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Published December 21, 2010, 10:05 AM

Hot sales incentives

TOWNER, N.D. — I spent a few years in the sales business. I’ve been to a few national sales meetings. No where too exotic, mostly Kansas City or Denver. I was just happy to have a hotel room with the little coffee pot in it and the two free coffee packets.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I spent a few years in the sales business. I’ve been to a few national sales meetings. No where too exotic, mostly Kansas City or Denver. I was just happy to have a hotel room with the little coffee pot in it and the two free coffee packets.

But sales meetings are a real motivator for some company sales forces. Where the annual sales meeting is held tells something about the kind of year the company is having. If sales were good, it could mean a fancy resort. If sales were bad, well, the meeting place might be a little less than four stars.

My home state was in the news this week as the location for the sales meeting of a Pennsylvania-based candy company. I guess coming to Fargo, N.D., for their sales meeting was pitched as punishment, not reward.

Sales isn’t just about selling stuff, it’s really about selling more stuff than last year. You gotta hit your number, grow your territory, reach the goal, bring in the year end. Sell, sell, sell!

The folks at Just Born candy company told their team if they grew sales by 4 percent, the meeting would be in Hawaii. Miss that mark and the meeting will be in Fargo.

They came to Fargo last week. I’m not sure if the 2 percent growth they achieved was an actual failure to reach 4 percent, or just a sales force that knew what a great city Fargo was and purposely kept sales under 4 percent to avoid the tourist trap of Hawaii.

OK, they probably would have liked to hit their goal and the sandy beaches of the Aloha state. But they may have learned a thing or two on their northern sojourn.

Cold is OK

Like any kid raised in the North, they learned how to have fun when the temperature is cold and there’s snow on the ground.

First, you have to dress for the elements. I saw pictures of the candy sellers in furry winter bomber hats. Good move. As our folks have all told us from an early age, “Cover your head! You lose 87.34 percent of your body heat from your head you know!” or some other oft-quoted number of cranial thermal escape.

Once you’re buttoned up, go outside and do something. They took a sleigh ride and went tobogganing. You’ve got the snow and its pretty slick, so why not do some sliding on it?

If I had a nickel for every sled run I made down the hill behind our house when I was growing up, well, I’d have a lot of nickels. And I could’ve bought enough Mike & Ike’s and Peeps to send these guys to Hawaii.

The last lesson — after you’ve had your fun outside, get indoors, pull off that furry hat and warm up. Reports are that these people learned the comfort of a hot toddy next to the fireplace, the social benefits of eating with large groups of people at a neighborhood spaghetti feed in the local veteran’s hall and the heightened joy of popcorn and a movie because you’re inside and it’s warm.

So, it wasn’t Hawaii, but I doubt it was as bad as they thought. It’s fair to say Fargo far exceeded their expectations because they probably didn’t have any. And they created enough quirky buzz to make the national news and get their company and their candy mentioned in countless stories. A good free media start to help propel them toward next year’s sales goal like a speeding toboggan.

These folks in the furry hats are better sales people than they made themselves out to be.

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