Sales meetings are essential for any sales operation. But too often they are seen more as a necessary evil than an opportunity to improve.
By effectively planning each meeting and motivating your sales teams, your meetings will be more productive. Your reps will be excited and ready to contribute to your sales meetings as a result.
In this definitive guide, you’ll learn exactly how to plan and prepare meetings that drive strategic results. Using sales meetings, we’ll show you how to:
Table of contents:
Before you plan your meeting, ask yourself, “Do I even need one in the first place?”
If you can resolve issues, gather information or answer questions in less than 10 minutes, you probably don’t need to hold a meeting. Instead, ask the salesperson (or people) you need to speak with if they have time for a quick chat.
Mark Hunter of The Sales Hunter shines a light on one particular motivator behind unnecessary sales meetings:
“There are too many weekly sales meetings that are nothing more than a way for a sales manager to check something off their task list. If this is the motivation behind the meeting, I’d bet my last dollar that the meeting is NOT helpful to the people in it.”
As a result, you waste everyone’s time and lose respect from your reps. Avoid these types of meetings at all costs.
Assuming you’ve conducted this “sanity check,” you can go ahead and prepare for your sales meeting.
The lessons in this guide apply to weekly meetings as well as one-off sessions. We’ll share ideas for the latter at the end.
Inefficient meetings can be costly to sales performance, as well as overall business value.
In fact, Fortune magazine did the maths on just how costly it can be:
“Start with a company that has 20,000 salaried employees, many of them highly skilled. Then figure that their average total compensation per person is $100,000 annually. Let’s say each one spends a very conservative 15% of his or her time every year in unproductive meetings. Total annual cost to the company of the time lost: $300 million.”
It can be easy to fall into the trap of meaningless meetings. Too often the reason is simply “that’s how we do things.”
Harvard Business Review recently ran a survey, asking 182 senior managers across a range of industries whether they found their meetings productive.
Don’t get me wrong, meetings are still necessary for sales teams, but that doesn’t mean they have to be fruitless.
When putting together meaningful meetings, follow these principles:
This might seem overwhelming, especially when finding new ways to motivate your team. Which is why having a consistent agenda will make life easier.
So, what exactly should you include in your agenda?
The best meetings focus on data, feedback and specific actions.
Here are some meeting topics that should be on your sales meeting agenda:
Include any other topics that are relevant to your industry or organization. Remember, standardization helps create consistency.
But don’t be afraid to test new sessions in your meetings over time.
This includes things like role-play and micro-training sessions. In other words, anything that adds value to your team members, their careers or your organization.
Of course, you’ll need to document your agenda to distribute to your teams beforehand. You can make this yourself from scratch, or use a template like those at Template.net.
Preparation makes for a rich and well-informed meeting.
Start by collecting the necessary metrics and insights. This includes numbers on win rates, average deal size, opportunities and response time.
Sales dashboards can help you collect and monitor this data on an ongoing basis.
Use dashboards as the centerpiece of your sales meetings. This allows you to view metrics in real time without having to collect and organize data for every meeting.
Delegate and assign roles to your reps, giving them a job for the meeting. For example, each rep can take it in turns to write up minutes for each meeting.
You can also have reps give a demonstration of their pitch for each meeting. The rest of the team then provides feedback, allowing reps to optimize their presentation. That rep would then report back on prospect feedback in the next meeting.
Here are a few other “housekeeping” items to keep in mind:
Meetings are often met with sighs and objections. They’re often seen as a pain that prevents reps from doing their best work.
So make your sales meetings something they look forward to.
As sales author Mike Weinberg puts it:
“Do your people leave the meeting more aligned, more energized to sell, and better equipped to do their jobs?”
If the answer is no, then it’s time to make significant adjustments. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that until you get that figured out, I would suggest you stop meeting.
If you’re serious about upgrading your meetings, ask your best salespeople what they would like to see covered in team meetings, and inquire about what they have seen work well elsewhere.”
On top of removing the stigma around meetings, you’ll help reps feel comfortable to approach you with their challenges. They’ll feel more supported.
This means you must end every meeting with reps feeling pumped and ready to sell.
Here are a few ways to do this.
As a sales manager, you know the importance of regularly training your reps. Coaching them on their strengths and sticking points is an ongoing job.
So, provide more value by adding a team-building element to your training regime.
For example, identify common sticking points within your sales process as a group, and then brainstorm ideas on how you can overcome those sticking points.
You can then vote on the best ideas and test them out over the course of the week. Report back on results in the following meeting and roll out successful approaches as part of your training and sales process.
Even better, encourage each team member to bring their own lessons and insights to the table. Foster a culture of “crowdfunding” new sales approaches.
You’d be surprised what you can learn, even from novice salespeople.
Your reps know all the ins-and-outs about your products and services, but when it comes to other business topics, they might not have a clue.
This usually happens when salespeople spend all their time learning about your product, organization, differentiators, features, and benefits.
As a result, they don’t know what’s happening in the broader industry space. This can come across as sloppy and inauthentic when talking with prospects.
So, make this “small talk” a part of your sales meetings. Reserve a small amount of time discussing what’s happening in your industry.
Here’s how you can keep on top of business news:
Jeb Blount even goes as far as suggesting you treat this segment like a book club:
“Have your team read a book. Before each meeting assign a chapter to discuss – and appoint a salesperson to lead/facilitate the discussion. Or rotate through each seller selecting a blog post relevant to a topic your team is facing and have the person send out the link with some primer question so reps come to the meeting prepared to discuss takeaways from the article.”
Come to the sales meeting with a bullet-pointed list of new industry insights. Include links to relevant content in the meeting minutes.
While it’s up to you to lead your salespeople, make sure they’re being proactive in keeping up to date with your industry.
Standing in front of the entire team can be intimidating for reps.
It’s also an opportunity for them to improve.
This not only makes your sales meetings more exciting, but also allows sales reps to tighten their pitch and improve how they communicate to prospects.
Have each rep take it in turns to role-play their pitch week-by-week. Assign who will play the prospect and make sure both parties know in advance.
Want to get buy-in from your salespeople quickly?
Do this exercise yourself first.
Introduce the idea in a meeting and role-play your pitch to a rep on your team.
Once the pitch has been given, each team member provides their thoughts. The idea is to collect honest feedback on sticking points that reps might not be able to see.
This is also an opportunity to share case studies and stories that reps can use in their pitches. You may not be seated around a campfire, but it’s important that you encourage reps to share ‘scary’ stories as well—those stories where you may not have followed the right process or made a mistake, but you learned and improved at the end.
What’s the best source of product and industry knowledge from within your company?
Answer: subject matter experts.
Subject matter experts include product leaders, founders, and executives who have worked in the space for many years.
Once in a while, invite these experts to your meetings. Ask them to share insights on:
You could even organize monthly sessions dedicated to subject matter expert sessions. If you’re part of a wider sales organization, speak to directors and stakeholders to get them on board. Share the benefits of running these sessions.
Whether it’s a panel or speaker session, these insights will be invaluable to any sales rep.
The principles above will keep your team energized and motivated.
Adding these elements to your meetings will keep reps looking forward to those scheduled get-togethers.
Remember, there’s a difference between energy and morale. What we’ve covered in this section will get your team members pumped, but you must also keep them motivated.
With that in mind, let’s explore some approaches you can use in your meetings to keep reps in good spirits.
The principles shared in this section will get your reps excited and motivated about your meetings—before and after they happen. The next step is to get them collaborating and contributing.
Now you know how to get reps to buy in and feel engaged during sales meetings.
The question is, how do you turn that engagement into strategic value?
Get them to contribute to it before, during and after the fact.
People want to find ways to add value. Top performers are especially keen to share new ideas to make their own jobs easier and generate more results.
And when they bring these ideas to the table, everyone benefits.
For reps that don’t see the value in sharing their perspective, Anthony Iannarino of The Sales Blog provides some compelling motivation:
“Engagement is a sign of professionalism.
“Some of your peers won’t be engaged in the meeting or the topic, unless it is, say, compensation or something about which they can commiserate and complain.
“Your engagement, your questions, your comments, your thoughts, and your experiences will also benefit others. It demonstrates your professionalism, and it demonstrates your leadership.”
Let’s take a look at five techniques to encourage participation and drive more value from your reps during sales meetings.
That’s right, sell collaboration to your reps just like you would a prospect. Use your own sales skills to demonstrate the value they’ll receive by bringing value themselves.
Start by having them making micro-investments. This could be as simple as saying “yes” to a question.
Another way is to introduce new concepts and letting them own these ideas. Do this by providing a “seed” idea, encouraging feedback. Then, ask questions that drive them to the idea you want them to “own.”
For example, you may want them to own the concept of bringing new sales lead generation ideas to each weekly meeting. The seed for this idea might be “how can we generate more of our own highly qualified leads?”
As people provide their own ideas, begin creating the processes around them and delegate accordingly.
A great way to encourage reps to bring value is by getting them involved in the entire process.
This includes the preparation of the meeting as well as the agenda. By doing this, they’ll take full ownership of their “segment” of the meeting.
And even when they’ve said their part, they’ll still be primed to contribute further—an energy that’s often contagious.
Another approach is to get people working in pairs or groups. Build a workshop format into your meeting and get each team working on a specific problem.
Allocate a segment of your meeting to this challenge. Once completed, get each team to share their own ideas.
Before you know it, you’ll have people discussing and contributing to each other’s ideas.
Of course, you could always keep it simple with a Q&A session. Lead reps to a specific idea or challenge. Ask questions around them and encourage feedback.
Negotiation is simply part of life as a salesperson.
It’s also going to happen in your sales meetings.
Don’t just prepare for negotiation, encourage it.
Do this by starting off with smaller issues. These are the things that require little debate. This will get your reps primed for tackling more major issues as you get to them.
When reaching those larger issues, make sure you have prepared your “big idea.” Don’t start off small—go straight in for the kill. But make it clear the compromise is inevitable and everyone will leave satisfied with the end result.
With that in mind, make sure you’re prepared with data and insights that fuel these decisions. This will allow you to lead sales reps towards the most logical idea that leads to the best results.
No matter what, always be prepared to compromise.
Finally, make sure any decisions are made as a majority.
If you don’t believe everyone is on board, then take a vote. This will encourage further participation, and prime reps to continue this behavior in future, productive meetings.
When holding a vote, only offer a handful of options. The fewer the options, the less your reps will have to think—which will lead to speedy decision making.
Many of the ideas presented in this guide only apply to one-off or training-oriented sales meeting topics.
But what about the all-important forecast and pipeline health meetings?
As Jeff Gitomer says:
“Sales meetings should be a forum for reporting, goal achievement assistance, encouragement, problem solving, training, sharing, and communication. The purpose of a sales meeting is to get the sales staff primed and pumped to sell.”
Let’s look closer at the two most common sales meetings: the weekly forecast and bi-weekly pipeline meetings.
Typically, your weekly forecast meeting agenda should include:
Each of your sales rep must go through these three steps. The purpose of the meeting is for each attendee to share what they achieved the previous week, which includes deals closed and sales activities that moved other deals further “down the line.”
Sales activity updates should be “input-based.” In other words, the number of calls, emails, and follow-ups each rep achieved the previous week.
Your forecast meetings should occur on the same day and time every week. Ideally, you’ll hold these face to face. Video conference calls can also work, especially if you work within an “inside sales” organization.
For those with long sales cycles, weekly meetings may be too much. For example, if your sales cycle is between 6 to 12 months, a bi-weekly or even monthly forecast meeting may be more appropriate.
For your weekly meetings, keep reviewable KPIs to a minimum.
Here are the three key metrics that your teams should be reporting on:
Your weekly sales meeting provides an update on what’s at the end of the pipeline. The bi-weekly pipeline meeting, in contrast, covers overall pipeline health.
This includes ensuring a healthy number of qualified leads entering the top of the pipeline.
Here, it’s your job as the sales manager to lead the meeting. It’s advised that you invite sales reps, account managers and marketers to this meeting, as the overall activity affects their day-to-day roles.
If you’re using an external agency to generate new leads and sales opportunities, get them involved in this process. Depending on your organizational structure, a conference video call might be more convenient for all involved.
There’s only one “true north” objective for these meetings: generating new leads.
Without new leads, the first stage of your sales pipeline will look empty. It’s up to everyone involved to ensure there’s a regular, fresh batch of leads entering your pipeline.
Here’s how everyone can contribute:
As for your agenda, start with marketing’s contribution to the pipeline. This should measure the number of fresh sales leads generated over the last two weeks against your target.
Ask them to segment these results by each of their marketing activities. This includes paid media, content marketing, and social media channels.
Your reps should also cover the number of leads they’ve added to the pipeline against their target. These include cold calling and any referrals they’ve received from their customer-facing relationships.
From here, cover the overall health of the pipeline. Do this by reporting on metrics such as average deal size, win rate, and average sales cycle.
Finally, allow each party to bring new ideas to the table. Before your meeting, talk to your reps about any ideas they have that involve collaboration with marketing or account managers. Collect these ideas and present them in this bi-weekly meeting, giving credit where it’s due.
You now know what makes for engaging, value-driven sales meetings.
No matter the format, you’ll always drive participation, yield strategic ideas and have a complete picture of how your sales organization is performing.
To wrap up this guide, let’s take a look at some specific meeting ideas you can apply these principles to.
Conducting role-play workshops will sharpen each attendee’s skills, generate feedback, and improve sales pitches. It’s a great sales strategy.
As Alice Heiman puts it:
“Sales role-play 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.”
Before the meeting itself, provide a scenario that reps should be prepared to role-play on. For example, dealing with argumentative prospects or embarrassing sales moments.
Even better, ask reps to prepare as both the salesperson and the prospect. Then, pair reps up together and have them take it in turns to give their pitch.
Not only is this a fun way of encouraging interaction, but everyone comes away with fresh ideas on how to improve their pitch.
Add value to your teams by training them on specific skills or ideas.
Demonstrate how to improve in a certain area with the following approaches:
Sales careers are always evolving and expanding. Ensure you’re providing your reps with the best support by holding regular training sessions.
On that note, your salespeople should have a strong idea of where they want to take their career.
Help them build this clarity by holding goal-setting sessions. Show them what their options are and provide insights and feedback on the path to achieving them.
For example, they may want to become a sales manager themselves someday. Show them what you did to achieve this, how the landscape has changed and what they must prepare to get there.
Of course, goals can be extremely personal. Don’t force anyone to share any dreams they’re not comfortable making public. Follow-up on this session with each rep in one-to-one meetings.
As you can see, sales meetings don’t need to feel like a dreaded necessity.
When planned and communicated effectively, they can provide a chance for reps to flourish, grow and improve.
They can also be a source of new strategic sales ideas. As you discovered, these innovations can come from unlikely places.
Now it’s over to you: What will you do to make your sales meetings more exciting and productive? How do you keep reps motivated and collaborating during your sessions?
Tell us your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
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