Training Close to Home

By Heather Baldwin

If you’re trying to decide whether to have one big national sales meeting or a series of regional meetings to train your sales reps on a new product, take it from someone who has been on both sides of the meetings business and go for the smaller meetings. Dave Johnson, CEO of hotel management company Aimbridge Hospitality, used to work for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts where he led a sales force of about 1,000 trying to bring in meetings. Now he has about 50 sales reps working for him and must coordinate meetings to train those reps. His preference is for several smaller meetings as opposed to a single large meeting.

“If I’m trying to have a meeting where a lot of the content is around training, I’ve found smaller meetings to be much more effective in terms of generating the desired return on investment,” says Johnson. A good comparison can be made to your college classes. Did you learn more from the classes held in big lecture halls with 200 students, or from the smaller classes where there was more opportunity for dialogue with the professor and other students? Chances are, it was the latter, and the same is true for meetings. “If I’m trying to train people to be more effective at their jobs, smaller meetings are much more effective because of the ability to interact,” says Johnson.

He has the supporting data to prove it. Aimbridge Hospitality tracks each salesperson’s performance and in almost every case, that performance improves after a regional meeting, says Johnson. “The feedback from our leadership is extremely positive that people are much more effective in a shorter period of time because of our use of smaller meetings.”

Here’s another compelling reason to hold smaller, local meetings: you’ll save money. Johnson estimates companies with sales forces distributed across the United States can save about 50% on airfare by holding regional meetings instead of bringing everyone to one destination. Improved training results for less money? That’s a formula on which every sales manager can agree.