Every sales organization that I’ve been part of has an Annual Sales Meeting (ASM). I’ve attended many of these ranging in location from the company’s own corporate headquarters to more resort-like locations in Florida and Arizona. And, of course, there is good old Las Vegas. I’ve been an attendee and have also been involved in the planning of the event.
ASM’s provide the salesperson with an enormous opportunity to network with your peers around the country and, oftentimes, leadership from other departments that you work with. They can also be excellent opportunities to learn about new products from your company and what the upcoming goals and vision is from your company’s leadership team.
There are also some potential landmines that the salesperson could face. I’m going to discuss both the Benefits you can gain from the ASM and also some Survival Skills.
Opportunities and Benefits from Your ASM
The main opportunity is the ability to network and get to know your peers from other sales offices around the country. Regardless of your sales experience, you can always learn something new that a salesperson is doing across the country. Smart sales leadership teams will give the ‘superstar’ salesperson the opportunity to present a case study to the entire organization at some point during the day. This is a great opportunity for the entire sales team to see how a successful sale was made. Even if it is a completely different product or client, the key to watch is the thinking and organization that the superstar salesperson used to make the sale. Maybe it’s the structure of the proposal or the approach and follow-up that made the successful sale. These types of case studies can oftentimes be the thought-starter for other salespeople to win more business from their own customers.
There are usually many breaks, networking, and dining opportunities during the ASM. I strongly suggest taking these times to talk with people you don’t know well. When you’re at your breakfast, go sit at a table where you don’t know anyone, or just a few people. This is a gift to you in that you can listen and learn about challenges other team members are facing in roles that may be different from yours. I’ve seen many different challenges, even within sales teams from the same department, that occur geographically in other regional offices. And, when you sit with people whose roles are not directly in sales, you will learn some of the unique challenges that they are facing.
When I’m talking, and listening, to people outside of sales, one of the first questions I will ask is, “What can the salesperson, or sales manager, do to make your life easier?” This is such an important question because it creates instant rapport with the individual you’re speaking with…and you will often learn something that can make both your lives easier. Reach out and meet new people at your ASM.
ASM Survival Skills
Getting the most out of your Annual Sales Meeting requires you to be ‘on your game’. During any breakout sessions, I always tried to sit in the first few rows so that it was easier for me to engage with the speaker during the Q&A. I encourage you to ask questions and be involved during the meetings.
However, this can be very difficult to do when you have a raging hangover and you’ve had about 2 hours of sleep. It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the moment during the cocktail hours before your dinners…and, it is also incredibly easy to go out “off campus” or convene with folks at the lobby bar at your hotel. I’ve made these mistakes myself early in my sales career, as I would guess the majority of salespeople have, and they really rob you of the opportunity to get the most that you can out of the ASM.
I’m not saying don’t drink (if you drink) but I am saying that you always have to remember that this is a WORK EVENT. However collegial you may feel with your teammates, this is not your college reunion. Here are two things I encourage you to remember:
- It’s better to leave too early than to stay too late
- You do not want to be the topic of conversation at breakfast the next morning.
This apples to everyone but I believe it is of particular importance to the sales leaders. Your team definitely is watching you and your behavior. It’s kind of lie how your children watch how you respond to things. As a sales leader, you need to be on your best behavior at the Annual Sales Meeting. Obviously, you want to have a great relationship with your team, and other teams, but you also want to earn their respect. Jumping on tables or wearing the proverbial lampshade will not earn you any respect. If anything, it decreases the credibility of the sales leader.
In summary, I view the Annual Sales Meeting as a great opportunity to learn new things and meet new people. It’s an opportunity to enhance your influence and “footprints” within your organization. Have fun, meet new people, and remember that the ASM is a work event. Behave accordingly.