Conducting sales training at a national sales meeting is a common practice, but it rarely results in sustainable skills improvement. The key reason for this lack of effectiveness is that it's difficult to impact behavior change through a standalone training event.
To make training at a national sales meeting effective, leaders must be realistic and intentional about how much time they can dedicate to training, the number of participants, and the learning objectives.
If the time allocation is relatively short (half a day or less), two realistic ideas are to:
- Feature an industry expert who can share relevant tips and techniques. It isn’t that difficult to find a speaker but finding the right one is crucial. At a minimum, the topic they are presenting must be engaging and relevant to the participants and provide a limited number of takeaways that reps can immediately apply on the job (for example, five ways to leverage social selling to better engage with 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 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, as well as share how the training will benefit the participants.
If the time allocation is one to two days, the training element should focus on skills development. To maximize the learning experience, it's important to make sure the program offers the essential elements to create a sustainable change in sales behaviors, including 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:
- Present a customized training workshop. To be relevant, it's critical for pre-training consultation and customization to occur in advance of the national sales meeting. As part of this process, the facilitator must customize the training delivery to align with real-world application of content by participants. It's also essential to ensure that the facilitator has the skills and experience to engage with participants and to spend a majority of their time (ideally two-thirds or more) on discussion, skill application exercises, and role plays.
- Offer skills application experience. These sessions (ideal for one-day training) focus almost entirely on skills application and assume that much of the learning has occurred in advance of the in-person training. This is commonly referred to as “flipping the classroom.” One of the most successful ways to flip the classroom is to have participants complete some self-paced training, such as on-demand microlearning, and associated exercises in advance of the training. This enables the facilitator to quickly review a key skill model or concept 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 a half-day format, either the industry expert or program launch can be delivered to large groups (more than 50 participants).
To boost effectiveness of a one- to two-day format, the group sizes should be much smaller (16 to 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 in four groups of 25 participants.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it's essential to ensure that the overall meeting doesn’t include too much content—marketing, product, sales enablement, selling skills, and so forth—or your sales participants may walk away overwhelmed. Stay focused and follow the tips listed above so the participants will leave confident and enthusiastic about the company’s direction and their role in achieving this vision.