by Alberto Aleo
Before I can talk you about how to handle a sales agents’ meeting, I want to say that I am, and always have been, a great fan of sales through agents. The reasons are simple and these points clarify why:
- the quality of an offer is increasingly founded in the quality of the relationship, hence the relationship between people is now critical;
- a widespread presence throughout the territory is necessary for all businesses, but especially for the more complex ones (i.e. linked to products or services with an important technical component or where the negotiation passes through several “phases”). It is only possible to effectively cover the area and ensure frequent contacts when there is a “resident” staff;
- customers often prefer to talk to people who are aware of the context in which they operate and with whom they can establish regular cooperation.
That said, managing sales agents, especially if these are multi-firm, can be anything but easy. However, the difficulties most frequently encountered are generally of a “relational” and “motivational” kind, two areas in which a good sales manager will be amply provided with skills and well able to tackle.
The sales agents’ meeting
The sales agents’ meeting is a key moment in the management of sales agents and as such must be prepared with special care and attention. In my experience, you must hold at least one “plenary” meeting (with all the sales agents present) a year, possibly around December or at the very beginning of the sales year. A meeting at this time enables you to both analyse the results of the past year, and “launch” the challenges and sales targets for the year to come. In any case, the number of “plenary” meetings over the twelve-month period should not exceed three, leaving a sufficient time lapse between each (say 3 to 4 months). This way you will avoid the risk of overburdening the team with commitments and costs that are not directly related to sales activities (remember that the Sales Agents are primarily independent contractors who “sell” their time and their professionalism), as well as the risk of organising meetings that are devoid of novelty and interest.
The line-up of topics
I generally organize the sales agents’ meeting to follow the following agenda:
- analysis of market trends and business;
- novelties and innovations of the offer and/or the company;
- promotions and marketing tools;
- short and medium-term objectives;
- the work plan for the following months;
- group training sessions or motivational activities;
- individual meetings
Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash
My advice is to avoid talking about the results or the performance of individual agents in front of the whole group, to avoid arousing controversy or worse hurting anyone’s pride or impacting on any individual’s self-esteem; the same goes for the discussion of technical or administrative problems or any other issues relating to the area or to the customers of a single agent. Put off any such discussions to when you meet your sales agents individually so people have a chance to respond to any issues you may wish to raise.
Working as a team
Don’t forget to always include a time to share values and “build team spirit”, whether it’s just a dinner together or a more sophisticated team building activity is not important, what matters is that it is part of your schedule. To help when presenting the contents use visual aids (software like PowerPoint or KeyNotes are fine); leave those attending with written material of your slides (though you should hand this out at the end of the presentation, otherwise you risk your audience reading the information instead of paying attention to you). If you can, give out a small souvenir of the day spent together. Be careful also how you set out the room where the meeting with your sales agents will take place; read here for some useful tips.
You will find soon that, if you can motivate your team well and establish a strong relationship based on respect and sharing with each member, this will not only yield the desired results but will ensure they protect and defend your choices, faithfully following you every time you decide a change of course.
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