Sales meetings suck!
So says anyone who’s ever suffered through one – or many – that aren’t executed well.
Almost 60% of salespeople say they’re less motivated after a meeting! In many cases, sales meetings are the cause – not the cure – for low morale and inefficiency.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Sales leaders and salespeople can do a better job on both sides of the meeting – planning and participating – to make them valuable. (If you’re worried meetings with clients could use some help, check out this.)
Why sales meetings suck
Perhaps one of the biggest issues with sales meetings is disconnect. Almost 70% of managers feel they host great meetings. Almost two-thirds of the salespeople say meetings have zero effect on their sales skills, a Mark McMinnis SalesTraining study found.
So before you can make sales meetings better, be realistic. Understand why meetings fall short. Here are the top nine reasons sales meeting suck.
It’s not really a sales meeting
If you cover who was visited, wins, losses and hopes for next week, it’s a status meeting, not a sales meeting. That stuff can be taken care in the CRM system.
If you cover admin issues, promotional campaigns and product updates, it’s an operations meeting, not a sales meeting. That can be done in an email.
If you cover wins, recognition, rewards (in the name of morale), that’s a pep rally that’ll be hijacked every time, not a sales meeting. That can be done in one-on-ones.
It’s a monologue
You want to teach new skills and strategies in meetings, but lessons that are akin to a college professor at a podium aren’t effective. They’re boring, won’t hold salespeople’s attention and will not be remembered.
It’s about accountability
Many meetings involve reviewing results. The problem comes when leaders use team meetings to make people accountable for those results. If managers demean low-performers and dote on high-achievers in a group it’s not a meeting. It’s a morale buster and team separator.
Meeting soon because it’s when you’ve always met with the group for the same reasons? That’s not a meeting. It’s a habit.
A meeting with no clear objective and expected outcome is a social, time-wasting gathering.
Effective sales meetings take some time and effort to create. Meetings that are run off-the-cuff usually turn into complaining fests where nothing valuable is shared, learned or accomplished.
Managers sometimes forgo an agenda. That makes it easy for the leader to lose focus, attendees to go off on tangents, issues to get rehashed and everyone to wonder, “Why are we here?”
It’s the same face
Salespeople should – and likely do – respect their leader. But they aren’t engaged in sales meetings when they’re a steady diet of the same voice, material and agenda.
Sales meetings start to fail through repetition. If the same person delivers the same message, it will eventually sound like a broken record – and won’t be listened to.
What more can we say? Spreadsheets, charts and met or missed numbers are boring. Leaders who present reports in the same format, time after time, and preach on generic sales strategies become monotonous.
Meetings that go on for more than an hour frustrate salespeople. They’re scrolling social media, staring out the window and learning nothing by then. They’re anxious because excess time in meetings feels like lost time for hitting quota.
11 tools to improve sales meeting
Every sales meeting should make salespeople better. You’ll have to take care of some business. But the meeting will only be effective if you increase the team’s sales skills or they walk away with something new that’s relevant to their selling priorities.
Use these 11 tools.
Set a time limit
Perhaps the most important part of setting a time limit is sticking to it. Many of the reasons sales meetings run afoul – unfocused, unplanned and uncontrolled – are the crux of time issues. Eliminate those mistakes, and you’ll stay within the time limit.
Ideal time? Less than hour because salespeople need to sell, not attend meetings that have gone astray.
Have a purpose and agenda always
If you don’t have a skill-building, morale-boosting reason to meet, skip it.
Make sales meetings more than a calendar item. Come up with “big idea” or theme for each meeting and create a single mission statement for each. Examples:
- Reveal the upcoming product launch and how it impacts the sales strategy next quarter.
- Update team on Q1 result, three top priorities for Q2 and 10 new prospecting avenues.
- Outline next years’ goals and establish training cadence.
From there, build an agenda with talking points and action items. Add some flexible time for relevant issues that come up. Share it before the meeting so salespeople understand what they need to bring to the table.
Invite fewer people
Some leaders think if it’s a sales meeting, everyone in Sales needs to be there. But that’s not always the case – and managers are in the ideal position to determine who doesn’t need to be there, mostly based on the agenda.
If, for instance, the meeting’s mission is to reveal and train on a product launch, then yes, everyone should be there. But if the meeting is meant as a brush up on the CRM tool, and you have a few salespeople who use it like IT pros, let them off the hook. Their time is better spent selling, and you (or your invited expert) will be able to focus more on the salespeople who need the lesson. Newer salespeople belong in that meeting.
Without meeting etiquette rules, you’re more likely to run off-track. You need to hold people accountable for respecting others’ opinions and time.
You might need to post meeting etiquette rules where everyone can see them. Include these:
- Come prepared based on the agenda.
- Leave distractions at the door (which is usually mobile devices, so depending on your environment, you’ll have to decide the exact rules for this one).
- Participate in ways that move us toward the goal.
- Respect others’ opinions and time by listening closely and contributing with tact and consideration.
- Speak within the time allotted for each item on the agenda.
- Take responsibility for what you say and do – and what you say you will do.
Offload some responsibility
Salespeople often disengage from meetings because they’re tired of the same leader, telling them the same things in the same way.
Managers often own too much of the meeting when they should offload some of the preparation, content and facilitation to 1) add variety, 2) give others a chance to step up, and 3) maintain sanity.
- Share best practices. For each meeting, ask a salesperson share best practices in the area where he or she excels. Give them ten minutes to coach the group, explain why they adopted the practice, how they do it and the successes they’ve realized with it.
- Bring in unconventional inspiration. Ask someone who’s overcome turmoil to succeed – perhaps a war veteran or cancer survivor – to share his or her story. Or add inspirational videos to the meetings.
- Add peer and executive level insight. Invite peers and executives to share relevant information at your meetings. For instance, the VP of Operations can give the team a better understanding of everything that goes into creating products and getting them off to customers. The CFO can break down numbers connecting salespeople’s efforts and revenue.
Add interactive content
Salespeople tend to be competitive and collaborative. So break them into groups to finish worksheets that help build skills relevant to the training. Or give them group quizzes to improve analytical thinking.
Many sales professionals bemoan meetings because it seems like little or nothing is accomplished.
It will almost always feel like something worthwhile is accomplished if you announce before the meeting the decisions they need to help make. In the meeting, discuss the decisions – the issue, plus pros and cons of each solution – and close the decision.
Everyone doesn’t have to agree. That seldom happens anyway. But sales teams are more likely to support collective decisions when they feel they were part of a productive meeting that resulted in the decision.
We recognize it’s difficult to stop a meeting that’s getting derailed. You don’t want to cut off people. You don’t want to discourage positive or creative interaction.
But allowing too much interaction on any one aspect of a meeting will send it astray and frustrate attendees when it runs too long or fails to reach the goal.
So, if you must, set timers for discussion. It will force people to be concise when they share thoughts, opinions and lessons.
Define the next steps
End every sales meeting with defined next steps. Every salesperson should walk away with a clear picture of what he or she needs to do next.
That might be practice a new selling technique, follow up with a certain percentage of buyers, finish a report or read a white paper.
Establish deadlines and expectations for the goal. The next step should be one of the bridges to the following meeting.
When it’s time to end, ask everyone to review these questions:
- What did we set out to accomplish?
- Did we do it?
- Why or why not?
- What are we going to do differently next time?
If you didn’t accomplish what you intended, don’t extend the meeting. That only makes it suck again! Instead, plan the next meeting with more attention to the “tools” to improve.