For electrical distributors, monthly sales meetings can be a valuable company tool. If your company doesn't already schedule monthly or bimonthly sales meetings, maybe it's time to start. For distributors already organizing regularly scheduled sales meetings, you may pick up a few pointers on ways to improve the meetings.

The first rule for a successful sales meeting is that it must be productive for management and informative for the entire sales force. If it's not, it's a waste of time.

Management must know the meeting was worth the expense and time put forward to plan and direct the meeting. Salespeople must learn some things that will help them earn higher incomes by being better informed, more productive salespeople.

Meeting logistics

Try to schedule regular sales meetings at a time that's convenient for everyone. Depending on the size, geographic territories and company culture, distributors might schedule sales meetings during the normal workday, or possibly on a Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to noon.

For some distributors that cover a sizable area, monthly Saturday morning meetings may be the most effective. If the company has a number of territory salespeople, they can come into town the night before a Saturday sales meeting. This may provide a vendor with an opportunity to sponsor a dinner meeting on the Friday night before the Saturday sales meeting.

Since that vendor is the only company represented, they could make a presentation on new products or promotions. This would be followed by dinner and a social hour. This adds a first-class touch to the occasion, and is a great way to tie together the distributor and the factory.

Always advise the group ahead of time how long the meeting will last and try to stick to the schedule. Everyone appreciates a predictable time schedule.

If possible, the company department managers should be involved in the meeting. The purchasing agent, quotation manager, service department and credit manager should bring salespeople up to date regarding their individual departments, providing information and answering questions on subjects that affect the salespeople. For example, the purchasing agent might cover price level on competitive commodity items such as wire and conduit. You should also cover inventory levels, delivery situations and suggestions for new items to be added in warehouse inventory.

Testimonials by salespeople are very effective sales tools. Sales managers should find specific examples when a salesperson solves a customer problem or otherwise shines in a selling situation, and then ask the salesperson involved if he or she would be willing to tell the group about the sale. Make sure he or she is ready to answer the following questions:

  • What did it take to write this exceptional order?

  • Were price objectives overcome?

  • Was another competing factory or distributor involved?

Don't put any salesperson in an embarrassing situation, especially newer salespeople who are just developing confidence.

The sales meeting should have a comfortable setting to encourage participation from everyone. Dress should be business casual.

Speakers from outside the company

Try to add variety to meetings so everyone involved will be interested and attentive. It's a good idea to invite speakers from outside your organization as well as those from within. Customers, manufacturers and reps are excellent people to invite to your sales meetings. Factory reps like to do presentations at distributor sales meetings because the rep can get the undivided attention of the entire sales organization. Reps should zero in on features of new products or provide a concentrated review of a specific segment of the product line. On occasion, a rep may wish to give a brief overview of the entire line.

Reps must make strong, well-prepared presentations. The factory presenter should distribute literature and possibly a sample of the product line. This gives the sales force something to discuss with customers on calls after the meeting. Key inside salespeople will also have those products on their front sales burners.

Reps who present at a sales meeting will usually also make themselves available for sales calls with the outside sales force. A good factory rep can add to the sales call. It's a win-win-win for all. Lots of business can be routed through a distributor by a factory rep if he or she knows you will work with them in the sales process.

On occasion, having a customer participate at the beginning of the meeting can be very effective. Most customers respond favorably when asked to participate in a meeting. It gives customers an opportunity to express how they believe a supplier can best service their company. After his or her presentation, present the speaker a plaque of recognition and or a token of appreciation such, as an engraved desk pen.

Recognition awards

For the year-end sales meeting, be sure to present recognition awards. The year's final sales meeting could include a special award to the vendor who, in the company's opinion, made the biggest contribution toward the distributor's sales and profit growth.

Supplier-of-the-year recognition is a strong motivator for your vendors to work with you to move their product line profitably with your company. Give the supplier a quality plaque, notify the principal at the factory, and give the factory rep appropriate recognition, such as a weekend for two at a local resort for a job well done.

Recognize your brightest salespeople, too, with a salesperson-of-the-year award and an extra-effort award. Give these awards to outside salespeople who have distinguished themselves in their year-long sales effort.

The first workday after the meeting, the sales manager should distribute a meeting recap. A written recap keeps all attendees aware of the meeting's main objectives and helps remind them to incorporate sales points into their customer sales calls.

Remember, a sales meeting is worthless if it doesn't inspire your sales team and arm them with information to help them sell.


Bob Finley is the retired president and CEO of Glasco Electric Co., St. Louis. Glasco is now a part of Rexel.

TIPS FOR SALES MEETINGS

  • Keep the meeting positive and businesslike, but add a touch of humor at strategic points. It makes the meeting more enjoyable.
  • Try to schedule regular sales meetings at times convenient for everyone.
  • Let the group know how long the meeting will last. Stick to your schedule.
  • Involve department managers in the meeting when changes in the departments affect the sales staff.
  • Testimonials by distributor salespeople are very effective sales tools. When appropriate, ask one of your salespeople to present to the rest of the team when he or she solves a customer problem.
  • Don't put any salesperson in an embarrassing situation, especially newer salespeople who are just developing confidence.
  • Invite a customer, vendor or manufacturers' rep to speak at you next sales meeting.
  • Always close the meeting on a positive note.