I work with businesses as a consultant. One small, but growing company has retained me to work with twelve managers on leadership development. One of the managers worked with me twenty years ago. He’s the sales manager for this organization. Last week he asked me how, twenty years ago, I got so much out of him and others from our meetings. How did I conduct sales meetings that brought results? I told him. He took notes. I’ll share it with you, but first let’s set the stage. (If you can’t wait, jump ahead to how to get the most out of every meeting.)
Keys to an Effective Sales Meeting
Have a Plan
I don’t care how good of an extemporaneous speaker you are; you’ll do better, much better, with a plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you should know what you want to cover, who you want to involve, and how you will deliver the message. How to Outline a Meeting.
Follow a Schedule
Set a start time, be on time, and expect others to be punctual as well. This is where most advisers tell you to have a start and an end time, but I won’t. You should have a “no later than” time but not an arbitrary end time. Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” I explain this rule before meetings and state we may not need all the time allotted and if so we’ll end early.
Don’t Gripe and Complain
I worked for a sales manager that spent every morning in a sales meeting complaining about the previous day. If business was good, he scolded the team on paperwork, and if the paperwork was good, he told us our work areas weren’t professional enough. He never had a problem naming names and calling people out. After being called out in public, one team member stood up, tossed his office keys at the sales manager, and stormed out; he didn’t return. A meeting isn’t the place for reprimand—that should be one-on-one. A meeting is a place for recognition, not castigation.
Your team will only listen to 15 – 20 minutes of you droning on-and-on before they fade away. To avoid this involve your team in the meeting. Give them the opportunity by asking questions rather than lecturing. Call on teammates to share, demonstrate, or offer advice. Don’t be the only one in the room talking.
Don’t Take All Day
I’ve conducted thousands of sales meetings, at one time I gave meetings five days a week for more than seven years. Few of my meetings lasted thirty minutes. The key to meeting brevity is to keep it simple by choosing one topic and not straying from it.
Don’t settle for turning phones off—leave them out of the room. Even a phone on mute is a distraction. And leave yours out of the meeting as well. Don’t allow interruptions. Tell your staff to take messages and DND your meeting. Very few things in life are so urgent they can’t wait 30 minutes.
How to Get the Most Out of Every Meeting
In the first paragraph, I told the story of my former teammate asking me how I got the team to produce from meetings. The answer is all of the points listed above and actions and commitments. I learned the most effective meetings ended with an action plan and a commitment to follow through. Actions and commitments should be at the top of list for how to conduct sales meetings.
- At the beginning of the meeting introduce the topic and announce the end goal of the meeting is for each to devise an action plan and commit to the plan.
- Share actionable ideas throughout the meeting
- Allow team members to devise an action plan of their own
- At the end of the meeting ask for each members action plan and their commitment to follow through
- Note the actions plans for follow-up
When I gave my former teammate the answer to his question all I said was end with an action plan and a commitment. He looked thoughtful, made a note and said, “yea that’s it”. I waited a minute and asked, “What’s your plan?”