10 Tips for Successful, Refreshing Sales Meetings

"Weekly Sales Meeting: 4:00pm-5:00pm." I remember seeing that 15-minute warning pop up on my iPhone back in 2015, warning me of the upcoming, awkward, unproductive meeting. I thought to myself, "great; same thing week in and week out, what a waste of time." Sound familiar? Throughout my time as an Outside Sales Representative and now as a Sales Manager, I've had the opportunity to test, experiment, and solicit feedback from others on my team as to what makes sales meetings worthwhile and what leaves them feeling energized and excited to tackle obstacles. What I've found is that bi-weekly (every 2 weeks) is a fantastic time frame to solicit quality feedback, ideas, and discussions from field representatives. However, even with the right cadence, meetings can often become stale. That's where the following 8 tips come into play: utilize these in an effort to shake up and energize your teams while soliciting great feedback necessary to grow your sales efforts and overall company performance.

  1. Always have an itinerary. Sales folks are busy; between phone calls, emails, orders, quotes, and everything in between, they need all the help they can get staying organized. Send them the meeting itinerary, at minimum, 3 days in advance. This gives them ample time to form their thoughts and prepare their delivery to the group.

  2. Invite department heads to the meeting. Sales folks have a tendency to be "lone wolves." I mean, all they do is golf, deliver donuts, and make a ton of money, right? Wrong, though many others in the company do feel this way. Inviting other department heads, such as the VP of Operations, Customer Service Supervisor, VP of Sales, VP of Finance, etc. can clarify their expectations of your sales team in this specific area and better help the department heads understand the issues, struggles, and concerns your sales team may be facing in the field.

  3. Have your sales team give you a win and loss from their recent travels. I've always harped on optimism and a positive attitude. However, we all know sales is no "walk in the park." Losses, struggles, and misfortunes happen regularly. Discussing these things in a group setting with folks who care about your success can lead to open dialogue on how others have faced and/or handled that specific issue or ideas for improvement at the company level. "Win" discussions energize the team, develop creativity, and provide insightful information as to what is working and what isn't with your customer base.

  4. Discuss your branch or company budget. Salesmen get a bad rap for only caring about themselves. In my experience, I find that to be unfair. I've made it a priority to discuss branch and company performance during my meetings. What I've seen is that it builds comradery, creates healthy competition, and keeps everyone's eye on the prize: net profitability. The more numbers you can put in front of your sales folk, the better. Remember, "What gets measured get's managed."

  5. Structure a conversation around overall improvement. This topic can be extremely successful during sales meetings IF it is controlled. Many times passionate sales teams take an issue and run with it to the point of complaining, ultimately leading to negativity and depression for the rest of the team. In a controlled environment, constructive feedback on ways to improve vs. the current situation can be extremely valuable to the company. Rule of thumb: unless you have 1-2 ideas for improvement, you're not able to complain about "said issue."

  6. Invite a key vendor/manufacturer to present. Another great way to engage your team and develop relationships is to invite a key vendor to attend your sales meeting. The key here is to review or discuss their presentation prior to the meeting. I've made the mistake of trusting vendors who simply took 45-minutes to review a 50-page PowerPoint document. Yuck. Discuss your expectations with the respective vendor; describe your team, desired outcome, and ideas that may energize the team and incentivize them to push the vendor's product. By doing this, it will create engagement and build a stronger relationship with the vendor you've invited.

  7. Have specific Sales Reps present and have the rest of the team provide feedback. Whether you have a team of tenured, highly-experienced sales reps or a team of new, hungry reps, this is an invaluable sales meeting for all involved. Notify a rep (or handful of reps) they will be presenting on a certain product, service, feature, benefit, or all the above at least 5 days in advance. After observing their detailed, prepared presentation, have the rest of the group batter them with strategic questions related to product features, pricing, market development, display opportunities, and more. You'll get a live look at how your team performs under pressure during PK sessions, and your team will gain experience asking strategic questions your customers may ask them during these "real-world" meetings.

  8. Keep it open. I've failed with this many times. With everything going on in your company, industry, the economy, and everything in-between, it's easy to get carried away and dictate the conversation. In order for sales reps to feel heard, the meeting needs to stay open. The itinerary allows structure, but they must have permission and the ability to dive into certain areas further if need be. Allow open dialogue; it's amazing the ideas that can formulate when conversations are open. However, when you feel things are going off the rails (especially when headed toward negativity or complaining), it's your role to step in and keep the train rolling in the right direction.

  9. Take detailed notes: This seems extremely self-explanatory, however, I'm surprised by how many leaders no longer take notes during their team meetings. There are so many tidbits of great information, market feedback, competition performance, etc. that could be communicated to others in the company, yet most sales leaders take brief notes and keep them in their notebook or folder. Take detailed notes by sales rep and consolidate those notes on a Word document following the meeting.

  10. Follow-Up. Speaking of following up, I'm following up on tip #9. After consolidating this information in a Word document, share with the members of the team it impacts. If you have an outstanding issue with Customer Service, send the issue and notes to the Customer Service Supervisor. Have an issue with deliveries? Send it to the Ops Manager or VP of Operations. Many times, sales folks keep to themselves or worse, feel they are unheard. By keeping detailed notes, communicating to the departments they mention, and most importantly, getting their questions and concerns answered and following up with them, you are creating trust between your reps and you as a manager, and between your reps and all departments in the company. This is an easy way to keep everyone aware of the views customers have of you and what you're doing in every department to improve and solve customer issues.

In conclusion, sales meetings have gotten a pretty bad rap over the years. However, they don't have to be boring, monotonous, and unfulfilling. Use these 10 tips above to re-energize your team, build comradery, and have your team looking forward to your sales meetings.

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