Effective Sales Meetings in an Ever-Changing World


Recalling lots of sales meetings in my 22 years as a rep, plus speaking at national sales meetings over the course of the last three years, I have seen some lavish venues — Las Vegas, Mexico, Maui — and many have really been fun. (One of the best was the annual Epson Components national sales meeting at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, Maui, in January!) I’ve also attended many sales meetings conducted in business venues where the focus was almost entirely on business — and that’s okay too.

There are many reasons why to have a sales meeting (and sometimes they aren’t even necessary) but I think the circumstances of the last ten years have shaped a completely different agenda for having manufacturers and reps meet.

First, let’s tackle the why in having a sales meeting. Whether it’s a national, international, regional, or even a Rep Firm sales meeting, the focus should always be on SALES. As obvious as this may appear, sometimes we need to remind everyone of the fact — “Heck, it is a ‘Sales Meeting,’ right?” If you really think about it, in the Manufacturers – Reps world, the total focus should be on SALES period — growing sales, maintaining customers’ sales, and finding new customers to grow sales. It’s all about NBOs (New Business Opportunities).

A large portion of the meeting should be dedicated to addressing the manner in which each party is going to do everything to (1) focus on the customers’ needs and problems, (2) make business processes easy, and (3) work together to keep those customers happy (and find new ones). The agenda, schedule and presentations should be decided upon with inputs from reps, perhaps from the manufacturer’s rep council. Pre-planning and a dress rehearsal of the entire program are essential for conducting a great sales meeting.

Product presentations need to be concise. I’m not a big fan of “product” training — what manufacturers really need to do is show reps where to sell the product and how it successfully fits into the customer’s application or need. It’s really more about “application” training — showing reps where and how to sell it. The best example of this was a really good one-day sales meeting that our rep firm used to attend. The product engineer would present for 30 minutes or less and then the marketing/product manager would talk for 15 minutes about the types of customers and/or industries (often reviewing 4 or 5 customers) with major application successes. The manufacturer would cover 5 or 6 products which were either new or were focus products for the company — and this would really capture and keep the reps’ attention (successful and new products).

In recent years, we’ve seen webinars on product/application training really becoming more popular; I think these are a great follow-up tool and source of reinforcement for what was learned at the sales meetings. I’m not sure that an annual meeting is always necessary; it may be more fitting to have a sales meeting every 2 to 3 years, in which case the webinars make good fillers for the in-between years.

Meeting location is important; today I’m more of a fan of having it near the factory for three primary reasons:

  • “Rookie” reps (those new to the line or new to the rep firm) could come in a day early for Rookie Rep Training.
  • All the reps should have a brief factory tour to see what’s new (you always learn something on those tours).
  • The factory people get to mingle with the reps and should be invited to some of the evening dinners to get to know the reps better, and vice-versa. Establishing and/or enhancing these relationships is an integral component of increased sales success.

(Keep in mind, all of the above only makes sense IF the factory is still here in North America!)

There should also be some time during the sales meeting for candid and open dialogue. This town hall style question and answer period is good for reps to learn about future strategic directions and for manufacturers to hear what’s really going on in the field. Sometimes a pre-survey of the reps facilitates more candid discussions. There should also be a wrap-up meeting where the president/CEO/owner gives an overview and announces rep awards, followed by some resounding motivation on how the manufacturer-rep team is focused on mutual success.

Don’t forget to have some good productive fun too!

Keep it Short and Sweet


I know that because I work primarily in the OEM industry, sales meetings might be a little different than they are in other industries. But I’m positive there are a couple of fundamentals that cross all industry boundaries that must be included in a successful sales meeting — and by successful I mean worthwhile and memorable to both the manufacturer and the rep. For instance:

My experience — both good and bad — has been that the sales meeting that is short, sweet and to the point is going to be the most effective.

Concurrently, to get to the point … Read the rest

How to Plan and Execute Effective Sales Meetings From Both the Rep and Principal’s Perspective


The key to a successful rep-manufacturer sales meeting resides in the effective planning of the event. It’s only when both the rep and the manufacturer focus on what’s going to transpire before, during and after the event that they will reap the benefits of a productive meeting.

Whilst that’s the consensus that evolved after several interviews, the fact remains that planning and executing a successful sales meeting can be easier said than done. For instance, consider what some reps have to say on the subject:

Meeting with a purpose — “There’s no sense in having a meeting just to have … Read the rest

Tune in to Your Customers for Better Sales


I just came across some research that confirmed what many of us in the profession of educating salespeople have known for years: Purchasers would be “much more likely” to buy from a salesperson if that salesperson would just “listen” to the customer. The survey found that some of the worst offenders were experienced salespeople.

Listening is one of the four fundamental competencies of a professional salesperson, and yet, the profession is, in general, so poor at it that most customers remark on our inability to do it well.

Gee, if there is anyone I wouldn’t want thinking I was a … Read the rest

Do Nice (Sales) Guys Finish Last?


A seventh-grade teacher once told his class that he didn’t understand what “being nice” meant. “What is being nice?” he asked. He said that nice was such a nondescript word that really didn’t give any direction of how to be or describe a set of behaviors. No one in the class had any comment as they were just 12 years old and were always being told to be nice. As many business people continue to run their businesses, the question of how nice they should be as a salesperson, program coordinator, boss, renter (and the list could go on for

Read the rest

Cashing In: Gleaning an Education From Our Economic State


Paying attention to business is one of the major benefits of a recession. Ford figured it out. And so has Starbucks by bringing back the founding CEO, closing nearly 1,000 marginal stores and — most significantly — introducing their own instant coffee. This could be a brilliant move. While proudly passing up their $4 cup of coffee, we take the instant stuff home and keep a little Starbucks in our lives.

But the recession has worn on so long, we’re tired of hearing so much bad news. Yet, pushing all that aside misses the point, and so do all the … Read the rest

Into the Light — Making Our Way Through the Economic Tunnel


We are facing challenges in our economy the likes of which have not been experienced in most of our lifetimes. News stories seem to bounce from bad to worse, from hope to despair, leaving relatively rare moments of optimism and huge holes of uncertainty. The primary result of this combined “gloom and doom” assault has rendered many businesses paralyzed with a sense of fear for the present and the future. Such paralysis has slowed the progress of even the most (formerly) dynamic of companies to a crawl. Economists are left scratching their heads unsure of what to do, and marketing … Read the rest

Change is in the Air: PTRA Conference Previews Economic Upturn


There’s an economic recovery on the horizon, and reps should consider how to change their business models if they are truly going to be able to take advantage of the turnaround. That was just part of the positive message delivered to attendees at PTRA’s 37th Annual Conference in Tucson, Arizona, this year.

PTRA members who heard that message walked away from the four-day event with plenty of information that will allow them to hit the ground running after the challenging economy takes a turn for the better.

Providing some much-anticipated news on the economic front was Alan Beaulieu of … Read the rest

Around the World in a Day


One Rep Takes a Global Approach, Literally

MANA member Les Rapchak should be forgiven if earlier this year the title of a 1969 movie, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” ran through his mind. Sure, it was still a Tuesday, but for Rapchak the country was a bit different — and how different it was!

Rapchak left the Toronto, Ontario, headquarters location of his Tech Sales Company and in the matter of a couple of days completed a whirlwind trip to Basra in Southern Iraq, via Frankfurt, Germany, and Kuwait, with a stop afterwards in Istanbul.

According to the … Read the rest

Reinventing a Rep Training Program


Instead of believing what he was hearing from many of his reps as the reason why they couldn’t or wouldn’t attend any of his regularly scheduled training sessions, the manufacturer decided to turn a critical eye on what he was offering.

“I’ve been having my reps come to the factory with regularity so I can bring them up to speed with our newest products and applications and provide all of us with an opportunity to compare marketing intelligence. This year, however, more and more of my reps are telling me that with the economy so bad, they can’t afford the … Read the rest

Relationship Farming Tools


Tending to the Task of Business-Building

Relationship marketing is much like keeping a water bucket filled. The bucket has holes in it, and it is your job to keep the water at the “full” mark. That requires three kinds of activities: 1. Putting water in the bucket; 2. Keeping the holes patched and 3. Preventing new holes from appearing. As a relationship farmer, it is your job to tend to these never-ending tasks.

You want to keep your business relationships fresh and current. Stay in touch with important people. This also means that you have to prioritize among those who … Read the rest

Market Volatility and Your Retirement: Can Timing Alter Your Plans?


Investors saving for long-term goals can usually overlook short-term market volatility in the interest of long-term gain. But for retirees, who increasingly rely on their investments to fund their living costs, market volatility can mean the difference between living comfortably and just scraping by. In fact, retirees are particularly vulnerable to market downturns, especially in the early years of retirement, because of their dependence on portfolio income, their limited investment horizon and their need to make sure their savings last throughout their retirement.

Market Volatility — An Historic Inevitability

Unfortunately, the timing of market losses and gains is something that … Read the rest