Five Tips for Running More Effective, Impactful and Motivational Sales Meetings
Quick! Name an event that contains time for reflection, consideration, forgiveness, peace, community, renewal and a powerful message. It is a tradition. It is a regular occurrence. You are always welcome and, in some cases, required to attend. If you do, you will gain a great deal on a personal level and leave feeling refreshed, with new ideas, and a renewed sense of purpose.
There are two correct answers: a religious service and a sales meeting — and it’s remarkable how much the latter emulates the former.
The sales meeting is a time-honored tradition where salespeople gather, either in person, by phone or by video presence, for updates, education and course-correction. For management, this is a chance to check in. For salespeople, this is a chance to check out.
The constant and perpetual question that managers ask is, “Are my reps doing their job?” Sales figures provide the best answer, of course. But the absence of volume causes them to look for other tangible displays of success, like total number of estimates, for example. The sales meeting is a way of connecting with the salesforce in part to gather information that will help management answer this enduring question. They come to it equal parts teacher and observer and see sales meetings as a valuable and important use of time.
To reps, most sales meetings are black holes in the calendar, a place where momentum goes to die. Best case scenario: there are yummy snacks for those who attend in person. While well-intentioned, they can be best summarized in a Wall Street Journal comic strip from years ago: A group of executives are filing out of a conference room and a voice shouts out as they are leaving, “And we will continue to have these meetings until we find out why nothing gets done around here!”
But they don’t have to be like that. If run properly, sales meetings can be effective and efficient, impactful and motivating. The key is to find a good role model, like church:
1. Keep it prompt — If your sales meeting is due to begin at 9 a.m. but it is routinely five or 10 minutes after the hour before you commence, you are sending the team a message: It’s okay to be late. Tardiness is not just tolerated, it is actually rewarded!
Not that you have to slap wrists with rulers, but 9 a.m. meetings should start at 9 a.m. Attendees will quickly learn that they need to be on time. This rule shows respect to those who are prompt. That is a better message to send. Perennially late salespeople deserve a follow-up phone call to find out what is preventing them from showing up at the appointed hour. Are they the ones trying to send a message? There is a passive-aggressive angle that is eliminated when the sales meeting starts on time.
2. Keep it succinct — Effective speeches, sermons and sales meetings have one thing in common — they have a strong opening, a strong closing and the distance between the two is kept as short as possible. Remembering that time is money (not to mention the fact that there is a strong chance your conference call sales meeting attendees have you on mute and are playing Pac-Man), it is wise to keep the agenda brief and moving.
The sales manager is also the meeting’s moderator. Keep an egg timer on your desk, one of those sand-through-the-hourglass kinds. Anyone who is still talking when the last grain hits bottom should be interrupted and a new voice should be introduced.
3. Keep it consistent — Each sales meeting should follow the same pattern and have a set agenda. On the surface, such redundancy might seem to lead to an increasingly stale meeting, but it actually helps to keep things moving along. If you are new to this, test out some different components until you find the mix that works well for you.
Management should share some numbers and be transparent in the process in both sales and company financials. Include an educational component. Tell a success story. Discuss a vertical market. The goal is to bring value to the sales force so that they leave the meeting better and smarter than when they joined the call or walked in the door.
4. Keep it interactive — Part of the agenda should include input from the rabble. Have each sales rep bring something to the meeting on a regular basis that requires them to prepare and participate, and not just sit in the chair like a disengaged teenager in sixth period Chemistry on a Friday afternoon, waiting for the bell to ring.
One thought is to have each rep list their top three priorities for the week ahead. Such information can be followed up on by management. Requiring this kind of input means that salespeople put some thought into their next steps and forces them to get and keep organized.
5. Keep it positive — In order for the sales force to do their job effectively, they need to have, among other things, a positive mental attitude. No one would buy from Eeyore regardless of whether he has a superior price or product, but we are naturally attracted to someone who exudes success. Imagine if the message delivered by management was something like, “Our sales are terrible! Get out there and sell something or someone is going to lose their job!”
Salespeople would file out of the room and race to the phones in response. However, they would be selling from a place of fear and the client can hear every emotion that the sales rep is having. Customers want to align themselves with solid and stable vendors. Given that differentiation among print suppliers is minimal, it is important that the salespeople have the competitive edge that comes when they believe in what they are selling.
The term “sales meeting” is actually a misnomer. Sales meetings aren’t really for the benefit of salespeople, although they are intended otherwise. The true beneficiary is the manager. For sales reps to take away any value from these periodic get-togethers, there needs to be tangible and instantly applicable results. After all, the irony is that you are stopping the sales reps from selling so that you can help them to sell more. As such, it needs to be worth their time or, at bare minimum, there needs to be some shock/entertainment value and a strong message.
At a sales meeting in Dallas years ago, a manager walked into a conference room containing his 10-member sales force. He had one thing on his mind that day, to discuss the waste that occurs when salespeople are careless with the specs and a job needs to get reprinted. In a commanding voice, he got their attention and described the problem.
But it was what came next that hammered home the point. Reaching into his pocket, the manager pulled out five $100 bills and said, “This is what we wasted every day last month.” With that, he pulled out a lighter and set fire to the money while a shocked sales force looked on. Lifting an empty wastebasket up, he deposited the cash inside and walked out of the room.
Now that’s what I call a powerful sales meeting! PI