoy attending. Then, providing tools that help apply the key messages and actions back on the job ensures it is a worthwhile use of money for the organization and time for the sales team. If you keep the goals, attendee expectations, and actionable results top-of-mind when planning a sales conference, it’s sure to be a hit.