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Sales Training Conference Review

Just got back from a couple days at the CBI Conference for Pharmaceutical Sales Training (held in Conshohocken, PA). Overall, it was a positive time…good opportunities for networking, and many of the sessions were helpful and thought-provoking.

The conference was well-organized and run on-site – I’ve been to some other events where there seemed to be continual scrambling and re-adjusting, but this was, overall, a pretty tightly-run ship. One suggested improvement would be to have fewer, longer sessions – many of the sessions were 25-30 minutes and it was impossible to cover much material in that time. That led to presenters trying to cram too much information into their time slots – many of them could (should) have cut their information in half, and very narrowly focused their session. And, the panel discussions also suffered because there was no time to get in-depth or have much back-and-forth with the audience.

As with all such vendor-driven events (as opposed to association-organized, such as the SPBT), there tends to be a rather scattershot approach to topics and presenters. Part of that is driven by offering vendor/sponsors speaking slots, virtually guaranteeing that certain talks will be little more than sales pitches, and that many topics will have little or no relation to one another.

It seems to me that a better approach would be to have an overarching theme or two (presented in one or more “tracks”), based on pro-actively seeking input from industry leaders (e.g., “Best Practices in Selling Skills”, or “How New Technologies are Impacting Sales”, or “The First 90 Days – Making New Representatives more Successful”, etc.). Then, direct each speaker to focus the specific topic of the talk to the relevant theme. Also, instead of having vendors present full sessions, allow each vendor/sponsor to have a 5-10 minute slot during the conference, which is plainly positioned as a sales pitch – say, on the front end of a session. The sessions themselves should be given by practictioners, or perhaps by practitioner/vendor co-presenters, with more data or a case study, instead of a vendor capabilities overview.

Other random observations: serving Starbucks coffee is always great, though it should have been available at all times. Giving away Wall Street Journals (and free 6-month subscriptions) is a nice touch. The CBI person in charge (Courtney) was a more engaged and active presence than I have ever seen at a similar conference.

And finally, a public thanks to John Sjovall (Daiichi Sankyo) and Jim Delaney (NxLevel) for all the collaborative work that went into our workshop on Learning Management. I don’t know when I’ve more enjoyed working with co-presenters…the preparation sessions in the weeks preceding were so energizing and fun that we kinda hated to see it end!

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