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Why is delegate sales such a cost centre?

"Lil' pig, lil' pig, let me in.."

Delegate sales, by nature, is a role with a high employee turnover and low staff retention rates – but why is that?

Delegate salespeople are the lifeblood of an event company; attracting the right number of target attendees is the difference between failure and success. If you do not attain the desired audience, the event will not meet the requirements of either the sponsors or the delegates who do attend.

So if delegate sales are so intrinsically important to an event company’s success, why is it often deemed as less important than the sponsorship sales positions? Sure, the sponsorship teams bring in more revenue, but that is the standard market requirement; if the delegate salespersons do not perform their role effectively, it makes selling event sponsorship almost impossible.

“But surely inviting people to an event tailor-made for their professional needs cannot be that difficult?”

This is a huge misconception that often causes delegate salespeople to feel undervalued and seek other sales opportunities, wasting all the time and effort put into recruitment and training the individual.

Typically, those who interview for a delegate sales position fall in to three distinct categories:

  1. The ‘entry-level prospect’: Usually young and ambitious but with limited experience in sales, the candidate expresses a willingness to learn but will often see the position as a spring board for their sales career… outside delegate sales.

  2. The ‘channel-hopper’: Salespeople who have made a career from moving through multiple companies, often staying for a period of no longer than 3-6 months. Candidates who fall into this category will promise that their ‘experience’ will guarantee results, however one must wonder why a person would choose a path with little hope of progression.

  3. The ‘actor’: These guys have no sales experience, but throw their hat in the ring in the hope that the job doesn’t sound that difficult in principle. They may have experience with reading scripts (they’re not always out of work actors) and the confidence to deliver a winning pitch, but are often unreliable and will quit immediately should a better offer come their way.

You do, sometimes find quality, experienced delegate salespeople on the market, but these are difficult to find, and often command a higher wage… which brings us onto perhaps the most probable reason it’s so difficult to keep hold of an effective delegate sales team – the wages on offer.

The typical annual wage for a delegate salesperson is between £18,000 - £25,000 basic salary and a commission structure that bring the total earnings up to £28,000 - £32,000 when hitting targets. This is not particularly rewarding when compared to sales positions in other industries, and it’s not hard to see how individuals are tempted by new challenges once they have the required 6 months’ sales experience under their belts.

This leaves the event companies a conundrum: Either offer the delegate sales teams more rewarding packages, or (as what happens most often) be resigned to exist in a state of transition; constantly recruiting and training a revolving-door-like sales floor.

But which is the better choice? We’ll be discussing this in our next blog, so keep an eye out!

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