Salespeople Gone Wild

By Lain Ehmann

We’ve all heard stories about office party antics, trade show shenanigans and salespeople behaving badly on the road. At one period in time this sort of behavior was seen as nothing more than boys being boys or people blowing off a little steam. With the growing litigiousness of our society, coupled with the greater scrutiny and focus on company ethics, however, it might be time to rethink what kind of behavior is tolerated, particularly when you’re in charge of the annual sales meeting. Here are a few ideas about how to keep things under control when you’ve got a group of rowdies away from the office.

1. Set the standards. Let everyone know beforehand what behaviors will be tolerated and which will be grounds for some sort of disciplinary action. Practical jokes might be a way to blow off steam, but alcohol-fueled binges involving drag racing down Sunset Boulevard are not okay.

2. Set the example. It’s hard to expect your team members to adhere to a certain code of conduct if you’re the one stripping down to your skivvies and diving into the hotel pool. As the meeting organizer, you and the corporate executives are responsible for acting above reproach.

3. Avoid temptation. When the glitter and glamour of Vegas are steps away it can be tough to resist the lure. If you know your group is likely to partake of Sin City, avoid the temptations altogether and choose a less conducive environment. For example, Utah is know for having some of the toughest liquor laws in the country; you’d be hard pressed to find a gentleman’s lounge in Salt Lake City.

4. Limit access. Open bars can be a recipe for disaster. If you must serve alcohol, serve wine during dinner only and give strict orders about the number of bottles that may be opened. If a full bar is a must, make it cash only and tell meeting attendees they can’t expense their booze consumption.

5. Keep them busy. Any parent knows the old adage is true: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. The key to making kids behave is to keep them busy; the same is true for salespeople. A full schedule including a group dinner and pre-arranged leisure-time activities will make it difficult for your team to find time to get into trouble.

6. Make it painful. If your bad boys and girls are intent on getting in trouble in the late night hours, make them pay for their transgressions. Schedule mandatory early-morning meetings – 7:30 is a good time – and strenuous physical activities such as plant tours, racquetball tournaments and deep-sea fishing. The rocking of the boat is sure to make them regret the error of their ways.