Steve W. Martin is the author of the "Heavy Hitter" series of books for senior salespeople. He has keynoted and conducted sales training breakout sessions at hundreds of sales meetings and annual sales kickoffs. On this page you will find the following articles to help you plan the perfect sales meeting:

1)  How to Select a Sales Meeting Theme
2)  Favorite Annual Sales Kickoff Meeting Themes
3)  2018 Sales Meeting Theme Graphics
4)  What Salespeople Want From Sales Meetings
5)  Five Annual Sales Meeting Ideas for the Best Conference
6)  Sample Sales Kickoff Agenda: The Most Important Meeting of the Year!
7)  Virtual Sales Kickoff Meeting Strategy & Planning Guide
8)  How to Ruin a National Sales Meeting
9)  Great Stage Design Ideas

Whether speaking about selling to the C-level, enterprise sales strategy, buyer personas, sales linguistics or sales psychology, Steve Martin is both provocative and entertaining. Steve is the perfect opening keynote speaker to establish the tone for your sales kickoff or closing inspirational speaker to end your meeting on a high note.

While many keynote speakers offer canned presentations of generic information, Steve Martin’s keynotes are completely customized to your unique sales situation and specific areas of need. To ensure topical relevance, pre-presentation interviews and background research is conducted to understand your market, product, and salespeople.

Please click here to review Sample Presentation Topics and Keynote Pricing Information

How to Select A Sales Meeting Theme

When I was a vice president of sales, one of my key responsibilities was to ensure that our sales kickoff was a complete success. Because it was the only annual gathering of the entire worldwide sales force, I wanted everyone to leave the meeting trained on our new products, well-versed about the competition, and most importantly, re-energized to get back into the field and sell.

After participating in more than one-hundred sales kickoffs as a keynoter speaker, I can now attest that the first step toward conducting a successful sales kickoff starts with choosing the right theme. With this goal in mind, here are five factors to consider when selecting your sales kickoff theme.


Sales Force Morale One of the most important factors to keep in mind as you chose your themeSales Meeting Theme  TEAM is the level of the sales force’s morale. All sales forces go through periods of high and low morale. When morale is high, you can be more creative and take bigger risks with the theme you choose. For example, one of the best sales kickoffs I ever attended was based upon the theme of “A night at the Oscars.” In advance of the meeting, each of the sales regions created their own video about the average day in the life of a salesperson. The videos were exceptionally well-done, full of side-splitting humor, and their ingenuity was inspirational. Everyone loved watching them and a judging panel of company executives awarded Oscars to the best.

Conversely, I wouldn’t recommend such an over-the-top theme during tough times. In this situation the theme should be more commonsensical like “Better, Stronger, Faster,” which provides a platform that meeting presenters can use to talk about changes and upcoming improvements. If you are in the midst of a merger, pick a theme like “Winning Together” that promotes teamwork, or something like “The Power of Synergy” that emphasizes how the companies combined are greater than if they were separate.

What is the Sales Mantra?
The leader of every sales organization will typically have a clearly defined area of sales force improvement for the new year. It might be to close more seven figure deals, sell more of a certain product line, increase customer satisfaction, or to get the reps to consistently make their quarterly quotas. Obviously, it makes sense to make this mantra the underpinnings of your sales kickoff theme.

For example, one company wanted to focus their sales team on closing bigger deals. They selected a theme centered around baseball and used the tagline, “Swing for the Fences!” Throughout the meeting they showed movie clips of the greatest home run hitters of all time. At their awards dinner the vice president of sales presented inscribed baseball bats to the top sales performers.

Should the Theme Focus on Your Arch-Rival?
Every company has enemies, and every sales force has an arch-rival that is truly despised. If you really want to rally the troops and concentrate the meeting’s focus, use a competitive theme that directly targets your arch-rival. For example, instead of an ambiguous theme like “In it to win it,” use the name of your competitor in the sales kickoff them like “BEAT ACME!” Remember, sometimes the most straight-forward theme is the best.

Can the Presenters Dovetail to the Theme? Sales Meeting Theme Swing for the Fences
The theme’s tagline is critical because it provides the centerpiece idea from which the meeting presenters can embellish upon. Recently, I attended a meeting where the theme was “Reach for the Stars” with an accompanying graphic of a rocket heading into space. Although it’s not necessarily a bad theme, it proved difficult for the presenters from the marketing, engineering, and customer support departments to incorporate into their presentations. A better space-related theme would have been “All Systems Go!” This would have enabled the presenters to delineate all the new products and improvement programs that were being launched in their area of the organization.

Consider the Meeting Takeaways.
It’s very important that sales kickoff attendees are provided three types of meeting takeaways. First, all of the presentations and meeting information should be available online. Don’t fall into the trap of associating the success of your meeting to the thickness of the materials you hand out. Second, you should provide some type of sales skills self-improvement takeaway (a copy of book on advance sales strategies for example). Finally, always give company-logo’d chatska (T-shirts, hats, pens, mouse pads, etc.).

Ideally, you would like your takeaways to tie into your meeting theme. For example, “Swing for the Fences!” meeting attendees were given different colored company baseball hats and jerseys that designated which group they were part of for team-building exercises. Be sure not to skimp on the takeaways, because your annual sales kickoff is the most important sales meeting of the year.

Favorite 2018 Annual Sales Kickoff Meeting  Themes


Sales Kickoff Meeting Theme

Sales is more than a science. It is an art. Sales is the artful combination of structure and free thinking, process and people, and logic and emotions. Steve W. Martin’s Heavy Hitter series of books for senior salespeople is based upon the marriage of the human nature of sales to the science of sales. The Heavy Hitter philosophy has helped over 100,000 salespeople become top revenue produces at companies including Google, IBM, EMC, Oracle, AT&T, PayPal, and Allstate Insurance.

Steve W. Martin has had the privilege to keynote annual sales kickoffs and conduct sales training breakout sessions for hundreds of world leading companies.  The concept of the “Heavy Hitter” is used as the theme in about half of the meetings he participates in. Meeting planners will typically decorate the venue using a sports-related theme that revolves around baseball/sports, teamwork, excellence, and winning.  In addition, the theme is reinforced with a compelling takeaway as every sales meeting attendee receives a copy of  Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics: 101 Advanced Sales Call Strategies for Senior Salespeople or Heavy Hitter I.T. Sales Strategy: Competitive Insights from Interviews with 1,000+ Key Information Technology Decision Makers and Top Salespeople.

Heavy Hitter Meeting Themes

Football Meeting Themes

Achievement Meeting Themes

Target Meeting Themes

Champion Meeting Themes

Excellence Meeting Themes

“Heavy Hitter” Related Themes
Create Winning Customer Relationships!
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
Knockout Name_of_company
TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More
Leaders are Born in name-of-month or Year
Legends are Born in name-of-month or year
PASS (Position Solution, Account Control, Strategy, Sell!)
RBI – Relationship Building Impact!
Refuse to Lose
Swing for the Fences
Team Pride!
The Year of the Heavy Hitters
We Will Win!
Winning Together
Winning at the Top!
Winning Together

Other Favorite Themes

Accelerating the Pipeline!
Accelerating Growth!
A + T = R (Activity + Tenacity equals Results)
All Systems Go!
Bigger! Faster! Stronger!
Building Quality Relationships
Call High
Champions By Design
Crush It in 2017!
Customers First!

Defending Leadership
From Challengers to Champions
Focus and Fire
Get Ready!
Growing Global!
Higher, Deeper, Wider!
In It to Win It!
Inspire Action
Land and Expand!
Maximizing Value!
Measure Yourself to be the Best
Profit in Relationships
Relationship Driven Results
Revenue Relationships Results
Right here… Right Now!
Success is in the Details
Survivor! Outwit, Outlast, Outplay!
Selling More in 2017!
Special Operations: Mission to Win!
The Time is Now!
Together We're Better
Think Outside the Box
Unstoppable 2017!
Wider, Deeper, Higher!

What Salespeople Want From Meetings

That time is fast approaching once again. It’s time to gather the troops for your next  annual sales  meeting. Most assuredly, your next annual sales conference will include the obligatory updates about products and the on-going marketing programs. However, there is a profound question that should be asked before the sales meeting agenda is created… “What do your salespeople truly want from your next sales meeting?” 

Over the past couple of weeks alone I have interviewed a hundred top salespeople as part of my preparation for the keynote presentation I will give at their company’s sales kickoff. Based upon these discussions, here’s what the Heavy Hitters want from their next sales meeting.

The Latest, Greatest Sales Techniques. Salespeople don’t want to be continually reminded about the sales basics they already know.  The best salespeople, the most respected salespeople, always tell me they want to learn something new about their profession of sales. They understand the process of selling and they’re tired of hearing about what they mastered a long time ago. They want to hear about the latest developments in the field of sales. That’s why I recommend sessions on recent sales psychology studies, the human nature of group decision-making, and sales linguistics (the study of how the customer’s mind uses and interprets language). These subjects are not only fascinating, but also contribute to the continued success and personal growth of senior salespeople.

Renewed Mental Motivation. Let’s face it. These are Sales Meeting Theme Winningextremely difficult days to be in sales. There’s a tremendous amount of doom and gloom compounded with anxious uncertainty out there. I know of several companies who have cancelled their annual sales meetings. This is a huge mistake because one of the most important aspects of every sales meeting is the care and feeding of the team’s mental health. This rejuvenation doesn’t come from a rah-rah let’s go get em’ speech. Rather, it’s the reassurance of knowing that you are not alone in your struggles and a certain amount of commiseration among colleagues is actually healthy. Don’t be confused. I am not suggesting you throw a pity party. However, the reality is that not everyone is going to make their quota during this recession (and this includes some of your best salespeople too). So, the goal should be to help defeat two of the salespeople’s’ worst enemies: depression and self-doubt. Most importantly, it’s imperative that your executive leaderships’ state of the union presentations lay out the future strategy and plans to deal with these challenging times in calm, cool, realistic terms.

Salesperson Success Stories. This is extremely important!  While the marketing department goes to great lengths to provide customer success stories, salespeople want to learn about the where, why, and how their colleagues won key deals.  The format of these sessions is key. I strongly recommend that salespeople are interviewed  about their wins in a panel setting by an expert moderator. While this requires a great deal of preparation to be successful, it is the most critical part of the entire meeting.

FUN!!!  Life’s too short not to have fun and some self-deprecating humor should always be on the agenda. Put together a funny satirical video about a fictitious sales call. Assemble a rock band that can belt out some of the greatest hits from the 80’s. Create a skit about a TV show  or play Jeopardy using questions about your products and company and attendees as contestants.  Show that you don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun wherever you can, and always make sure there’s a great cocktail reception at the end of day!

Five Annual Sales Meeting Ideas for the Best Conference

Over the next few weeks, thousands of companies will begin planning their annual sales meeting. Most assuredly, there will be lots of sleepless nights for the people who have to choose the location, facilities, and make sure all the details are in place to ensure the sales kickoff is a success. Having keynoted over a hundred annual sales meetings of companies ranging in size from start-ups to multi-billion dollar giants, here are five ideas to help ensure your sales meeting is a success.


"Tales From the Field" Top Salesperson Panel Moderated by Steve W. Martin

1. Salesperson Success Stories. Most sales meetings don’t include one of the most important topics—salesperson success stories about how they won their key accounts. These stories are very important because they provide models of successful salesperson behavior that can be emulated by the rest of the team. There’s two ways to present salesperson success stories. First, you can have the salespeople present the story themselves via PowerPoint. However, one of the hardest things for any salesperson to do is to present to colleagues. As a result, these types of presentations usually miss the mark in explaining the intricacy of the sales strategy and account management skills that were actually responsible for winning the deal. They end up being a high level chronological review of the deal as opposed to a real examination of account strategy.

Rather, I would recommend that you have your top salespeople be interviewed in a talk show program format by a moderator who has an extensive sales background. I have found these types of panels are the most effective way to relay both the tangible and intangible aspects of winning to the rest of the team.

2. Team Building. The goal of every team building event is to build "esprit de corps" or team morale. Unfortunately, some well intended team building events actually have the exact opposite effect. For example, one meeting I participated in required everyone to wear ridiculous costumes as part of the “mandatory” team building event. Believe me, this group which consisted of very senior salespeople were not excited in the least.

Conversely, one of the best team building events I have seen was based upon the TV show Survivor. At the beginning of the meeting, each attendee received a different colored bandana that signified which “tribe” they belonged to. Throughout the meeting after each presentation, random tribal representatives were brought up to answer questions about the previous presentation in attempt to win points. Prizes (cash and gift cards) were given out to the members of the top two teams. Consequently, everyone in the room paid very close attention to each presentation and took copious notes. The competition (and camaraderie) was fierce!

3. Competitive Analysis. Most competitive analysis presentations given at sales meetings are too theoretical. They simply do not provide practical real-world strategies and tactics to defeat arch-rivals. Quite often, the marketing group that creates this session has never “sold.” As a result, their analysis is too simplistic or too generic to provide the silver bullets the salespeople need to vanquish their enemies. Other times, it is at the opposite end of the spectrum and far too complex to be implemented.

In addition, these presentations are built on the assumption that the customer is a logical, rational decision maker. In reality, the decision to buy any given product is a complex decision made by groups of people who have vastly different needs, personalities, and political aspirations. For all of these reasons, I strongly recommend that you conduct a true win-loss analysis where actual customer decision makers (from wins and losses) are interviewed before the meeting. The presentation of the study results is the best way to understand the decision making process of your customers. Better yet, it provides a true snapshot of the competition’s strengths and weaknesses according to the person who matters most—the prospective customer.

4. Product Training. Here’s two facts that might surprise you. The average person truly hears only 7 minutes of every hour they spend listening and within 72 hours they forget 95% of what they’ve heard. Given this information, you should think twice before planning a long, exhaustive product training session. A better strategy is to “chunk” it. That is, break the session into chunks of time no longer than sixty minutes. Also, break up heavy technical chunks with lighter topics, completely different subject matter, or audience participation activities. This way, the attendees will remain mentally fresh and have higher retention.

5. Sales Skills Development. The audience of the majority of the sales meetings I present at is composed of senior salespeople. Since they have been in the field five, ten or twenty years, they obviously know how to sell. Therefore, the assumption is that there wouldn’t be any need for sales skills development sessions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Heavy Hitters (truly great salespeople) are always on a quest to improve their game. However, they don’t want to hear Sales 101 advice. Rather, I have found that they are extremely interested in learning how to improve their persuasiveness and understanding the most difficult part of sales—people! Therefore, provide sales workshops on topics like advanced sales psychology, customer communication, and sales intuition development to manage the complex sale process.

Sales Kickoff Agenda: The Most Important Meeting of the Year!

Regardless of whether  your company calls it the annual sales meeting, yearly sales conference, or once-a-year  sales rally, the annual sales kickoff meeting is the most important sales meeting  of the year. The Sales Meeting Theme Revenuestructure of the meeting’s agenda is one of the key factors that  will determine the meeting’s overall success. After keynoting more than one  hundred sales kickoffs, here’s some ideas on how best to structure the sales  kickoff agenda of a day and a half meeting for a medium-sized company.

The main objectives of  the day and a half day sales kickoff agenda are “Preparation and Renewed Motivation.”  Since the meeting is short, there simply isn’t enough time to devote to detailed  hands-on product training. Rather, higher level information should be presented  and the more detailed material provided on a CD, or better yet, online over the  company intranet.

Day One - Morning Session

Welcome – I recommend having a senior  executive act as emcee for the entire meeting. This person will help keep the  meeting on track, review the day’s agenda, and provide house-keeping  instructions to attendees such as when and where to meet for events.

Global  Sales Review – Vice  president of sales reviews the prior year results and discusses the successes,  challenges, along with the goals for the upcoming year.

Company  “State of the Union” –  CEO review of the financial and operational milestones achieved during  the past year, perspective of the company’s  future, and important developments within the industry.

Guest  Keynote Speaker –  In this speaking slot, you want a powerful  presenter with an impactful message that dovetails to the theme of the sales  kickoff.

Marketing  Update – High level  update from vice president of marketing on new marketing programs, lead  generation initiatives, industry analyst reviews, and market positioning versus  the competition.

Day One - Afternoon Session

Product  Review – Updates on  new products, enhancements to product line, and the future product road-map.

Competitive  Review –Analysis and  comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of major competitive product  offerings. 

Departmental  Updates from services  and support, consulting, training, partners and alliances, manufacturing, and sales  operations.

Evening Session

Cocktail Reception – An important  bonding session where colleagues and old friends re-connect.

Group  Dinner – A sit-down  dinner is preferable to buffet style.

After  Dinner Guest Speaker – A fast-paced, up-tempo sales-related presentation that includes a healthy  dose of humor and some pithy take-away points (30 minutes).

Awards  Presentations for top  salespeople, managers, and sales support recognition.              

Day Two – Morning Session Morning  Session

Customer  Presentation Review –  Since the customer presentation is one of the most important moments in the  sales cycle, it should be reviewed in its entirety to the sales team.

Salesperson  Success Stories – One  of the most important aspects of the sales kickoff is salespeople sharing the  experiences about where they won and why. I recommend a salesperson interview panel  with an experienced moderator as the best format to accomplish this. 

Sales  Cycle Management –  The best sales meetings provide the salespeople with models of how customers make  their buying decisions and the best way by which to manage the sales process.

Closing  Motivational Speaker –  The closing motivational speaker needs to be able to rally the troops and  reinvigorate them with a sense of purpose.

CALL  TO ACTION! – Vice  President reviews key messages from the meeting and closes the kickoff with a  Call to Action.

Lunch – Buffet style lunch or box lunches to-go and attendees  head home.

Here are some additional sessions to consider adding to your agenda:

Customer Case Study Reviews - This session involves a review of how the company’s solutions have positively impacted customers, along with strategies to leverage these stories in competitive sales situations. Ideally, this would include customers presenting their story or being interviewed.

Customer Presentation Review - Since the customer presentation is one of the most important moments in every sales cycle, it should be reviewed in its entirety with the sales force.

CRM Training - This session helps sales teams use the customer relationship management system to maximize their time and account management efforts.

Elevator Pitch Session - The elevator pitch is a concise message delivered to prospective customers that immediately differentiates you from your competitors.

New Account Penetration Strategy - This session shows advanced techniques to reach new accounts through the use of email, direct mail, cold calls, and referrals.

Product Demonstration Workshop - This is a technical session that shows how to customize a demonstration to emphasize product superiority and highlight distinct advantages.Sales Kickoff Themes Elevate

Technical Competitive Comparison - This is a comprehensive session on technical
differences between competitive products that enables the sales organization to make and defend product advantage statements.

Sales Skills Training - Salespeople don’t want to be continually reminded of the sales techniques they already know. They want to learn about the latest advancements in the sales profession for continued personal growth; appropriate topics include advanced sales psychology, sales linguistics, and sales intuition.

Whiteboard Workshop - This session explains how to create rapport and gain the confidence of prospective customers through whiteboard presentations.

Finally, I am not a big  fan of making sales kickoff attendees lug thick binders of material back on their  airplane flights back home (most likely the binder will never be opened again  anyway). However, there are definitely a few things they should walk away with.  First, a renewed sense of pride in the company they work for. Second, honest  enthusiasm to get back into the field and ramp up the New Year. And finally,  some positive thoughts and pleasant memories about the good time they had  celebrating a career that is difficult, demanding, but ultimately, extremely rewarding.

How to Select A Sales Kickoff Keynote Speaker

Let's assume you are in charge of planning your company's annual sales kickoff, the most important sales meeting of the year. You've picked the best location, chosen the right hotel, and are in the process of finalizing the meeting agenda. However, one critically important task remains to be completed--you must select the perfect keynote speaker.

Steve W. Martin Keynote Presentation

Steve W. Martin Keynote Presentation

There are four main types of keynote speakers to choose from; celebrity, motivational, industry mavens, and sales experts. Celebrities (entertainment stars, sports heroes, business icons, politicians, etc.) will speak mainly about their personal experiences. Conversely, industry mavens are analysts and consultants who talk about current issues and future business trends. Meanwhile, motivational speakers exuberantly try to touch listeners' emotions. And finally, there are sales experts who share their specific sales-related wisdom and knowledge with the audience.

So, how do you decide which one is right for you? Here are five questions to ask a potential keynote speaker in order to help you determine whether or not he or she is right for your meeting.

1. What is the profile of the typical audience you present to?
There aren't any two sales forces that are exactly alike. Every sales force is unique in three different ways; complexity of the sales process, the average level of sales experience, and the state of morale. Perhaps the biggest mistake when selecting a sales kickoff presenter is picking one whose main message doesn't apply to the products you sell or resonate with the sophistication of the sales force. For instance, even though a keynote speaker has successfully presented to mid-western real estate agents in the past, he or she would not be a good fit to for a Silicon Valley software company.

Ensuring that the speaker is in tune with the sales forces' morale is another critically important consideration. Even though it is an imperfect world, you are in charge of creating the perfect experience for an audience that is in a variety of states of contentment. Many salespeople are happy, some are apathetic, and others are downright despondent. Ideally, you want a speaker who is experienced in speaking in this type of difficult circumstance. For example, if your company has been part of a recent merger you want a speaker who is familiar with the intricacies of this situation and how it affects morale.

2. How would you prepare for our meeting?
Even though you may sell the same products as several other companies, your sales force faces distinctive competitive challenges. For instance, there's a big difference between selling for an eight-hundred-pound-gorilla-sized company than an upstart competitor.

The successful keynote presentation should include major messages that are applicable to the realities of your company's competitive situation. Therefore, the presenter should conduct extensive pre-presentation interviews and diligent background research to ensure he or she understands your marketplace, products, and salespeople.

Steve W. Martin Sales Kickoff Keynote Speaker

Steve W. Martin Sales Kickoff Keynote Speaker

3. Do you customize your presentation?
Since salespeople present for a living they know when they are being fed a "canned" presentation. The most successful keynote presentation will incorporate elements of the salespeople's daily lives into the actual presentation. This may include tangible advice to defeat your archenemies and tactics to present your products more effectively. As a result, the presentation needs to be customized so that it helps address the toughest obstacles your sales force faces.

A one size fits all presentation delivered exactly in the same way over the past five years has a high likelihood of falling flat today. Audiences appreciate a presenter who has taken the time to understand their challenges and provides them with strategies they can put to use immediately.

4. When do you typically present at sales kickoffs? At the beginning, a nightly dinner, or the meeting's end?
You wouldn't use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail. Similarly, the particular speaking slot you are trying to fill requires a specific type of keynote speaker. If the speaking slot is at the meeting opening, you most likely want a powerful presenter with an impactful message (because he or she is probably speaking right after your company's chairman, CEO, or VP of sales). A keynote to be delivered during a dinner gathering should be fast-paced, up-tempo and include a healthy dose of humor. Conversely, a closing speaker needs to be able to rally the troops and reinvigorate them with a sense of purpose.

5. What takeaway materials do you provide?
A typical keynote presentation will last just an hour or two at most. Given such a short timeframe, how can it be more than just a "feel good" experience? The best way to achieve lasting impact is by providing takeaway materials that the salespeople can reference over the long-run. That's why I'm a big fan of presenters who provide copies of their books, informational CD's, and PowerPoint presentations to the audience.

Finally, one of the most important factors you should continually remind yourself of during the selection process is how well does the speaker dovetail with your sales kickoff theme. The best speaker will center their presentation on your theme and work his or her material around it. If you're still not one-hundred percent certain what your theme should be, they should possess the practical experience to help brainstorm with you on an appropriate theme. Because the best speakers understand that your success and their success are intimately intertwined.

Virtual Sales Kickoff Meeting Strategy

The Internet has completely changed the way in which businesses Virtual Sales Kickoff acommunicate with their customers. It is also fundamentally changing the way businesses communicate with, educate, and motivate their salespeople in the field. Today, more companies than ever are rethinking their strategy to improve overall sales effectiveness and incorporating a “virtual” component to their annual sales kickoff meetings. The virtual sales kickoff meeting adds an entirely new dimension to traditional in-person meetings. Salespeople who work remotely in the field can access the meeting at their local field office or at home over the Internet and review the presentations on demand following the event.

Over the past decade, I’ve had the privilege of presenting at hundreds of annual sales kickoff meetings for leading companies all around the world. The travel, lodging, and event facility expenses required to hold these meetings sometimes ran well into seven figures. Companies today are employing three different virtual sales kickoff strategies to maximize their training investment, reinforce the meeting messages, and extend the meeting’s motivational afterglow.

Click here to read the Virtual Sales Kickoff Meeting Guide

How to Ruin a National Sales Meeting

The only time during the entire year when the worldwide sales team gets together is the annual sales kickoff meeting. Obviously, everyone wants this meeting to be a success. As a keynote speaker who has had the privilege of presenting at more than one hundred annual sales meetings, I thought I would share some of the ways companies sabotage their annual sales conventions.

Wrong Length
German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered people forget facts at a predictable rate and that the greatest learning actually occurs by studying less. His famous “Forgetting Curve” (see figure) shows that meeting attendees will already have forgotten 80% of what they learned just two days before. You should keep this in mind when you are deciding on holding a three, four, or five day sales meeting.

Long Meeting

Wrong Agenda
You’re making a mistake if every session at your meeting is a “deep-dive” about product specifications, features, and functionality. Ideally, your agenda should include at least six different types of sessions:

    • State of the Union presentations about the company and sales, marketing, R&D, customer support and other pertinent areas of the company.
    • Product-related sessions from the prospective customer’s point of view.
    • Competitive comparison sessions.
    • Personal sales skills development sessions that address your biggest sales challenges and complement your particular sales cycle methodology.
    • Sales strategy sessions based upon real-world win-loss studies and information.
    • Motivational guest speakers and humorous presentations, video clips, skits, games, etc.

Wrong Communication
Too many sales kickoffs are death by PowerPoint where presenter after presenter lectures the sales organization. These meetings don’t involve their salespeople in any aspect of the group presentations. Key salespeople should be asked to present summary overviews of their most important wins. Whenever I keynote a meeting, I will also moderate a panel that I call “Tales From the Field” where top salespeople are interviewed about their major wins and losses.

Wrong Location. There are three critical factors in determining location. First, how many airplane connections will it take for the majority of the salespeople to reach the meeting? Never select a location that requires three or more flights for non-international-based attendees. Second, stay away from “hazardous” weather locations during January through March (like the northeast or cities like Chicago).  Finally, how much time, effort, and cost will take to get all your corporate presenters (and their demonstration equipment) to the meeting? This will help you determine if you should hold the meeting near corporate headquarters.

Wrong Meeting Facility
Consider the following when selecting the hotel and meeting facility.  How far is it from the
 airport? This forgotten factor is important because no one likes the hassle of flying all day only to have to shuttle for another hour or two to a hotel. The hotel meeting facility you choose also sends a message to the sales team. Is the company trying to send a message of austerity based upon the economic climate or do you want them to feel appreciated for all their hard work? Whatever your situation is, make sure the hotel mirrors the main messages being delivered by the senior leaders presenting at the meeting.

Wrong Acknowledgement
No one has ever been fired for saying too many compliments or handing out too much recognition at a sales conference. Awards are extremely important because salespeople enjoy the acclaim and the public identification as a role model with their peers. Therefore, compliments to individual salespeople should be given out continuously throughout the sales kickoff and awards should always be done in full view of the entire organization.

Great Stage Design Ideas


Steve W. Martin - The Perfect Presenter for Your Next Meeting

Steve W. Martiin SpeakerWhether speaking about selling to the C-level, sales linguistics, sales psychology or the attributes of high-performing salespeople/sales organizations, Steve Martin is both provocative and entertaining. Steve is the perfect opening keynote speaker to establish the tone for your sales kickoff or closing inspirational speaker to end your meeting on a high note.

While many keynote speakers offer canned presentations of generic information, Steve Martin’s keynotes are completely customized to your unique sales situation and specific areas of need. To ensure topical relevance, pre-presentation interviews and background research is conducted to understand your market, product, and salespeople. Presentations are customized for your particular area of interest and use the terms of your industry. Examples from your competition are presented using “their” language.

Learning by example is the best way to learn. Steve’s presentation serve as a cultural transmission to instill the Heavy Hitter sales philosophy. A “cultural transmission” is the method of learning a behavioral technique by emulating a successful practitioner as a role model. Steve not only presents information and tactics, he demonstrates them in a highly interactive environment that emulates a typical sales call.

Life’s too short not to have fun and humor plays an important role in every keynote. Finally, Steve relates to the audience from their point of view to ensure they’re engaged and the information covered is internalized. It’s an entertaining and enlightening experience!

Steve also offers another truly unique sales kickoff experience called "Tales from the Field." Tales from the Field is similar to a roundtable talk show where key salespeople are interviewed about their major wins and losses. However, this session goes far beyond discussing sales strategies and tactics. Steve elicits the psychological and intuitive aspects of selling and translates the common sales themes into models the entire sales organization can understand and emulate.


Tales From The Field: Interview Session with Your Top Salespeople

Tales from the Field" is similar to a roundtable talk show where top salespeople are interviewed about their major wins and losses. However, this session goes far beyond discussing sales strategies and tactics. The psychological and intuitive aspects of selling are translated into common themes and models the entire sales organization can understand and emulate. The sharing of this "collective intuition" stops salespeople from chasing bad deals, helps create a more predictable forecast, and gives each participant (from novice to expert) tactics they can use immediately. Steve Martin has interviewed more than 1,000 top business to business salespeople and has written extensively about their strategies, selling styles, and personality profiles.



Steve W. Martin has conducted extensive research on the attributes of top salespeople and high performing sales organizations. He has interviewed thousands of top sales professionals and written over thirty Harvard Business Review sales research articles.  He incorporates these findings into an extremely interactive and enlightening keynote presentation utilizing on-line testing where audience members answer questions via their smartphones/tablets/laptops and then compare themselves to  study results.

This also presents sales leaders a great opportunity to learn about the composition and behavior of their sales organization as detailed test reports are provided following the meeting. Reports are segmented by roles such as sales manager, field salesperson, channel salesperson, pre-sales engineer, and sales support. Charactertistics associated to quota performance are provided and a comparison of customer interaction strategies.  Please click here to review the different types of sales research.


Steve Martin also includes the unique opportunity to benchmark and profile your sales organization as part of his keynote presentation. Prior to the session, your team completes an online survey and the results are presented at the meeting.  The study results compare the significant differences between how high-, average-, and underperforming sales organizations perceive themselves, measure performance, staff their organizations, and operate.  Learn More About Steve Martin's Sales Research



Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics is the first book that truly explains “sales linguistics,” the revolutionary new field of study about how customers and salespeople use and interpret language during the decision making process.

Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics provides communication strategies that enable salespeople to rise above their competition and impactful psychological suggestions that compel customers' rational intellect and emotional subconscious to buy.

    • Language-based strategies and tactics to secure customer meetings
    • What to say, do, and present in face-to-face customer meetings and phone calls
    • Bonding with customers using sales linguistics, the study of how the customer's mind uses language
    • Perfecting your sales intuition so you always say the right words at the right time
    • Extensive examples, illustrations, and exercises in an easy-to-read format

Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics takes the concept of becoming a Heavy Hitter (truly great salesperson) to the next level. This book has been written for senior salespeople, those who have been in the field for five, ten, and fifteen years or more. While it will expose the novice salesperson to entirely new aspects of selling, the ultimate goal of Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics is to help experienced salespeople expand their influence within their local office, region, sales organization, and company. Learn More

"Wow, the feedback was outstanding on Steve Martin’s session! The manner in which he engaged the audience and got them to think about the psychology of the sale absolutely exceeded my expectations!"
Rob Consoli, Vice President of Sales, Liaison Technologies

Steve Martin was incredibly detailed, organized and engaged with our team. Our sales team left our annual meeting with the ability to be more thoughtful in the words they choose and how they interact and influence customers.  It was a wonderful experience working with him.”
Amanda Comeaux, North American Sales Enablement Program Manager, Lenovo

"During the past twenty years I have seen it all--sales training, motivational sessions, coaching sessions, and workshops. But Steve Martin has generated the most enthusiastic feedback I have ever seen from a field sales organization!"
Scott Raskin, CEO, Mindjet Software



Heavy Hitter I.T. Sales Strategy is a comprehensive guide for penetrating new accounts, differentiating your solution during the sales cycle, and winning highly competitive accounts. It is based on extensive research and interviews with more than 1,000 key information technology decision makers, top technology salespeople, and vice presidents of sales. The book provides state of the art technology sales strategies and advanced tactics for senior salespeople who want to learn the secrets of top performers.

Technology Sales Organization Strategy: Key Trends and Performance Metrics
Advanced Sales Cycle Strategy: Control the Complex Technology Sale
Sales Call Strategy: Differentiate Yourself in face-to-face customer meetings
New Account Penetration Strategy: Language-based Tactics to Secure Initial Meetings
Personal Communication Strategy: Say the Right Words to Convince Customers to Buy

Readers will find advice on how to win over C-level I.T. executives and senior business leaders across the organization. Discover how I.T. organizational structure impacts company decision making. Determine how to gain strategic account control based upon the people, process, and politics of selling to complex businesses. Learn to conduct persuasive sales calls using sales linguistics, the study of how the customer's mind uses and interprets language. Learn More





What Separates High-performing Sales Organizations from Average and Underperforming Sales Organizations?

The answer to this question Steve W. Martin conducted extensive surveys with top-level sales leaders, midlevel sales managers, and salespeople. The resulting research, The Sales Organization Performance Study Report, provides detailed insights on the characteristics of high-performing sales organizations, quota analysis measurements, and key sales performance metrics.

Seven hundred eighty-six sales professionals participated in the study byThe Sales Organization Performance Curve - Steve W Martin completing an extensive forty-two-part survey. The survey goal was to gather both qualitative information about the attributes of high-growth sales organizations and the associated quantifiable performance metrics. Participants were asked to share their opinions on their sales organization, their top sales challenges, and personal details about their own quota performance. In exchange for their candor, it was agreed that their names and organizations would remain anonymous.

Twenty-two percent of survey participants included top-level sales leaders such as vice presidents of sales, 14 percent were front-line sales managers who manage salespeople, 17 percent were hybrid sales managers who sell directly to customers and manage other salespeople, and 47 percent were salespeople who carry their own quota.

The study results reveal there are fifteen significant differences between how high-, average-, and underperforming sales organizations perceive themselves, measure performance, staff their organizations, and operate. The release date of the full 21 page report is January 23rd.

Learn More Read the Performance Gap Report

What Top Sales Teams Have in Common Steve W Martin

Research on High-Performing Top Salespeople

The results from this study quantify what many sales leaders have intuitively known for years. The best sales organizations have strong leaders who exercise control, monitor team performance, and establish internal processes that all team members must abide by. They hire talent of such high quality that it challenges the more tenured sales team members to continually perform at the highest level. Learn More

Steve W. Martin Articles

Steve W. Martiin Speaker

Steve W. Martin

Steve W. Martin is the foremost expert on Sales Linguistics and the Human Nature of Complex Enterprise Sales. He is the author of the "Heavy Hitter" Series of books for Senior Salespeople.

Read More

Logos Subset

What Clients Say!

IBM, HP, Oracle, EMC, AT&T... Hear what "Heavy Hitter" Clients have to say about Steve W. Martin's Sales Meeting Keynote Presentations, Top Salesperson Panels, and Sales Training Workshops!

Read More

Lenovo 3

Sample Presentation Topics and Keynote Fees

Steve Martin will energize, enlighten, and entertain your sales team with real-world sales strategies, proven tactics, and helpful advice delivered with a healthy dose of humor!

Read More