Sorry, Your Sales Meeting Stinks…but it doesn’t have to!
A SALES MEETING can run the gamut; from an annual island getaway that’s more perk than progress to the timeless tediousness of the weekly sales team staff meeting that’s more about saying the right rather than the real thing. Having attended, hosted, trained and spoken at dozens of different kind of sales meetings I have had the opportunity to regularly poll salespeople for their overall impression of sales meetings. Though a plethora of replies the common theme is, THEY STINK!
Why that is can have many reasons but the ones that don’t have things in common. Having attended many tropical paradise getaways to energize and inspire sales teams the response there often is, “Great, but not very useful for selling.” If you want the Limburger cheese reply ask sales people holed up in the office or local hotel conference room for 2-1/2 days getting cross-company updates, a new slogan or two, an obligatory 90 minute sales training and enough drowsy eyes to imagine there is toxic gas coming in the a/c vents…yeah, then the “Stinks!” are in abundance.
A common critique is, “My boss complains every week we should be out there selling but has no problem wasting days of our time sitting through an endless sales meeting.” Poor boss, you have great reasons for regular and annual sales meetings: effectively communicate as a team, get everyone on the same page, introduce new themes or products, bring missing skills to a group, inspire focus and motivate effort. So why do so many meetings stink so bad? More importantly, how do you fix them?
I’ve gotten my share of checks for doing 90 minutes on a sales training topics, I warn sales bosses that one session on a topic may do a little for a few but most people will forget what they learned or be back in their bad habits within weeks, or days, of the meeting. (But, yeah, I take the gig anyway…a guy’s gotta make a living!) As it relates to training a Sales Meeting actually is a great place to introduce a new trainer, new approaches, techniques and communication ideas but none of us get much out of one session so it should at least run through a meeting and should be followed up with future reinforcement. That’s a training approach, here’s other keys:
- A keynote speaker is also requisite. Likely not the CEO who may get time but keynote needs to be emotionally memorable. You have to move people and have a connection, even a lose one, to your theme. People remember what they feel far more than what they hear:
- Management should spend significant time listening and not do all the talking, that goes for support departments that participate as well. Don’t make it a polite fest, if there are real issues get them out, identify them, and make a follow up plan.
- A theme is great but it must be organic, logical and light on schlock, glitz and schmaltz. Music can be awesome but don’t beat themes to death.
- Reinforce the core values of the company and the leadership with examples that stimulate empathy and motivates coming together. Not every topic has to be about process or progress. Take time to reinforce the values the organization prizes.
- Make people who attend feel important. Connect how their contribution helps causes both bigger and personal and mix general with specific examples.
- Money motivates salespeople is a cliche and it’s true, there’s nothing wrong with money as a reward but understand people yell about money but long for recognition.
- Energy is key, if the speaker has none they get 10 minutes, tops, or none! Better a good speaking junior staffer than a boring Director (don’t worry about hurting feelings, invite both for the Q&A and say it’s about highlighting future stars). Beware the tiresome CFO who wants an hour! Insist on energy and break it down into a few short sessions rather than one monotonous one. Require dynamic energy in every session; use great music, let people get up regularly and move (have a walking session–odd but effective!) and make it clear when they have windows to check email and return calls otherwise energetic attendance is mandatory.
- Think process. If you focus talks on results you could have said that in a memo. If you’ve got smart, willing people then focus on what behaviors provide results and what time management mistakes rob efficiency. Make HOW as important as WHAT.
THE WEEKLY MEETING
The “regular” sales meeting, regardless of frequency, shares common problems with any meeting so there are a host of rules to have an effective meeting that aren’t specific to your team’s selling. Ask yourself of your selling professionals what their participation motivation is. What cues do they get from the meeting leader? If a leader likes good news, guess what, you’ll hear all kinds of optimistic assessments. Salespeople are competitive so it can be hard to share failings. Frat house attitudes where ridicule is part of the culture will rob value so consider how to make a safe and worthwhile environment, and confirm it with the attendees. Othewise:
- Respect time, start on time regardless of who is missing and if you are the leader, for goodness sake, be there early and get it started so people know late means scorn.
- Distribute an agenda no matter how routine the session gets, time out every area to discuss and acknowledge if you are running long, stop or get permission to continue for X minutes more–even if you’re the boss and figure you run the meeting. Make it clear in advance what’s required to bring or discuss with attendees.
- Participation is meaningful and should be required. Again, the boss needs to listen not just talk so good questions are key. Change the topics up, they can be micro or macro but get everyone to give input even if that’s an around the room with, “What’s the best thing that happened to you this week?” or, “What surprised or bothered you this week?”
- Make your estimates be based on behaviors or tasks accomplished. So saying one client is 75% or another 50% is based on where one is in the selling process rather than guessing based on prospect conversations–when we all know prospects lie all the time and salespeople like to pass on rosy pictures.
- Have a short “share” session of maybe 10 minutes in every or regularly. Get another department head to inform or a vendor or better still, a customer. Bring a little surprise value and people will anticipate a positive event
A Sales Meeting doesn’t have to be a prison sentence and it isn’t penance for the success you just missed. An opportunity to effectively share and listen, teach and inspire, inform and surprise takes work to create…but it won’t stink!
© 2017 MyEureka Solutions.