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“Paul,” said one of my coaching clients the other day, “I swear if I have to sit through another Monday morning sales meeting I’ll quit. They’re supposed to be an hour; they always last at least an hour and a half and often two hours. It’s nothing but a management bitch session and a bunch of side conversations with salespeople about how crappy their performance is. I either quit or go postal, and even though going postal would be the more satisfying course of action, I’m not ready to go prison--yet.”
Richard has obviously sat through a great many of the same sales meetings I’ve sat through—and I’m sure that you’ve sat through. In fact, I’m willing to bet a number of people who read this have never sat through a sales meeting that wasn’t as pointless, obnoxious, and downright insulting as the ones Richard has been sitting through.
I’m also willing to bet that somewhere in the neighborhood of 95 per cent of all weekly sales meetings are absolutely, positively, without a doubt a waste of time.
They don’t have to be.
In fact, regular (regular does not necessarily mean weekly) sales meetings can be the backbone of creating a thriving, high production sales team.
Most often, however, they are the ruination of the sales team.
Weekly sales meetings have killed more manager authority and respect than probably any other activity a manager engages in with the possible exception of the ride along. They have also driven a great number of high performers to the competition, one of which may be my client Richard who is one of the top 5 sellers in his company’s 300 member sales force.
Sales people generally hate this weekly meandering through sales meeting hell and the accompanying glimpse into the hollow caverns of the sales management brain in stupefying inaction.
I believe there are four primary reasons sales meetings are such a waste of time and effort:
1. No purpose. A great many sales meetings are held for no other reason other that it’s Monday (or Friday, or Thursday, or whatever day of the week they are normally held on). Consequently, the meeting is destined to be a time waster. One time wasting meeting is bad enough, but I know of some companies who have three or even five of these meetings every week (often these mulit meeting companies are seeking to keep control of their salespeople).
2. No preparation. Whomever is in charge of the meeting (generally the immediate manager of the assembled team) has invested not a single minute in preparing for the meeting. As they’re sitting down for the meeting, they take out a pen and jot down two or three things to talk about. Again, the perfect setting for a waste of time.
3. Too many tangents. Without having prepared for the meeting and knowing exactly what to deal with, it is easy for the manager to veer off onto tangents that ultimately have nothing to do with anything. Yet another factor that guarantees the meeting will be useless.
4. A haven of negativity. Especially during times like the present when business is tough, an unprepared manager tends to focus on trying to cajole numbers out of his or her team. People are put up for ridicule in front of their peers because of poor numbers, they are forced to justify their performance, and the rest sit in silence, knowing their turn is next once the manager has finished “coaching” their current prey. Now not only is the meeting a waste of time, it is a real morale killer too.
Great, so sales meetings suck. Everyone already knows that. What can managers do to make sales meetings valuable?
I’ve found four simple rules seem to work very, very well:
1. No purpose, no meeting. Only hold meetings when there is a REASON to hold a meeting. That may be once a month, once every two weeks, once a week, or as needed. The company no longer paying for coffee is not a reason for a meeting; that’s a memo. Reviewing the pre-call planning steps is a reason for a meeting.
2. No preparation, no meeting. If for any reason the person managing the meeting has not had time to thoroughly prepare, the meeting is canceled. There is no excuse for wasting the team member’s time because the manager didn’t get their job done.
3. A sales meeting is not the place for individual coaching. A sales meeting is a group activity. Address the group’s needs and issues, not individual salespeople’s. There is no excuse for denigrating anyone in front of the group or for wasting the group’s time for individual coaching. Each team member should have coaching time scheduled outside the sales meeting. The rule is, if a meeting degenerates into individual coaching, the team members are free to leave (note, however, that answering a specific issue a team member has with the subject matter being discussed is not individual coaching).
4. Set a time limit, stick to it. Salespeople need to be selling, not attending meetings. Under normal circumstances, sales meetings should be kept to an hour or less. Only under extraordinary circumstances should a meeting exceed an hour.
Your sales meetings should concentrate on helping team members sell. Reviewing market conditions; presenting new products or services; reviewing sales skills such as prospecting, making presentations, asking questions, pre-call planning, and the other aspects of selling and the sales process; role playing activities; and other core content should be the heart of the meeting.
Seller recognition and reinforcement should also be an integral aspect of your meetings. Leave the meeting on a high note, not a downer.
Housekeeping notes and announcements should kept at a minimum—discarded completely and put into memos if at all possible.
Meetings are important, but too many meetings or too much wasted time turns what could be a valuable tool into a wrecking ball plowing through your team, leaving lifeless, dispirited bodies in its wake. If your meetings are unorganized, are designed to do little more than keep control of your salespeople, or drag on incessantly, you’re killing your team, not building it.
Turn your sales meetings into real strengths, not team killers--both you and your team members will be glad you did—and within short order you’ll actually see some smiles and enthusiasm Monday morning instead of the deadwood that drags itself into the meeting room.
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