But given the breakneck pace at which the industry is evolving, and the need that everyone in the industry has for current information, provocative perspectives and strategic focus, the annual sales meeting should be playing a more prominent role in publisher sales force management and education. In fact, I humbly propose that we stop thinking of the annual sales meeting as a meeting, but consider it, instead, a conference.
Here, then, are some dos and don'ts for making the most of your next annual sales conference:
Do kick off with a provocative keynote speaker who can speak to some of the biggest issues in the industryespecially, forward-looking issues.
Do program the event to include lots of networking. Consumer-generated content exists offline as well; creating a context for dialogue, and letting your salespeople learn from each other, can be highly profitable.
Do invite partners and vendors to attend, and even exhibit at the event. Giving your sales force firsthand en-masse access to rich media, research, measurement and other partners is expedient to both you and your partners, and gives everyone more depth in your offerings.
Do budget appropriately for the event. A two-day conference at a major hotel can easily run $500/per person, and is rarely less than $250 per person. In addition to your staff travel expenses, your budget should allocate for everything from venue and food and beverage, to A/V, on-site signage and collateral, shipping, photography or videography, Internet connectivity, gratuities, even speaker honorariums. Sound like a lot? Calculate the cost of taking your sales force off the street for a day or two, and it's easily justified.
Don't think of the event as having "mandatory attendance." Maybe it does, but if you program it that way, you'll fulfill the event's promise of being an "insipid time suck." Program a show you'd take a day or two out of your schedule to attend yourself.
Don't limit speakers to your own executives, or even to the sell-side. Round out your agenda with every perspective that might contribute to a more productive and valuable event.
Don't focus exclusively on sales force education or professional development. An annual sales conference is a powerful way to solidify internal culture while transferring knowledge throughout the organization.
Don't invite clients. No matter how much work you put into the agenda and the environment, all attention is lost if there's media budget in the room. Make the day about your sales staff, and keep the dialogue with them wide-open.
The idea behind any conference is to give attendees a competitive advantage through access to expertise, experience and provocative points of view, both on stage and off, and to link them with new contacts to rely on for future opportunities. Approach your sales meeting like a conference, and the result won't be two days of "lost time." Insist instead that it be productive, empowering and profitable.