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Make your sales meetings more productive.

Most foundries approach sales meetings as an obligation rather than as an opportunity to inject new enthusiasm into their marketing program.

In offices, motels and resorts, foundry salespeople and their managers are continually gathering to be criticized, educated, cajoled and primed in to be more productive. Unfortunately, most of these well-intentioned efforts fall far short of achieving their goals because of poor planning.

Since increased sales productivity is the name of the game, you can't afford meetings and training programs that are merely well-planned and interesting. They must have a good payoff as well.

After you have achieved the initial objective of putting together quality speakers and interesting topics, begin building your program around how you will be accomplishing key marketing objectives. What will you salespeople have to do to meet your foundry's marketing objectives? The more specific the questions and answers, the better. It is not enough to just assign sales quotes; strategies must be developed. And this is the real challenge for sales and marketing managers.

Pitfalls

Although we all alike to think we can put together a well-run sales meeting, there are several important pitfalls that should be avoided if the meeting is to be productive for both direct and agency salespeople.

First, don't call a sales meeting just for the sake of getting everyone together. Planning a meeting without a clear-cut purpose is an invitation to disaster. Salespeople and agents either start wondering why you are wasting their time or begin grinding their own taxes. The meeting can easily get out of control and turn into a general gripe session.

By all means, make sure everyone has an agenda well in advance of the meeting. It should be carefully structured to include all matters of common interest and importance to your salespeople. Try not to put too many or too few items on the agenda. Attempting to cover too much ground usually results in some important items receiving only cursory treatment. Often, the result is that people know little more after the meeting than they did before. On the other hand, spreading too little material over the program results in salespeople brooding about the time they are wasting.

Next, try to stick with your agenda, particularly if it is a full one. Otherwise, speakers will become increasingly restless as they see their alloted time being taken up by someone else. In structuring the agenda, don't forget the time stolen by introductions, announcements, coffee breaks and other time-consuming interruptions. Impressing the boss with a crammed agenda that may look good on paper is almost sure to result in a hurried, jumbled meeting.

If you plan to have guest speakers, keep in mind that poor speakers have been the downfall of more meetings than bad microphones and faulty projectors combined. Your outside speaker not only should know the subject, but also should be able to put it across well. And make sure he understands the interests of the people to whom he will be speaking. Extend your critical judgment of potential speakers to the top management of your own company. Just because someone is the president doesn't automatically make that person an effective speaker. If there are any bouts about the boss' boredom potential, limit the boss to a few welcoming remarks or speaker introductions.

Promote Participation

Lots of participation by your salespeople will be an important ingredient in making the meeting a success. Successful people like give-and-take situations. Keep this in mind when structuring the agenda. Have you made provisions for your salespeople to participate in the program, or are they to sit like mannequins, listening to an endless round of presentations? Workshops, buzz-sessions, task forces and question-and-answer sessions are good vehicles for involving people. If you solicit questions, it might be wise to plant a few in the audience. The silence after asking, "Are there any questions?" can be deafening.

Look out for wallflowers. While most everyone will know each other, some may not--particularly sales agents. Watch for someone standing alone while others are socializing. By all means use large name bages that can be easily read from a few feet away. Some managers think this is useless, but it serves a valuable purpose if it promotes interaction between participants.

One of the most neglected aspects of most sales meetings is post-meeting follow-up. Thank-you letters should go out to program speakers. Important material should be reprinted and circulated. Questionnaires should be sent to participants soliciting their frank evaluation of the meeting and suggestions for improvement. And, of course, a detailed report on the meeting should be prepared for management.

Sales meetings are, as everyone who has ever run one knows, far more complex then they appear. However, putting greater effort into planning yours can make them more productive. By all means, clearly focus on the things your salespeople and agents needs to do to improve their results and achieve your foundry's marketing objectives.

Turning your salespeople on with a good meeting is bound to stimulate your marketing program.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Marketing
Author:Warden, T. Jerry
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:832
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