Guest Insight: Clare Soan, Commercial Operations Manager, Bacardi UK

We asked Clare Soan, Commercial Operations Manager, for Bacardi in the UK to give us the low down on their UK Sales Conference… and of course give us a few tips along the way.

 What are the main objectives for the Bacardi UK Sales conference?

Our primary objectives for hosting the conference are around the central theme and giving the UK Sales Force the tools they need to do their jobs to the highest level possible. One of our key objectives each year is to get a really good balance of content, as it needs to be inspiring and motivational whilst informing and educational. The event is also about the team having fun and being able to network with each other.

Do you feel a pressure to constantly create new themes and provide delegates with the wow factor?

Yes, yes and yes! This is the third year I’ve run the show and each year I look for ways for it to be bigger and better than the last. We have a very creative MD who always comes up with a great theme, then we work closely with Top Banana and our internal project team to create the “wow factor”. In the industry, I attend several conferences a year, so I look to learn from my experiences too.

Would you say a sales audience is more of a challenge than other employee audiences to engage/entertain?

Sales jobs are tough therefore when they attend these types of conferences the audience are looking for tools and nuggets of information to really help them deliver their KPIs. For other employees, I see the conference as a download of business and brand information. The content doesn’t always drive action for other employees, but it certainly does for sales.

We deliver a sales conference which is designed to equip the sales team with tools, which are then showcased at the evening entertainment. This can be in the form of brand assets, bringing to life brand experiences (music, food, serves) and driving advocacy messages. We will have a theme, games and great music… a memorable experience that can be brought to life in customer discussions.

Do awards form a part of your sales conference? Do you think these are important to your sales team in helping to fire them up for the year ahead?

Yes, we have awards for the sales team but also for other employees too. At Bacardi in the UK we really see the importance of recognising and motivating our top performers as it gives them the chance to shine both as a reward for attaining their level of success and as an incentive to others to work to attain the same status and win future awards.

How do you make sure you achieve a balanced agenda so there is a good mix of entertainment, education and networking?

Balancing an agenda is a challenge. We aim to have realistic timings and we don’t try to squeeze too much in. We recently moved to having workshops to get delegates moving around the venue and we have reduced each of our presenter’s content to kept it short.  We aim for fewer, punchy and meaningful sessions, as we want our delegates to stay alert and remember key messages.

Enabling networking is important so we create mixed groups for breakouts and always ensure the evening entertainment brings us together as one team.  We often see that networking encourages an exchange of ideas and encourages a geographically diverse group of sales people to develop their own support.  We have recently had some business work steams set up as a result of networking opportunities at our last conference.

We work hard and play hard at Bacardi, so entertainment always is a priority! We throw some of the best parties ever and this is a key priority for our annual conference.

 What one piece of advice would you give to other teams organizing a sales conference?

High energy and exciting entertainment. It is often the part of the event delegates most remember, so I give it plenty of focus. Food must be right and of course our cocktails are perfect! We always have amazing music, rock bands, DJs, etc… we create a truly memorable experience through our entertainment.

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