Another waste of time… Brain Drain session… Dreadful hour… Is this how your sales team describes what you had hoped was a productive, interactive, motivating, fun and exciting sales meeting?
Are sales meetings in your organization seen as a necessary evil or a real opportunity to make a difference with the sales team? Unfortunately, there is but a thin line that separates these two outcomes.
What follows are a number of ideas of what to do and what not to do to make your next sales meeting a success.
First things first… What is the purpose of the meeting? Why hold this meeting at all? The vaguer the answer is regarding the objective, the greater the likelihood of a failed, boring, wasteful meeting.
A well-run sales meeting is often your best opportunity to communicate with the sales team, discuss the strategy and tactics that will make the company vision a reality, clarify your expectations, and listen to their views about the marketplace.
The purpose of sales meetings is not to reprimand any one individual or the whole sales team, nor is it a substitute for one on one coaching.
In general, your main objective for these meetings should be to educate, inform, and motivate. You are the one who knows the reason(s) for your meeting but for reference here are a few examples: outline and review strategy, gather and provide market intelligence, improve technical and sales skill, problem solve, highlight achievements, recognize efforts, introduce new products and services, share successes, discuss promotions and sales campaigns, etc.
Independent of the specific objective(s), the most important outcome of any sales meeting is to help your team be more effective and sell more!
When each and every member of your team steps out of the sales meeting, they should be more excited about representing your brand than before they walked into it. Every single time… No excuses, no exceptions!
PREPARATION & PLANNING
Decide on an objective and a theme for each meeting. This will help you with crafting the agenda to follow.
By the way, if a topic could be adequately covered by merely distributing a report or memo, then it should not be included in the agenda.
Prioritize the order of what will be presented to be sure you begin and end on time without fear of not covering the most important items on the agenda.
Each meeting needs to address the needs of the team, the organization, and you the manager. In preparing content, it’s important to look at meetings three to six months into the future so you can have a well-planned comprehensive agenda.
The content will be much more relevant if you elicit input from the sales team as to what would help them the most.
Find the right person to deliver the message (whatever the topic may be) but be sure to control the delivery so it flows properly. Have a sales person, or someone from another part of the company, talk about something specific they are good at or have great ideas about that will be useful for the rest of the team.
Be mindful that these meetings don’t turn into “beat up the sales team” sessions… someone from accounting complaining about receivables, an estimator complaining about accuracy, a production supervisor complaining about turnaround demands, etc. All these may be valid issues, but giving someone open access to your team purely to complain is not productive. Focus any such presentations into providing tools and methods to make the team more effective.
Be sure that whatever is planned for the meeting includes practical tactical elements that the team will be able to use right away! This is crucially important.
Use meeting time wisely. At the risk of “stating the obvious” keep meetings fast moving and exciting by taking the least amount of time possible to cover the most important content well.
If a meeting is projected to last longer than an hour, always allow for a break. This will make it easier for the team to focus on the discussion since they know they will be able to take care of business shortly.
Be respectful of your team’s time. Discuss and reach consensus as to the best time for these meetings. Provide dates and times well in advance to minimize interference with other scheduled activities, customer appointments, trips, etc.
Publish the agenda in advance of the meeting so everyone knows what to expect and has time to prepare (even if just pondering a topic or two before the meeting). For anything that requires more in depth thought or preparation, assign homework for what will be discussed. This activity will result in more productive meetings for everyone involved.
Once the meeting date and time are agreed to, no changes – this shows respect for the team’s time and effort to be available. This is not a “prima donna” issue by the way. Their time is your time and the company’s time… waste it and you are wasting everyone’s resources.
Start and end on time. Avoid delaying the start of the meeting because one or more people are late. Start with whomever is there and the message will be loud and clear soon enough.
Be a good example. If you are unable to attend, or are running late for some reason, have someone else step in on your behalf. The meetings happen, on time, every time.
Utilize technology to accommodate those unable to attend in person or operating at remote offices. Phone, web, and video conference tools abound so be sure to employ readily.
Be a good “host” and, especially in longer meetings, provide light refreshments or food to set the right tone.
Include “non-sales” staff when the agenda will cover topics of interest to them. Anyone who has interaction with customers will likely benefit from some parts of the meeting and their inclusion is good for everyone on the team (think customer service, technical support, production, account receivables, etc.)
Sell the (value of the) meeting to the team. Treat it no different than a presentation to, or a meeting with, a valued customer. The same rules apply; you want a positive outcome, a buy-in to the objective, and commitment to taking action.
Reinforce and promote the company’s vision at every meeting. It’s important to have the big picture in focus and clear in everyone’s mind.
Prioritize content! It’s not possible to cover all the topics you would like, so pick the most relevant and cover them well. Place the rest in a “pool of topics” for another session…if they make the cut.
Whenever possible, allow for an “outside” perspective – whether it comes from another part of the organization, a supplier, a trainer, subject matter expert, or a customer, it will be a welcome break to the “sales manager’s perspective” routine.
Meetings are not meant to be monologues. Encourage group interaction such as brainstorming, discussing research findings and best practices, sharing stories and lessons learned.
Don’t keep talking about, and reframing, old problems. Identify issues quickly and focus the balance of the time on discussing solutions instead. Repetition may be the mother of skill but in sales meeting terms it’s the mother of boredom and indifference.
Consider audio, video, online access, and other visuals to keep things interesting. The more senses and emotions that are involved, the better it is! Use PowerPoint? Sure, but only if it adds to the message.
The most effective meetings include actionable items that prepare the team for when they are in the field. As an example, introducing a new product or service without working with the team to identify the ideal prospects for it, or assisting them to effectively present its benefits, or provide them the knowledge needed to answer questions about it, is a waste of time.
Not long after your meeting, follow-up by distributing highlights of what was covered, providing answers to questions that came up, and listing action items the team needed to attend to. This type of follow up will make the content memorable and will reinforce the takeaway points that are so critical to the success of every meeting.
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This article was first published in:
Printing Industries of America 2014 Forecast Part 1, Trends & Tactics
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