For many companies, national sales meetings are a great way to highlight the year’s successes, inspire with strategy for the year ahead, introduce new products or initiatives, and mobilize and equip your sales team for whatever lies ahead. This year, the coronavirus pandemic presents a unique challenge for companies who are used to large-scale, week-long national sales meetings; is there a way to provide the same value when hosting a virtual meeting? Let’s talk about corporate best practices for your upcoming NSM (it’ll be here sooner than you think).
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The purpose of national sales meetings
Whether you’re going virtual or finding creative ways to host an in-person national sales meeting, reflect on what you need to accomplish with the time you have this year.
1. Celebrate successes of the previous year
Many companies track sales success with leaderboards, and national sales meetings are the perfect moment to highlight the sales reps who’ve knocked it out of the park. This is the place where top sales reps share personal stories, giving others inspiration and motivation for the year ahead.
2. Execute sales strategy for the upcoming year
The national sales meeting is the one event each year where you can guarantee your entire sales force is present—it’s important to take advantage of this by making sure everyone is on the same page about messaging, marketing, and sales techniques. National sales meetings are perfect for marketing presentations and other resources you can give your sales team to maintain brand consistency.
3. Introduce new products and reveal upcoming campaigns
National sales meetings are also a place of excitement and big reveals; there’s no better time to introduce a new product, service, or initiative that you want your company to be excited about. You can use video, product demonstrations, augmented reality, and even breakout sessions to give everyone the opportunity to familiarize themselves with your offerings before embarking on another year of sales.
4. Equip and mobilize your sales force
If you do nothing else at a national sales meeting, make sure you educate, inspire, and empower your sales team. After all, they’re the ones that connect directly with customers, building the strong relationships you rely on to be successful. There are so many ways to accomplish this, including keynotes and workshops.
Embrace the unconventional this year
It may seem impossible to accomplish your company’s usual agenda in a virtual setting, but we think with the right strategy and a shift in mindset, virtual meetings can be as impactful as an in-person national sales meeting.
5 creative ideas for virtual meetings
1. Recreate a game in virtual space
Just like ice breakers at in-person events and conferences, why not start your virtual meeting with an easy, team-based game? Try to choose a game that doesn’t involve additional technology to avoid issues around bandwidth or connectivity. To personalize it, consider creating a company-oriented trivia challenge and have groups form teams to increase interaction among participants.
2. Invite an outside speaker, ideally a customer
There is so much to learn from loyal customers, and your reps might not be aware of your customers that have turned into evangelists. Bring that success right in front of your sales team by inviting one of them to speak during your virtual NSM. A customer sharing their positive experience with your company is a great opportunity for your sales team to learn directly from the source, while getting inspired to create even more loyal customers.
3. Create product videos that make up for the loss of interactivity
When introducing products and campaigns at national sales meetings, it’s common for videos to be mostly hype without much practical application. For in-person events, that’s expected as there is usually a live demo or workshop to compensate for what doesn’t get explained in a video.
Since that won’t be an option this year, consider using your traditional hype video to include more details on the product features to educate and empower your team through media that you were already planning to have there.
4. Deliver swag ahead of time
In-person national sales meetings are normally packed with a bunch of goodies for sales reps to use in the year ahead like branded merchandise, brochures, and other helpful materials for them to use with customers. Even if you’re planning on a virtual meeting this year, don’t skip this step! Coordinate swag bag deliveries to your guests before the dates of your virtual NSM to build anticipation and excitement for the event. An intentional gesture like this shows your team how much you value all of their hard work.
5. Take advantage of conference app features
Whether you use Zoom, Webex, or any number of professional conferencing tools for your virtual meeting, there are plenty of interactive features you can use to your advantage and increase interactivity among your audience. For example, replace asking for a show of hands with the “raise hand” feature many apps offer to allow participants to respond to content in real time. This is also a great feature for virtual Q&As.
Additionally, many conferencing apps include chat and even polling capabilities to help you get that much more out of virtual meetings. When brainstorming a switch to virtual this year, take some time to research the features available to you and find interesting ways to incorporate them to help your sales team feel like they’re sitting in the room with you.
3 pro tips for switching to a virtual meeting
1. Plan early, and plan intentionally
Since this year’s virtual meeting is likely to be different from every other national sales meeting, it’s time to start thinking about what kind of presence you want to bring to the (metaphorical) stage. Need to mail marketing materials? Gather those addresses bright and early. Want a few case studies for a breakout session? Identify those success stories and start prepping them to share in a virtual space.
Another thing to be conscious of is that virtual meetings are inherently at a greater risk for disruption due to technical difficulties. It wouldn’t hurt to have extra help from IT on standby, whether it’s your internal department or extra support hired to ensure a smooth event.
2. Acknowledge the pandemic
We’ve all had a wild year—how would it feel to sit through a national sales meeting where none of the hardships of the pandemic were even acknowledged? Making mention of how the year’s events have affected everyone is a good show of authenticity as well as a reminder to your employees that you’re thinking about their wellbeing.
3. Don’t just slap Zoom on it and expect it to work
If you take your exact itinerary from an in-person national sales meeting and think transferring it to Zoom/Webex/any other conferencing app will work out, you’re mistaken. No one wants to be at a conference for 8 hours a day for a week-straight. In order to make your virtual meeting a success, it’ll require intentional restructuring and planning. Sit down with team leads ahead of time to gather insight on the content everyone wants to learn.
Treat virtual meetings like a process, not an event
Virtual meetings are a bigger success when they’re treated more like a process and less like a one-off event. If you take one piece of advice from this blog it should be this: consider how to build momentum and interaction beforehand, and find creative ways to follow up on the content shared during your national sales meeting for optimal results.
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