National Sales Meetings: Should It Include Sales Training?
Conducting sales training at a national sales meeting is a common practice but typically doesn't result in sustainable selling skills improvement. The key reason for this lack of effectiveness is that it's almost impossible to impact behavior change through a standalone training event.
To make training at a national sales meeting effective, sales leaders must be realistic and intentional about how much time they can dedicate to training, the number of participants to be trained, and the training objectives.
If the time allocation is relatively short (half-day or less), some realistic ideas include:
- Industry Expert who can share relevant tips and techniques: While it isn’t all that difficult to find a speaker, finding the right presenter is crucial. At a minimum, the topic they are presenting must be relevant to the participants, engaging, and provide a limited number of key takeaways that participants can immediately apply (e.g., five ways you can leverage social selling to better engage with your customers).
- Launch a Formal Sales Training Program: If the goal is behavior change, launching a structured program at a National Sales Meeting is a great way to demonstrate executive sponsorship, discuss the program goals, review the rollout plan, and set clear expectations. At a minimum, the Company can demonstrate its commitment to the training and development of its sales team, and share how the training will benefit the participants.
If the time allocation is 1- 2 days, the training should focus on actual skills development. To maximize the learning experience, it's important to make sure that the program has the essential elements to create a sustainable change in sales behaviors. These elements include pre-training consultation and customization, post-training reinforcement, and ongoing coaching by frontline managers.
Here are a couple of ideas to maximize the impact of sales training at National Sales Meetings:
- Customized Training Workshop: From a relevancy standpoint, it's essential the pre-training consultation and customization have occurred in advance of the national sales meeting. As part of this process, the facilitator must custom tailor the training delivery to align with real-world application by the participants. It's also essential to make sure that the facilitator has the skills and experience to engage with your participants, and that the majority of the time (ideally two thirds or more) will be spent on discussion, skill application exercises, and role plays.
- Skill Application Sessions: These sessions (ideal for 1-day training sessions) focus almost entirely on skills application and assumes that much of the learning has occurred in advance of the in-person training (commonly referred to as “flipping the classroom”). One of the most successful ways to “flip the classroom” is to have participants go through self-paced training (e.g., OnDemand microlearning) and complete the associated exercises in advance of the training. This allows the facilitator to review a key skill model or concept quickly, and then immediately engage participants in discussions, exercises, and role plays.
It's also important to think through the overall number of participants to ensure that the training will be effective. In the case of the short (half-day) format, either the industry expert or program launch can be delivered to large groups (50+ participants).
For the training workshop or skill application session to be effective (1 – 2-day format), the group sizes should be much smaller (16 – 30 participants per group) to allow for a high level of engagement, and personalized coaching by the facilitator. As an example, a team of 100 sales professionals at a national sales meeting could be trained as four separate groups (25 participants per group).
Lastly, and perhaps most important, it's essential to make sure that the overall meeting doesn’t include so much content (e.g., marketing, product, sales enablement, selling skills) that your sales participants walk away overwhelmed. Instead, they should leave confident and enthusiastic about the company’s direction and their role in achieving this vision.
About Norman Behar
Norman Behar is a Managing Director at the Sales Readiness Group, A Part of SBI. He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications, including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.