Sales Pro 2017: Coming Again Like Ground Hogs Day

mark-nibloPost written by Mark Niblo, Marketing Director at Durvet | Long Distance Runner | Iowa by Birth-Kansas City by Choice

Summer is fast approaching and once again Durvet is in full preparation for our annual get-together we call Sales Pro.

I’ve been at this for so long that it’s beginning to feel like I’m in the movie “Groundhog Day”.

The good part is I feel we’ve refined it each year to make it better and do everything we can to avoid mistakes. The 2017 meeting is in the Mile “High” city of Denver.  Temptations aren’t new for conventions or sales meetings, but this site offers some unique ones that a few years back wouldn’t have even been considered.

(HEADS UP: If you read no more of this blog, please skip to the end and read point #1 under other tidbits….maybe even a couple of times.)

This event is our company’s gathering of staff, top vendor partners and the best distributor sales professionals in the animal health industry. I’ve witnessed and participated in many things over the last 17 years that have provided me with some great learning experiences. Some good, some bad, but many worth sharing and so I hope this information will help you and others who plan to attend Sales Pro this year.

The following information was included in a blog after the conclusion of our 2016 meeting in San Diego. After I wrote that blog, I received a call from one of our Board members suggesting that sharing it prior to future meetings might be beneficial.  Therefore, like Groundhog Day, here we go again:

I think back to 16 years ago when we started this meeting on how difficult it was to get our supplier partners excited about participating. I’m convinced that this was due to the fact that annual sales meetings had gotten such a bad reputation.

I, of course, blame this on our competitors who hold annual events and had a habit of overcharging, over-promising, sometimes threatening, and then under-delivering results year after year.

I’m going to brag on our organization due to the fact we no longer have any issues getting support or attendance at Sales Pro.

I feel this is due to several factors that can apply to any organization or industry holding meetings:

  1. Invite and bring your best reps. Good sales people are eager to learn and know their livelihood depends on knowing products better than their competition. The suppliers see this very quickly and realize that they can show their products to a lot of people in a single week and not travel all over the country. It’s a very good bang for their buck.
  2. Allow full access to all events for your suppliers. Include them in all activities, events, and group meals. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to exclude some of them during major segments of your meeting. They notice.
  3. Let everyone have some fun. This means EVERYONE, including sales reps, company employees, as well as vendor partners. Dedicate a day or part of a day to do something memorable other than just seeing the walls of the hotel. We always offer a choice of 3-5 activities early in the week.
  4. Allow plenty of time for one-on-one interaction. Our days are long, starting with group meetings in the mornings and afternoon and ending every night with an open trade show that allows for one-on-one interaction. If you haven’t gotten to talk to all sales reps or vendors during the week, you haven’t left your room.

A major change I’ve noticed over the years at these meetings is the adaptation of technology by the successful sales professionals. I came to the realization years ago that you either embrace change or you eventually don’t have to worry about it…because you won’t have a job.

SalesPro2016_0024I’ve been around long enough to hear the following statements from various work friends, most of which are no longer employed because people got tired of hearing them say “I didn’t know that.”

  1. 1990 – I don’t have a computer. People that use computers just waste time and don’t’ work. That is stupid.
  2. 1995 – I don’t use email. That is stupid. I visit all my customers and I talk to them at lunches or dinners. I call the office every day.
  3. 2000 – I don’t text. Texting is for kids and is stupid. I use my phone to call them.
  4. 2005 – I don’t use Facebook. It’s for the kids. It’s stupid. I only have an account to see what they’re doing.
  5. 2010 – I’m not on social media. Not for me. It’s stupid. I get to know what I need to know without it by calling and talking to friends.
  6. 2015 – LinkedIn isn’t for me. It’s stupid. I have a job.
  7. 2016 – Blogging is stupid and a waste of time. Why can’t people just read our publications, emails, texts or social media posts on Facebook or LinkedIn?

Almost every successful sales rep or vendor we deal with has adapted and moved along with the times. I now see almost everyone at our meetings with smartphones, iPads and other technology tools that make them more productive in their jobs.

Almost all are on social media and will read this blog. This will continue. I recently told a millennial who works for our company, “You will be faced with the same changes. Don’t get comfortable and make sure you adapt to the next new tool or you will eventually be forced out”.

Other tidbits I’ve picked at our meetings over the years:

  1. Impressions last. Make them good because bad ones take time to get over.
  2. Don’t complain about the weather. We don’t have a forecasting tool when we sign the contracts a year in advance.
  3. Don’t complain about the food. Walk outside the hotel and talk to the homeless people living right outside. They would gladly take your plate.
  4. Reach out and meet someone new. You never know who you might work for next.
  5. And, most of all, going to bed early directly correlates to feeling good the next morning. This one took me awhile to learn.

Have a great Spring.  We’ll see you in the mountains of Colorado in June. Oh wait, I think I hear Sonny and Cher playing on the loud speaker. (If you do not get that, do some research?  Hint: Groundhog Day movie)