With the New Year upon us you may have already started packing for your company’s annual sales meeting. This event is meant to bring the entire sales team together to share organizational goals, new initiatives, upcoming products, and basic best practices from the field.
You would think that most salespeople are excited for this event. It is a great time to see colleagues, rub elbows with leadership, and find out about goals and initiatives for the new year. However many sales people don’t feel this way.
They actually dread the time away from the field which is replaced by meetings and presentations all day long. The travel time needed and the event as a whole will take up time that could be better spent selling and earning commission.
And although that is a valid concern, an annual sales meeting is meant to do one thing. Help the entire company and sales team make more money.
This is why massive resources are used to make the meeting as productive as possible. This goal goes all the way up to the CEO who is directly affected by how effective (or ineffective) an annual sales meeting is. They put blood, sweat, and tears into making the sales kick-off be the best possible. Therefore it’s fair for them to ask that the entire sales team put in the same amount of effort.
Today you’ll learn how to get the most out of your annual sales meeting, impress your CEO, and get through all those presentations unscathed.
Feel free to skip ahead if interested.
- Know the Schedule
- Set Goals
- Reach Out To Clients Before The Meeting
- Don’t Party Too Hard
- …But Party A Little
- Get Plenty Of Sleep (When You Can)
- Get Work Done (When You Can)
- Avoid Distractions
- Make A To-Do List
- Focus On Themes
- Reach Out To Clients After The Meeting
The first thing you want to do to prepare for the annual meeting is to know the schedule.
Most companies will provide their sales team with a schedule in advance of the kick-off. You should take full advantage of this opportunity to plan out your time there.
This will help you plan out your travel schedule well in advance. If the first meeting starts early in the morning then you can decide if you want to take a red eye flight or arrive the day before so you are well rested (my preference and recommendation).
If you have breakout sessions and know what they are, create a list of questions you want to ask and get answered. Not only will this make you a better sales person, it will show those in charge that you always come prepared.
If you have some spare time between meetings, schedule some prospecting calls while you can. Or if you aren’t regularly at the office (e.g. work from home, work at a non-headquarter location, etc) use the down time to meet or speak to colleagues that you don’t often see.
It is always a good idea to continuously build new and develop old relationships.
In lieu of (or in addition to) the schedule that is provided you should ask your sales manager what to expect during the meeting. They will be able to point you towards themes that you need to focus on. Are there new products coming out? Is there new leadership you should meet? Should you choose one breakout session over another?
Questions like these can help you quickly create an effective plan of attack for the annual sales meeting.
Like any other meeting you attend, you should have clearly defined goals established before leaving for the kick-off.
Broadly these goals will be centered around what you want to accomplish, who you want to talk with, and your suggested next steps once you talk to them.
You are interested in a promotion so you want to speak with your VP of Global Sales to express your interest, find out what they are looking for in sales leadership, and how you can be considered for the next available position. You will outline your accomplishments in your current position as well as your strengths which make you a good fit for the next level up.
You want a raise above the standard this year. You’d want to speak with the CFO and your sales manager to promote all the money you’ve earned (or saved) the company. You’d want to find out what they would base a decision like this on and what would be required to get the raise you want.
In addition to your career goals, you should also make a plan of action for more immediate goals. For example:
You have a contract that your legal team has been working on for months. Set a goal to speak with the legal team in person and figure out what they need to get this contract finished.
A customer has been waiting for a shipment that has been delayed by a week. Your goal would be to speak with the warehouse manager to see what the hold up is and how you can get the product shipment released ASAP.
I can’t stress enough the importance of setting goals for your annual sales meeting. You should treat it like any other meeting you have.
Always be prepared.
In addition to an out-of-office, you’ll want to let your clients know that you will be unavailable while attending your annual sales meeting.
Reach out a week or two before the meeting to let them know that you will be out for the specified time frame. This way they are not stalking you when they don’t get an immediate response.
This also gives you a great opportunity to schedule a meeting with them when you return.
You’ll want to let them know that you expect to get updates on everything the company is working on in the coming year and want to make sure they are aware of them too.
For example you might say:
Kristi, I want to let you know that I will be out of the office all next week attending our annual sales meeting. Feel free to reach out but know I will be a little slower than normal in my response. If it’s urgent reach out to [whomever].
Also, I plan to have a lot of great updates coming out of the meeting and I want to make sure you are in the know as soon as possible. Can we set aside [Time] on [Date] for me to give you those updates?
In addition ask them if there is anything they’d like you to bring up while with leadership or visiting headquarters. Like any other meeting, you can usually get a lot more done face to face compared to over the phone and email.
They may have some outstanding issue with another department that you can assist with while there.
I can tell you from experience that annual meetings tend to be very festive. Old friends and teammates who haven’t seen each other for over a year celebrate their reunion.
When I first joined my company I spent 3 months at headquarters training and made a lot of friends during that time. I enjoy being able to see them again and hang out.
However with all this enthusiasm, and often your company footing the bill, things can get a bit out of hand.
Open bar, late nights, friends celebrating, taxi’s expensed, competitions rampant, egos expanded…this can all lead to too much too quickly.
Always remember that even though you are among friends, they are also your colleagues. It doesn’t take much for a story of your drunken stupor to reach the highest levels of the organization. Especially when everyone is gathered in the same room.
If you drink, be sure to know your limits and don’t let peer pressure push you pass them. It can be hard, especially when you’re dealing with people who are experts at selling, to resist but you should not let them put you in a bad situation.
Remember, you don’t HAVE to drink. But if you do, be wise about it.
Although you never want to go overboard it is important to spend SOME social time with the team.
This is a big part of why the entire team was brought in. To swap stories and share best practices. You don’t want to be known as the person who doesn’t hang out when everyone else is out socializing.
If there is a company dinner, be sure to attend even if it’s not mandatory. If there is a holiday party soon after the kick-off then stick around the extra day to attend.
All of the goals you set out to achieve during this time will be much easier to accomplish if you are constantly working on the relationship.
Having a drink or breaking bread with leadership is a great way to further your career. It always gives you an opportunity to show who you are as a person.
The hazards that come with too little sleep are broad, many, and well known.
- Decreased cognitive abilities (reduced problem solving, slower thought processes, memory loss)
- Lethargy (sleepiness, lack of motivation)
- Depression (bad moods)
- Lower immunity and health problems (which is exactly what you need when going to airports and traveling)
- Looking rundown
- Impaired judgement
The last thing you want, and I’ve seen it before, is to fall asleep during one of the meetings. I’ve seen people put their heads down while the CEO is giving a presentation. DO NOT make that mistake!
Get as much sleep as you can. If you are bright eyed and bushy tailed while your coworkers are all tired and hungover you’ll definitely have a leg up during the day.
During the national sales meeting most of your time will be taken up by meetings or breakout sessions. This leaves very little time for work. As mentioned before, if there are any breaks in between sessions that would give ample time to do some calls or emails be sure to take advantage of it.
Otherwise your options are to get up early or to do it later in the night. In my experience getting up a little bit early is the better option.
First of all if you are sending emails early before the day starts your leadership will likely take notice if they are involved. A CEO would love to know that his sales reps are still working hard even if not in the field.
Doing work at the end of the day can still be very effective but from my experience there are usually events after the daily meetings that you don’t want to miss. As mentioned previously it’s important to socialize with your team as much as possible.
If you are getting back late at night the last thing you’ll want to do is work. Also its more likely that calls in the early morning will be answered (some people like to get into the office before normal business hours) while late night calls will not (everyone has already left the office for the day).
Organize your time effectively so you know when you will be available to do the work that piles up while you’re away.
Trying to absorb all the information provided to you at an annual sales meeting is like trying to drink out of a fire hose. It’s already hard enough to retain everything, you don’t need additional distractions to make matters worse.
As soon as the day starts be sure to turn off or silence your cell phone, leave computers at your desk or hotel (unless it’s needed for the day), let clients know you’ll be unavailable (so they aren’t stalking you), and avoid sitting next to your favorite colleague (who you’ll chat with the entire time).
Bring snacks if not already provided so that you don’t have an empty stomach distracting you. Keep some Advil handy in case a headache creeps up.
Also be sure to dress appropriately for the meeting. You might even consider bringing a sweater to keep warm. These sales meetings tend to be in large conference rooms which are hard to temperature regulate. More often then not they are kept below room temperature to accommodate all the warm bodies in the room.
This may seem like common sense but I’m always surprised by sales reps who don’t start and add to a to-do list during the course of the Kick-Off.
This list will help you manage your activities when you are back in the field and ready to reach out to prospects and clients again.
Again, there is so much going on that there is no way a person can keep track and remember everything. I know that as I’m going through meetings random ideas come to mind.
- Reach out to XYZ Co. about Product X that comes out this Spring.
- Send updated road-map to ABC Inc.
- Invite Jan out to lunch to talk about recent updates.
Keep a to do list of the actions you want to take AFTER the Kick-Off.
It’s important to take in as much information as possible during the meeting however it may be next to impossible to do so. Keep a to-do list or reminder list but don’t fret over not taking everything in.
Instead focus on the themes that you’re presented with during the course of the meeting. Some questions you might want to ask yourself are:
- Does leadership repeat certain topics?
- Are they constantly highlight specific products?
- Are they pointing out specific areas of opportunity for the entire team?
- Are they focusing on certain subjects?
These themes are really what are important to sales leadership. If you are able to catch on early you can better focus your attention during the meeting as well as retain more of what is important.
And if you have the gumption a great way to stay on track is to ask leadership yourself. Go up to the CEO and ask her what you are most expected to take back with you into the field. They will appreciate your focus.
This is absolutely the most important thing your CEO wants you to do. Use your newly gained knowledge and help spread the word among your clients and prospects.
At this point you should be totally pumped up about the new year and ready to hit the ground running.
For those accounts that you didn’t already set a meeting with, reach out and let them know about all the great things they can expect in the coming months.
Remember that the ultimate goal of an annual sales meeting is to make sure you know the company goals. By doing the above actions you should have no problem sticking out from the crowd.
~ Johnny Bravo
Photos curtesy of Alex Emmanual, anekoho/ Flickr.com