Sales leaders love their meetings, or so it seems because many, if not most, hold them weekly. Despite their ongoing popularity among managers, most salespeople hate the obligatory “Monday morning sales meeting” because it eats into their valuable selling time. Even so, the only thing worse than holding weekly sales meetings is not holding them –so long as they’re done right.
So let’s take a look at what’s on a typical sales meeting agenda today, and what can be done to make them more productive.
There are too many sales managers out there who use the sales meeting only to review facts and figures. An ideal sales meeting needs to keep housekeeping tasks to a minimum. Instead, they should strive to provide information on useful topics.
To be truly valuable, sales meetings need to focus on three key things: skill improvement through role play, sales knowledge, and creating an understanding of sales’ role in the larger organization.
When sales managers hold meetings, they need to focus on using the time to build value for their team. Reviewing facts and figures does nothing for them, and it’s information to which many sales leaders already have access. Instead of wasting time, team meetings are an opportunity for managers to demonstrate leadership by focusing on what their team needs to be successful.
More than perhaps any other business discipline, selling is a skills based profession. Sure, there’s a lot to learn by reading about the subject, however, knowing what you should do in theory is very different from executing on it in the real world.
You may know everything there is about basketball, but that doesn’t mean you can sink a three-pointer with the game riding on your shoulders.
Unlike basketball, it’s difficult to practice sales skills by yourself and that’s where role-play comes in (and yes, I can hear salespeople groaning as they read this). Many salespeople find sales role-plays distasteful. Their dislike is understandable because it requires people to step out of their comfort zone. Much like practicing your three-point shot, it requires dedicated practice and a willingness to fail to get better.
Sales role plays offers the only way to practice positioning, presenting and moving a sale forward in a controlled environment. Because of this, it is a critical aspect of skill improvement. Sales managers can help to alleviate much of the dislike that salespeople feel for role playing by joining in, and fostering an environment of constructive feedback.
Role-playing can be a time-consuming practice, so it’s important to keep them on track during sales meetings to prevent it from devolving into an unfocused use of time. Managers can do this by focusing on specific parts of the sale, like closing, or the discovery process. By pairing reps off and keeping the conversation focused, the team can get more active practice time.
Sales teams should become accustomed to doing this on a regular basis. By getting into the habit of routine practice, salespeople will become more efficient at role playing and are more likely to see real world results. Sales managers can further facilitate this process by determining in advance what the focus will be for each week. Keep it focused on one part of the sale, so that people can move through it quickly and practice the skills that need improvement.
Sports teams spend far more time practicing than they spend playing. In sales, it’s exactly the opposite. In many teams, the majority of salespeople are at least several years removed from whatever sales training they’ve had. Over time, this can lead to a weakening of the skills they’ve learned and a complacency around the technical aspects of selling. Regular practice in a structured environment, much like for any athletic team, can do wonders for keeping these skills fresh and on point.
In spite of an apparent need for salespeople to focus on skills over knowledge, let’s not throw out thought leadership just yet. A skilled salesperson is one that can respond to a variety of situations in front of a client and keep the sale on track and moving forward. Being a strong performer week in and week out, however, requires knowledge on how to manage the sales process at a higher level. Skills give salespeople the ability to execute. Knowledge provides them the capacity to turn individual successes into a stable career.
The body of knowledge for sales is broad. There is an incredible amount of literature on how to sell created on a seemingly daily basis. Virtually every aspect of sales skills, process, and technology have been covered across a variety of mediums. From podcasts and short blogs to full-length books, knowledge about the sales profession is available to everyone looking to deepen their understanding.
A motivated sales professional will take time on their own to distil lessons from this vast body of content. A sales meeting, however, is a fantastic time to share this information across the team. From success stories to books and articles, sales meetings should be an opportunity to share. Salespeople should leave meetings having deepened their understanding of how they can become more effective.
Sales managers can tie sales knowledge into team meetings and should do so on a regular basis. Ideally, presenting this content should be done in context. Connect discussions directly into situations encountered in recent sales, role-plays or other regular aspects of the sales job.
Sales knowledge like this is particularly useful in helping to frame changes that are going on inside of a sales team, such as deploying a new CRM system. Providing salespeople with a strong base of knowledge about the profession, and their industry, is the difference between having a sporadic close rate and a reliable and productive sale pipeline.
Sales’ Role in The Company
Sales doesn’t exist in isolation from the rest of the company even though it can feel like it. Sales teams are often geographically distributed. Even if the team is all based out of the corporate office, they can often be sequestered away from other departments. It’s important for salespeople to understand the impact their actions have on moving the company forward.
By giving sales teams context, reps can pick up valuable insights into what’s going on in the business, as well as the competition and the market they work in. Understanding these things contributes directly to how they position the sale. Being included in the happenings of the business as a whole also plays an outsized impact on the morale of salespeople. There are few things more disruptive than being subjected to painful transitions without being tied into a shared sense of purpose.
Realistically, every sales meeting is going to have a different focus. Even if equal weight isn’t given to each topic on every occasion, all three of these categories should be touched on in sales meetings. Positioning a meeting around these points creates a clear value proposition that salespeople can expect to get from gatherings. That’s right; sales meetings should be viewed as a service provided to reps. It’s not about what value managers can get. Instead, it’s an opportunity for managers to contribute to the development of their team.
The pressures on sales teams are far too great to start the week off by wasting an hour of reps lives. Waylaying a team of ten for an hour on Monday morning deprives the organization of ten sales hours per week. Those ten sales hours are important, so don’t give them short consideration. Instead, unlock the power of the value added sales meeting.