“One issue that always perplexed me was why sales meetings are so hard to make productive,” writes Kevin Higgins. “A former colleague helped me with this definition of a sales meeting: 10 pounds of stuff (you can also use an alternate four-letter word that starts with the same letter) in a two-pound bag! No wonder it is tough to plan great sales meetings. We try to do too much.”
Higgins, the CEO of Toronto-based sales-training organization Fusion Learning Inc., has sat in on his fair share of useless (not to mention brutally boring) sales meetings. So, in his recent book Engage Me: Strategies from the Sales Effectiveness Source, he explains the five keys to making sales-team meetings much more effective (and even enjoyable).
1. Start with an energizer
Most salespeople have a lot of energy. “It’s important that we tap into this energy early and often in a sales meeting.” If you start with an energizer—something light that gets everyone involved—you’ll get all participants engaged and will, in time, discourage late arrivals. What makes for a good energizer? It could be something fun (like watching the week’s most popular YouTube videos together), celebratory (like asking everyone to share their sales highlight from the past week) or company-related (like asking each participant to think of someone outside their team who brings value to the company). Whatever exercise you choose, the point is to inject some liveliness and variety in your meetings.
2. Keep it simply simple (K.I.S.S.)
Too many sales meetings go off the rails because of scope creep. “Keep your sales meeting agenda lean and mean,” advises Higgins. “Always ask ‘does this item need to be in the meeting, or could it be done outside the meeting or as pre-work?'”
3. Enforce three rules for individual updates
It’s very useful to ask each participant in a sales meeting to provide an individual update on what she accomplished in the past week (or month, or whatever frequency with which you hold your meetings). It’s less useful when she rambles on for 20 of the 30 minutes you’ve allotted for the meeting. Higgins advises setting—and enforcing—three simple rules for individual updates. First, set time limits, and don’t be afraid to cut people off when they hit them. Second, establish a different a theme for each meeting’s updates; examples might include “Who was your favourite client last week, and why?” or “Share an objection you faced and how you handled it.” Finally, keep anyone veering off-course (by, say, complaining about an issue), advise them to take it offline.
4. Motivate and reward participants
“Motivation is a critical component to any team meeting and must be built in,” writes Higgins. “The team has a tough challenge and they want to feel supported and recognized for their hard work.” It’s not about big gifts or grand gestures, he adds; rather, the simplest of “thank yous” can have great effect. Good motivators might include awarding a sales “green jacket” to a top performer, asking non-sales team members to nominate star sales performers and sharing the results in the meeting, and friendly mini-competitions between sales teams. “Every sales meeting should have some recognition,” says Higgins, “from a simple thank you to each team member to a more formal monthly or yearly program.”
5. Coordinate a capability activity
Professional development is as important to salespeople as it is to lawyers, teachers or therapists. Sales meetings offer a great opportunity to help your team brush up. Adding professional development exercises to the agenda—such as drills on countering client objections, social-media best practices and innovative new ways to generate leads—will fire up your team and equip them to perform at their best.
What do you do to make your sales meetings more productive and engaging? Share your experiences by commenting below.