Just read this great question online recently, “If your sales meetings were not required, would anyone show up?” Frankly that question made me cringe just a little as I had a flashback to the dozens of sales meetings I’ve led where I’m not certain I’d want to know the answer to that question!
If your sales meetings are more like a train wreck than a highly positive and productive way-station you may want to heed the sign placed at all railroad crossings:
STOP! LOOK! LISTEN!
Traditional sales meetings tend to have much in common with the railroad system. Stale, obsolete and in need of a massive overhaul. Sales managers too often are lulled into outmoded sales team meeting content, not because the sales manager is inherently ineffective, but most likely, they simply haven’t taken time to stop, look and listen to what sales team members want and need.
Stop and take stock of what may be working and/or effective. Stop doing what isn’t working. Stop repeating meeting content, format and traditions. Did I mention stop repeating meeting content, format and traditions? Stop believing a better sales team meeting “mousetrap” does not exist and commit to resetting and reformatting sales team meetings.
Stop creating meeting agendas that encourage sales team members to exaggerate prospecting activity and/or “call backs.” Activity for activity’s sake is one of the most harmful and detrimental sales measurement tools in existence.
Stop requiring sales team members to ‘come to the meeting prepared to share 25 new prospects this week’ for the sake of perception. Stop creating an unhealthy sense of internal competition as a result of anointing a star of the week, month or quarter. Stop doing things “the way we’ve always done them around here” … Talk about a train wreck!
Once you’ve chosen to stop, it’s time to look around.
Look at what’s working in your organization. Closely examine what your highest performers are doing and record their activity for a two to four-week period. Examine short and long term success stories. Determine actual sales cycles and the touch points initiated throughout the process to help map your client’s buying and decision-making patterns and identify your firm’s unique selling methodologies.
Look at how your most productive sales members’ open doors and obtain face to face visits. Closely look at the questions they ask, the objections they have learned to overcome and capture and categorize each observation in terms of relational, technical and transactional aspects of the sale. Schedule time to engage in field visits with sales team members to gauge their questioning techniques and listening skills.
Every organization has a unique relational, technical and transactional aspect of the sales engagement with a customer. If you are committed to creating a high performing team of sales professionals, it is imperative you clearly identify, and map, the sales engagement process from a relational, technical and transactional perspective … if you wish to effectively train, manage and produce high performers. Absent a road map, sales team members find a way or make one.
When seemingly errant sales representatives aren’t producing expected results, sales managers then find themselves spending an inordinate and unnecessary amount of time getting sales team members back on track. Sales team members aren’t off track if there isn’t a track to follow!
So, spend time looking at people, processes and productivity outcomes to determine what are the most profitable methods of leading and managing sales team members. The conclusions you reach will help you reformat your sales team meeting agendas, activities and outcomes.
Now that you’ve stopped doing what isn’t working, looked around to gather and analyze data, it’s time to really listen to your team of sales professionals. Ask them what they need and want. Require them to record their greatest fears and biggest challenges.
Listen to their peers. Ask the internal customers (account executives, customer service representatives, accounting and collections team members, service and/or installation team members) to provide feedback on sales team members’ level of effectiveness, habits, challenges and best practices. Listen to and identify internal performance gaps and use that information as a basis for reformatting sales team meetings.
Listen to the sales team members. Create a specific list of characteristics and skills they believe are necessary to deliver results as a high-performance team member. Ask them to regularly make a list of objections they hear from customers. Ask them to record their success stories and what, how and why that particular sale was a success.
Listen to what is happening in your marketplace and uncover the technological, social, environmental and industry related changes that impact the level of effectiveness of your sales team. Document and examine new methodologies that need to be introduced to the knowledge and skill set of the team.
Once you’ve taken the time to truly stop, look and listen, turn your research and fact finding into a meaningful platform for your sales team meeting investment of time, energy and money. Create agendas that are energizing, engaging and relevant.
Rotate sales team meeting formats. Include sales team members in the facilitation of the meeting. Assign a skill builder at each session linked to your research and outcomes. Conduct round table discussions, or break your team into smaller groups to brainstorm case studies or solve problems in the moment.
Meetings in general get a pretty bad rap in my estimation. Bringing your sales team together on a consistent basis is an organizational and management discipline that has the potential to yield tremendously positive outcomes. Don’t let previous habits derail your sales team meeting effectiveness. Stop, look and listen and keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’!
Laura Schanz (email@example.com), Laura Schanz Consulting Associates LLC, is a senior consultant specializing in business growth initiatives, with a focus on sales, business strategic planning, and growth development.