financialresultsresizedIt’s early June. You missed your Q1 number and Q2 isn’t looking so good. You’re worried. And you should be. More than 60 percent of sales leaders who trail through Q2 don’t make their annual number.

Like a lot of your peers, you’re probably thinking about your upcoming mid-year sales meeting and wondering what you’ll do differently.

Despite significant changes in selling approaches, the annual or bi-annual sales meeting continues to be a uniquely important forum, often bringing together hundreds of worldwide team members in one location. But the stakes for these meetings, and the expected return on investment for all the hours and dollars required to execute them, have never been higher.

How can you make sure your next sales meeting is not simply business as usual? And how will you measure its ultimate success (or failure)? We’ve compiled a list of the seven secrets you need to know, and plan for, to get the optimal benefit for your reps, your managers, and your bottom-line.

1. Define your program objectives carefully

Are your reps struggling with new product or competitive messaging? Or should you focus on core selling skills like discovery and negotiation? Be sure to carefully identify and document your core goals upfront. Ensuring that your meeting’s content agenda, time allocations and success metrics are well aligned will make all the difference when it comes time to measure and report on your results.

Communicate early and often with all key stakeholders to build consensus and set the right expectations. Your event will have a number of key audiences, including sales executives, front-line managers and reps. Issuing effective, advance communications – whether live, or via email or other online channels such as your sales portal – ensures that your team understands the agenda, the actions required and can offer on-the-ground support to drive engagement.

2. Your sales meeting is not just an event, it’s your launch pad for growth

Think of your sales meeting as if it were a new product launch. Like all successful launches, the work doesn’t stop when you deliver the product. Any good product introduction is supported by a year-long (or more!) marketing, training and operations plan. Your sales team requires a similarly integrated plan for ongoing activity and reinforcement of key messages and selling skills that will drive adoption and ensure they are prepared to win.

3. Don’t forget the basics in favor of what’s new

Sales reps love nothing more than a hot, new product in their bag, and as a result, many sales meetings spend the bulk of their agenda focused on training for the “shiny new thing.” New product training is critical no doubt, but if your reps are failing at the basics of good sales techniques – active listening, asking consultative questions, or assessing business need – even a red-hot product won’t help them make quota. Regardless of your selling methodology, your sales meeting is a great time to focus on those bedrock skills that all successful reps possess.

4. Leave time for coaching

A 2014 Sales Management Association (SMA) study revealed that despite the stated importance of coaching as a performance accelerator, the biggest obstacle to consistent coaching was lack of time on the part of managers (and to a certain extent, lack of skill). Your sales meeting, with most of your reps in a single location, is a great opportunity to highlight specific execution challenges or areas of improvement. Additionally, coaching in a large group allows team members to learn from each other, bouncing ideas and best practices among individuals, and sharing success stories in an open dialogue.

The real-time nature of these solutions also allows for immediate feedback and analysis while your meeting is still in session, giving you the opportunity to share the responses of your team while the content is still top of mind, and offer coaching and other suggested remedial actions on the spot.

5. Take advantage of recognition and reward opportunities.

Sales reps are a uniquely competitive bunch, and for many, the only thing better than winning is being recognized for it. Using solutions like Qstream that include gamification elements such as leader boards to stimulate their tribal tendencies, as well as a creative reward structure, will keep your team engaged both during and after the event, while giving management a real-time view of how well the team has absorbed the content and messaging presented.

6. Your team will forget the majority of what they learned in a matter of days. But there’s an app for that.

Sales enablement and training professionals have long suffered with the frustrating reality of “The Forgetting Curve.” The cure is to make sure that reps can apply presented information and concepts after your event to fully encode it into memory and successfully demonstrate new skills on the job. This is precisely why game-based sales enablement applications such as Qstream, optimized for engagement and long-term knowledge retention, are quickly becoming a must-have for forward-thinking companies. These solutions reinforce core market, product and competitive messages and selling skills by engaging your reps in a series of fun, scenario-based selling challenges, pushed directly to their mobile device.

And the key benefit for managers? Real-time insight into your sales team’s capabilities. Now you’ll know what they REALLY know, and be positioned to execute targeted coaching that guarantees your reps are equipped for the value-added conversations today’s customers require.

7. Ongoing monitoring of message fluency and skills development, over time, is key to lasting performance improvement and can ensure your team stays on track.

As your reinforcement plan moves forward, the right reporting and analytics tools can give sales, marketing, even training leaders the visibility they need to assess adoption of key concepts, and make sure the strategic goals of your sales meeting are realized. Qstream’s onboard analytics engine provides sales managers with detailed dashboards highlighting performance, engagement and proficiency metrics, as well as weekly email status reports highlighting recommended coaching actions.

For more information, download the Qstream eBook: “The Cure for the Common Sales Kick-off: 2015 Event Planning Guide”