BY DAVID POINTON


David Pointon from FAST Meetings Co. looks at the business opportunity and return created by introducing practical innovations to your next sales conference.

Corporate sales conferences provide the most concrete opportunity to deliver a return on investment of any type of conference. However, sales conferences often achieve only a short upswing in sales team motivation and do not deliver sustained increases in sales performance because they are not designed with that end in mind.
By making practical changes to the design, delivery and follow through of your next sales conference, it is possible to achieve lasting value. Doing this will ensure your conference delivers increased ROI for the business, measurable results for your sales team and leaders, and higher value adding for conference planners.
Here are the first three of seven practical ideas:

1 Focus on six month behaviour change

The obvious first question when planning a sales conference is ‘What are the objectives?’ However this question leads to conference objectives like ‘Motivate the team’, ‘Focus them on selling the new product’, or even ‘Increase sales.’ These are all valid, but they don’t allow you to design a conference that is focussed on delivering sustained results and therefore ROI.
Instead, try asking a question like: “What behaviours do you want to see from sales team members in six months that will ensure sustained improvements in sales results?” Then categorise the behaviours into three headings: Do More of, Do Less of, Do Differently.
Finally, prioritise these and get them down to two or three really key behavioural changes that become the focus for your next conference..

2 Client feedback is gold

At least one of the behaviours your conference is designed to change will likely revolve around being more customer-focussed and customer-aware. It is surprising how few sales conferences include a ‘Voice of the Customer’ segment to give the sales team feedback from an existing client or industry representative ‘straight from the horse’s mouth.’ This input is gold and leaves a much deeper impression on sales people than anyone within the business banging on about listening to customers.
As an example, a shipping freight business invited the CEO of Toll along to its conference. He described in detail the impact on his business of not receiving goods from them on time, right down to the abusive emails and phone calls his service centre receives from its customers. The sales people became much more aware of providing accurate promises of arrival and dispatch times, and of giving prompt advance notice if goods had been held up in transit.
To do this well, firstly try conducting a client interview before your conference to draw out the real gems in their feedback, including practical examples. Use this info to write up some dot points that highlight the key things you’d like them to repeat at the conference. This helps them understand the type of feedback you want. On the day of the conference, consider conducting an interview style session that is driven by a facilitator, with sales team participation encouraged throughout.
Start by framing the session with one rule only: ‘They can listen, and ask questions but not defend’. This will ensure the client is really heard, and the feedback more likely taken on.

3 Share best ‘recipes’ for success

A consistently powerful session at sales conferences is when people are given the opportunity to learn about practical approaches of their peers. A Best of Breed module can allow sharing of specific details of the ‘why, what and how’ of activities that represent the various strengths of your sales team. This can range from ‘how to increase the return rate of voice messages left for prospects’ to ‘increasing your conversion rate with proposal writing’ or ‘getting the decision maker to show up at your pitch meeting.’
It is often the practical and specific insights that people learn from each other that really open them up to trying different approaches. In the space of 90 minutes, each sales team member can have shared one of their practical tips to get best results, and have learned three or four others. This is a bit like people sharing their secret tips and magic ingredients when making a lasagne. (eg. try adding a tablespoon of honey to your tomato sauce!)

To understand how this process can work, The Best of Breed ‘How To’ guide is available for free on the FAST Meetings Co. website at www.fastmeetings.com.au/tools/tools-library.htm

Your can deliver more sustained impact and greater ROI by trying practical approaches such as these in your planning, delivery and follow through of your next sales sonference. We will look at more ideas next issue.

David Pointon is the managing director of FAST Meetings Co., an Australian based organisation dedicated to improving the productivity of meetings and conferences worldwide. To learn more about FAST Meetings visit www.fastmeetings.com.au