Let’s all admit the truth about sales meetings. With gleaming exceptions, most are dreadful! They tend to be hours-long beatdowns or bloviation sessions that lack a clear agenda and lead to no tangible results.
Business leaders need to know and practice at least a few fundamentals of conducting effective meetings, but surprisingly, many people in high positions, including sales management, still call meetings for vague purposes and sometimes for no definitive reason.
In many cases, it’s to satisfy an arbitrarily set schedule or an attempt to justify a manager’s role or time in the office.
Wasting one person’s time is regrettable, and multiplying wasted time by the number of people invited to an unproductive meeting is an avoidable drain of company resources. All your sales meetings should contribute value to the team, the company, the top line and the bottom line. Make them count or don’t have them at all.
Productive and profitable meetings must include three vital elements: Structure; interaction; and outcomes. The presence of all three elements will increase the likelihood of successful results from your meetings.
Structure forms the foundation for getting work done. It sets the ground rules, agenda and direction of the discussions, keeping them focused on intended outcomes. Good structure will help you keep to your time limits and stick to your agenda topics. Rule of thumb: no meeting without a clear agenda!
Interaction assures more productive discussions through the energy created when people collaborate on common interests and goals. Anyone participating in a really great meeting can literally feel this energy in the room, and it can stay with you for hours and sometimes days. To help spark interaction, make sure to invite comments, ask questions and request opinions. Limit the time allotted to each speaker, but use tact when cutting someone off as it can create an awkward moment.
Outcomes are what everyone should expect as the result of attending your sales meetings. Otherwise, why show up?
Throughout the course of the meeting, remind the team of intended purposes and expected outcomes. And here’s one of the keys to intended meeting outcomes: promote and facilitate decision-making. Decide on what progress you and your team will make and be sure that everyone leaves the meeting with a plan.
Now that we’ve identified the vital elements of productive sales meetings, we’ll cover a few of the potentially disruptive personality types that often show up at sales meetings. Most teams have at least of one of these and it helps to know how to curb negative or wasteful talk, keeping everyone goal focused. Here are some of behavioral characters you’ll need to watch for and manage:
• Wishes to be somewhere else
• Could be doing “more important things”
• Will make those feelings known in meetings
The Devil’s Advocate:
• Likes to question others’ positions on topics
• Stirs up controversy for the sake of arguing
• Makes covert attacks
• Treats meetings as a break from the “real work”
• Daydreams or mentally checks out
• Passive and low contributor
• Steals the limelight, attempting to impress others
• Beats a topic to death
• Won’t let the agenda come to conclusion
Effective strategies for meeting dynamics include tactics for handling common meeting disruptions caused chiefly by certain team members. The fact is, it takes all kinds of folks to make up a diverse and well-rounded sales team, and even the disruptor types can bring valuable knowledge to the table.
As the leader, you need to assert your position to rein them in when necessary and keep the focus on topic and according to the agenda. Additional considerations for conducting profitable sales meetings include things like establishing the right frequency or rhythm, selecting the right venue, using appropriate and compatible technology, pre-planning, follow-up and results metrics.
Applying the fundamentals and understanding a few of the management challenges will help you assure that every sales meeting engages every team member and provides value to your business.
This article first appears in the August 16, 2018, issue of New Hampshire Business Review