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September 01, 2017

Working Smart

Maintaining a Cohesive Culture Post-Annual Convention

by George Elfond

Click here to order the September 2017 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Every direct selling company views its annual convention as an ideal way to reconnect with its leaders and other members of its independent salesforce. The event provides valuable insights, motivates the salesforce toward new successes, and celebrates the thriving community among them. For the independent sellers, the outcomes of attending include renewed enthusiasm about the work they do, more dedication to the vision of the company and to growing their businesses, and increased motivation.

After attending a convention, many direct sellers walk away feeling invigorated and with an increased sense of purpose. Here are some ways to maintain that engagement and momentum long after your annual convention is over.

Take the Temperature

Post-convention, there may be a strong temptation to get back to the grind, but it is important to pause to assess your company culture. Are you doing enough to motivate your salesforce on an ongoing basis and enable their success? Remember this: On average, only approximately 20 percent of direct selling recruits will remain active 12 months after joining the company. A post-convention engagement survey is an ideal means for taking the temperature of the happiness of your salesforce, and for fostering continuous engagement. 

The information you glean from a post-convention survey can help you understand your salesforce and take actionable steps to improve their retention, training and overall satisfaction. The survey you create may include only a few questions or you can design it to collect more complex marketing and behavioral data. The best tools allow you to collect data and also analyze it in a simple yet comprehensive manner so the results can assist you with further business decisions.

Before you invest time or money in a survey tool you should take into consideration the following factors:

  • User interface. The user interfaces of survey tools differ drastically from one to another. But when they are used properly, they can make gathering feedback very efficient. Gathering feedback, though, is not where you will stop; the most crucial aspect will be analyzing the data, so make sure that the survey tool of your choice performs both of these tasks and presents the data analysis in a digestible and actionable manner.

  • Mobile and/or Desktop. With your salesforce being at a distance from the company and always on the go, it’s important to make gathering feedback as easy and convenient as possible. Giving your salesforce a choice of mobile and desktop apps will significantly increase your chances of gathering more feedback, and feedback of a higher quality, because the participants will fill it out at their convenience.

  • Customization. When it comes down to gathering feedback, one of the aspects that companies usually overlook is the customization of communication channels. This is especially important in direct selling where, while the salesforce is composed of independent direct sellers, those individuals need to feel that they are part of the team, part of the culture and part of the company.

Put It in Writing and Make It Easily Accessible

Your direct sellers are likely spread far and wide, so it’s especially important to maintain a cohesive culture among them in spite of the physical distance. Immediately following an annual convention is a good time to put the key takeaways in writing and distribute them to the entire field. Consolidate the wisdom and best practices that annual convention attendees gleaned from your event and develop useable pieces of content that can be shared. 

Sharing information with a remote group can be a challenge. One of the most effective strategies that direct selling companies implement is providing an organized and structured online library with customized levels of access for everyone in the salesforce. Instant access to the information from a convention or post-convention brainstorming session has shown dramatic improvements in training and motivation.

The most talented direct sellers are not just looking for commission checks; they are seeking shared values, trust and a sense of purpose.

Lead by Example

Your company culture is its personality, so studies and reports are simply not enough to develop and maintain an active and productive company culture. It’s up to the corporate leadership to set an example by being doers in the organizational structure. Approach your culture as a living thing that continues to grow and develop with time. Above all, motivating your field is a leadership commitment, not just an organizational commitment. Keep in mind it’s an emotional commitment too. Your most talented field leaders are not just looking for commission checks; they are seeking shared values, trust and a sense of purpose. Ask yourself: Am I emulating these traits as a leader on the corporate side?

Upon returning from an annual convention, the attendees will likely be more eager than usual to  engage in training and learn new skills. Harness this energy by using the right tools to give them the feedback, collaboration and peer recognition they crave. A timely rollout of a distributor training and engagement solution can help your organization keep the momentum that you generated at the convention, as well as track and bolster your salesforce’s performance with real-time analytics and metrics.

Research shows that your salesforce will be most engaged when:

  • They have the tools, information and resources they need to do their best job and serve their customers well;
  • They receive regular feedback on their performance, both positive and constructive;
  • They see how they are making an important contribution to the company; and
  • They feel they are a part of a greater community of other leaders and team members within the company.

For direct sales organizations, making independent business owners’ roles as seamless as possible, and ensuring ongoing communication, support and encouragement, will go a long way toward increasing recruiting, retention and sales. Those direct selling companies who have succeeded in keeping their salesforce engaged have reported that the most efficient tools they used were gamification, internal social networks and just-in-time learning.

Don’t Lose Momentum

While the time leading up to and immediately after an annual convention may be the peak time for engaging with your salesforce, don’t expect engagement to be a once-a-year, “one and done” endeavor. Be sure to make it a priority throughout the year and offer several opportunities for them to participate in practical, hands-on interactions. Increasing engagement needs to be done in a thoughtful way, using an appealing technology platform that speaks to interests of both the company and its salesforce.

By utilizing such tools as quick online learning and gamification, companies can increase retention by more than 45%.

Automating the process of engagement can help maintain the focus throughout a direct seller’s tenure—from the very first moment of recruitment to onboarding, training, communications, coaching and recognition.

With a remote salesforce spread across the country or the world, using technology to help them stay on task keeps them engaged far beyond the annual convention and also keeps them productive. Using technology to provide just-in-time training can help direct sellers to grow their businesses. 

By utilizing such tools as quick online learning and gamification, companies can increase retention by more than 45 percent, simply because the field now has the tools to stay motivated and engaged. Ultimately, of course, their success equals your success.

George ElfondGeorge Elfond is the CEO of Rallyware, an intelligent workforce engagement solutions company that drives sales, recruiting, onboarding, training and participation in organizational activities.