Well, the year is coming to a not so screeching halt as many window manufacturers are still very busy. But nonetheless, 2019 will soon be in the history books so it’s time to get ready for the new year.

Now, many plant managers will use the year-end slowdown as an opportunity to repair or upgrade equipment to improve manufacturing output and growth to support 2020 business plans. This is an excellent and needed exercise.

The year-end and the first few months of the new year are also the best time to get sales groups together and accomplish what Stephen Covey would call, “sharpening their saws.”

Sales meetings are usually planned around training and educating salespeople on new products. This typically involves a product manager or sales manager giving a presentation on the new products and all of the great features and benefits that are offered to potential customers. Oftentimes, these presentations go into great detail while presenting loads of data and information. Yet, the human mind will remember only a small fraction of these detail-oriented presentations, and eyes glaze over.

So, if you really want to make your sales meetings something to be remembered as highly motivational, then feature your salespeople in the presentations.

Involve them in three key ways: sales strategies, competitive information and ideas for new products.

Sales Strategies

Salespeople love to compare notes! So, get them together in a round table discussion to compare strategies. After all, improving sales strategies can be the key to their future success. Let them discuss what sales tactics worked well during the course of the year and why. Also, what action plans failed? What were the shortcomings? What is needed for success in the future? Hearing case studies from other salespeople draws the salesperson’s attention to a much greater extent than hearing from management on what is perceived to be the key to success. The reason is that the salespeople are the ones on the front line—living or dying over the course of the daily battle. Their words carry weight.

Competitive Information

The best source of competitive information comes from your salespeople. They see firsthand what the competition is offering and at what prices. They hear their customers and prospects talking about competitive offerings only days after the competitors visited their customers or prospects. What do they see from the competition? Each salesperson can report on what the competition is doing in his or her territory and ideas can be generated to neutralize the competitive threat. The competitor’s approach may be different in different parts of the country and only your salespeople who are constantly on the frontlines can delineate competitive approaches in different parts of the country or with different market segments.

Ideas for New Products

The third factor that makes it worth listening to your salespeople involves ideas for new products. After all, who is constantly talking to customers day after day? Who hears from customers about voids in the marketplace and what types of products they wish were available to fill those voids? Yes, it’s your salespeople. Oftentimes, ideas for new products come from people within the organization, and these ideas or product concepts are based upon what management believes customers may want to see. There is nothing more disappointing than bringing a new product to market only to find that customers do not agree with your concept and therefore it will not sell. So, listening to what customers really want and at what price-point is crucial when it comes to designing new products that will propel your company into a product leadership position. Once again, the sales organization is an invaluable source of information in this regard.

So, as the business cycle slows down and we plan the sales meetings that are going to train our salespeople, making them more effective in the coming year, also think about involving them in these meetings so that management can also be on the receiving end of the knowledge process.

Listening to one’s sales group is just as important as presenting information to them. Sharpen their saw while using their feedback to sharpen the company’s saw as well. It can really pay off down the road!

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