By DAVID POINTON

David Pointon looks at the business opportunity and return created by introducing practical innovations to sales meetings.

Many sales leaders spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on their annual sales conference but cannot say what return on investment (ROI) they achieved six months on.
Conference planners can add real value to business leaders with an ROI approach. But how do you go about delivering a conference that drives a healthy ROI for the business?
Last time we looked at three practical ideas, which included focussing on six month behaviour change, including client feedback gold, and facilitating sharing of ‘best recipes for success’. Here are another four innovations:

4 Get the business in sync

Marketing and product teams are always keen to get on the conference agenda, and they show up to deliver PowerPoint updates they prepare themselves. But this misses an opportunity for sales, marketing and operations to sync together.
Instead, get the heads of departments more involved in planning their input. Ask them early on “What can your part of the business contribute to helping achieve the behavioural changes we are driving with our conference?”
Then work collaboratively so that their information or tools are embedded into the program design, including practical workshops involving sales team participation.

5 Find the nuggets

Sales conference programs are like overflowing bathtubs, full to the brim with content sessions right up to the final afternoon.
Delegates leave with lots of new ideas and a motivational buzz, but then have to make sense of what it all means and how they can apply it all on the job.
Build time in to the final third of your program for delegates to find the gems that shine out for them and the changes they will make to put those into practice.
Ask them to write down and share: “What stands out for you, and what will you do more of, less of and differently over the next six months that will help you improve your results?”

6 Paint lines on the road

Sales conferences have a wash up period that includes a ‘happy sheet’ survey and review of the outcomes. Priorities and actions get written down and sent out to managers and their teams to enact. Sometimes there are monthly follow up calls held for 1–3 months. These are like a path drawn in the sand for them to follow.
However, the ‘main road’ of people’s day jobs is guided by KPIs, systems and structures. These can begin to over-ride the focus on conference actions which gradually become hazy and forgotten.
To make changes stick, paint lines on that main road by embedding priorities into KPIs, systems and projects.
The state managers of an insurance business were encouraged to focus on conference outcomes in their monthly meetings, and this was done with mixed success. The next year, a KPI was added to state managers’ roles; namely implementation of conference outcomes. This lead to far higher levels of activity, which ultimately drove measurable traction and change with their teams.

7 Collect your prize

Measuring return on investment after your conferences completes the loop from intention, through planning, action and review.
Failing to do so is like buying a lottery ticket, but never bothering to check whether you won.
Measures will be different to the ‘Happy Sheet’ surveys used after the event and should be applied with a time lapse of 4–6 months so there is time for changes to occur.
Apart from using actual sales results, which are influenced by factors apart from your conference, a robust ROI number will be formulated using art and science. Simply put, you want to measure the cause and effect relationships between behaviour changes and results.

For example, an IT business used three measures for its conference ROI calculation.
A third of the result was linked to sales performance against target, a third to the per cent of team members with up to date account plans in sales force for their top 10 accounts, and a third to the new sales opportunities for product ‘X’ generated in the forecast pipeline.
These ideas when implemented can help you as conference planners to make a measurable impact for business leaders through their sales conferences by helping them achieve a healthy ROI for the big investment they make.

David Pointon is the managing director of FAST Meetings Co., an Australian based organisation which has worked extensively with organisations to transform their sales conference results. To learn more about FAST Meetings visit www.fastmeetings.com.au

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