Sales Conferences

Sales Conferences

Sales Conferences

Of all the available means of achieving communication within the sales force, the sales conference is probably the most important.

To be successful, conferences need a great deal of advance planning. The Annual Conference is, for many salesmen, the big event of the year. The area salesman of a large organization looks forward to packing his bag and setting off, either for his firm's headquarters or to a large hotel, where he will meet thirty, fifty or a hundred or more of his colleagues: where, from morning until late at night, for perhaps two or three days, he will take part in discussions, attend lectures and receive from his management criticism, exhortation and blandishments. He will be wined and dined at the firm's expense. When it is all over, he will return home to his wife and family and the territory for which he is responsible. Whether his return will be accompanied by feelings of unease, self-doubt, depression or indifference or, alternatively, of cheerfulness, confidence and renewed enthusiasm for his job, will depend, to a very large extent, upon the organization and the content of the conference programme.

Sales conferences can be hard work for the Sales Manager and his assistants. A large conference must not only be planned well in advance: it must be properly stage-managed. An essential feature of a well-run conference is that time must not appear to drag. This means that a full time table must be worked out, with no long delays between items during which irritation or inertia can creep in. This does not mean that the gathered salesmen should be kept hard at it all the time. Bear in mind the situation of the men from remote territories, accustomed to working on their own for most of the other eleven months of the year. It is only at sales conferences that they get the opportunity to meet and compare notes with their colleagues It is important that they should have this chance of feeling involved in a team. The sales conference should be a means of reminding each salesman that his work is part of a corporate activity.

There is an increased tendency for some large companies to follow the American pattern and invite the wives of salesmen to attend the social events associated with the annual sales conference. This is to be commended. In provincial territories especially, the salesman's wife often acts as his unpaid secretary answering telephone calls, and helping him with his paperwork. More important, however, is the role she often undertakes as counsellor and even, on occasion, as wailing wall! It is inevitable that a man, cut off by many hundreds of miles from his colleagues, will turn to his wife for encouragement in his work. In the course of a year, she will listen to hundreds of accounts of his triumphs and failures, of his resentment and irritation when Head Office makes mistakes and customers complain, and also of his exultation when occasionally all goes according to plan and he lands a big contract. Management is often guilty of forgetting how vital is the role played by the salesman's wife. Mostly she is ignored, as though she had nothing to do with the firm!

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