Organizing Eddy Group Ltd.’s annual strategic sales session sounds a lot like planning a military manoeuvre. Every April, 45 sales staff from across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia gather to share advice, network with the vendors who are key to the company’s success, and party down.
Eddy Group is an independent wholesale distributor servicing commercial, industrial and residential customers in the electrical, HVAC, plumbing, hardware and municipal markets. It’s a fourth-generation family business that operates 10 branches, all managed out of corporate headquarters in Bathurst, N.B.
This year marks the 10th that the company has hosted its annual sales confab—and there are no plans to stop any time soon. “It brings awareness about what our company has to offer,” says Jody MacDonald, Eddy Group’s vice-president of sales. “Where every branch is different, everyone gets to pick up one or two ideas from their colleagues. People look forward to it.”
Day one features a trade show for about 15 vendors. It’s an intimate opportunity for suppliers to promote and demonstrate popular products that Eddy Group’s sales team hasn’t seen first-hand. The company decides which vendors to invite based on market trends and vertical growth. MacDonald says most ask if they can come every year. “They get to make 20-some sales calls in one day,” he says.
Later that evening, the sales teams mix and mingle with each other and with visiting vendor reps at a casual social event. “This is an industry that has a lot of moving parts,” says company president Robyn Eddy. “It requires a lot of relationship-building.”
Day two is the highlight of the event. Each Eddy Group branch team meets with each vendor for 30 minutes. At the speed dating-style sessions, sales teams and vendors set sales goals they’ll monitor and report on together throughout the year.
Eddy Group covers the expenses for the vendors, except travel and hotels. “That’s unusual,” says Eddy. “Usually everybody is trying to get what they can from suppliers to participate in events. We’re very careful about respecting the fact that they have businesses they need to protect, too.”
The second evening winds down with a staff-only dinner with live entertainment. Since it’s almost a six-hour drive from the company’s northernmost office to its southernmost office, this is the one time of year the entire outside sales staff and senior leadership get to hang out. “They get to see people they don’t get to see very often or might only communicate with on the phone. They get very excited,” says MacDonald. Staff exchange war stories and share ideas from brand to branch.
“You’ve got to be close to your people,” reasons Eddy. “You can’t sit back in a room and strategize by yourself anymore. Those days are gone, thankfully.”