By Allison Saget
While in the midst of planning three upcoming sales kick-off meetings, I’ve had to remind my clients that this type of event is an internal meeting (meaning no customers attend). Yet the ideas continue to flow, and budgets seem to fly out the window.
It’s your job as the event manager to reign in the flock and share the secrets for creating affordable — but still compelling — sales meetings. Critical are the environment and the content.
From the environment perspective (and depending on the size of the group), I prefer a location/site that allows the group to own and dominate the space, whether it’s a hotel, conference center or converted mansion. Next look at the flexibility of the venue so that you can customize your program based on your attendee needs. Meeting space, food and beverage, accessibility to offsite activities, standard onsite services, such as complimentary wireless internet service, and parking, all play a role in budget management. I also find the personalities of the staff go a long way and often take the pressure off while in plan and execute mode. This allows me to transfer my energy to assisting sales in executing the content and team-building aspects of the program.
As a meeting/event marketer, the content secret is knowing what messages you want to convey and structuring and layering those messages throughout every touch-point at the event. I’m in the process of planning a sales meeting/kick-off for 300 people, and the focus is on product positioning. education, networking, and team building.
The meeting format created with the director of sales operations is case study-driven in order to accomplish their primary objectives. The sales reps, including executives, will be assigned teams, but they will not always be seated together. For example at the general session, roundtables of seven people will be pre-determined (strategic seating), which will force the networking and discussion topics at hand. In addition, their alliance partners will be invited to “make their case” and show how their product, service or solution could be the key to their case study and future business. On-the-fly presentations as well as Q&A sessions will be incorporated into the daily agenda.
For a breath of fresh air, some of the meeting components will be held outside and in the lobby lounge. Offsite dinners include “dive-bar” restaurants, which really keep the budget inline. For the closing-night event, there will be an awards banquet in which we will buy-out a local restaurant. But instead of just the traditional three winners of top-sales-for-the-year stuff, we’ve decided to offer every person some sort of award. Obviously the prize levels are different, but this way everyone is recognized — from the best image/dressed category to sales rep of the year. In addition, all the supporting sales collateral, promotional items, and giveaways will reinforce the key messages for their next selling year.
Annual sales meetings set the tone for the fiscal year, and you’ll find that by applying some event marketing secrets you’ll be contributing to their success.
Allison Saget is the president of event marketing consulting firm EventBLT (http://www.eventblt.com) and author of “The Event Marketing Handbook: Beyond Logistics and Planning.” She can be reached at email@example.com.