Every sales team has its regular team meeting, whether it’s weekly or monthly, face to face or virtual. Bringing together the full team, even for an hour, has a considerable cost associated with it in terms of time and lost selling opportunity – unless these meetings are designed to be catalysts for new and faster business generation. Last month I was invited to participate in a couple of meetings and was horrified to observe the tremendous brain capacity in the room squandered. Add to this the common gripe from training participants that their meetings have become habitual “roundtable updates” that lack inspiration … well let’s just say it’s time to put some “meat” in your meetings.

The first meeting I attended was like a dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner where each family member is “required” to give thanks for something. Each person provides enough input to satisfy the process and then immediately tunes out while others are talking. In the sales meeting it’s the required territory / numbers update. During the first meeting I attended one rep shared an impressive new client “win.” Applause and congratulatory remarks followed. But no-one asked about the sales process that led to the win, the strategy they used to outsell two competitors, or the client’s “specific reasons for choosing to partner with us.” Answers to these and other insightful questions would be invaluable to the team – and thought-provoking for the rep who won.

The outcome of every meeting should be a motivated team armed with fresh insights that will make them more effective and efficient. Period. Yet so many weekly meetings have become a mind-numbing ritual of following the same tired agenda. ZZZZzzzz.

Last time I checked sales professionals can read. So don’t waste valuable face time sharing the numbers. Send sales figures out ahead of time with clear instructions on what you want reps to discuss in context of improving or celebrating these numbers. Be prepared to ask provocative questions that encourage fresh thinking. As so much communication today is in the form of electronic sound bites, take advantage of this valuable face time to have strategic collaborative discussions and strategy sessions that are impossible to conduct via e-mail. Plan ahead to make the most of your time together.

Take it in turns to bring a meaty customer scenario to the meeting. A difficult client, a bid that was lost or a prospect that has disappeared into the “black hole.” Use the collective brain power of your team to analyze the issue, share best practices and develop strategies everyone can use. Learn from real examples. Role play, provide feedback, test new approaches. Share successes – not just the “what” but the “how.” If Dave hit his numbers out of the park this quarter, what did he do differently to those who missed? Why does he believe he had such a strong period? How will Dave, and the rest of the team, leverage this knowledge in the future?

My second meeting experience last month had me seeking any sharp object to thrust into my forehead –– anything to distract my brain from the painful process unfolding around me. The initial five minutes seemed promising until a latecomer took us off track before we resolved the first important issue. A second detour took us in yet another direction and further away from the desired outcome shared at the start of the meeting. We eventually agreed to some key action items but the process was excruciatingly inefficient and the outcome weak. I left with an internal note to self to never accept a meeting request from this group again.

Consider this … The process of the meeting is every bit as important as the content. So here are nine critical success factors to assure an efficient and productive meeting.

  1. Don’t overload the agenda. 10 items in a 45 minute meeting! Yes I’ve seen this. Be ruthless about what makes it to the agenda. Friday’s pot luck lunch and client Christmas gifts can all be handled via e-mail.
  2. For every meeting identify a clear objective, a road map to achieve this objective (not a disjointed agenda), and a desired outcome that moves the team forward. Share the objective, road map and desired outcome ahead of time so everyone is clear what is expected and how they will benefit.
  3. Re-iterate your objective, road map and outcome at the start of the meeting to prevent wandering off topic. Assign a process cop to “call it out” if the team veers off the path. Then let the group decide if there’s greater value taking this alternate route.
  4. Optimize live time by sending out pre-reads and pre-work so reps come fully prepared to collaborate and contribute to rich discussion.
  5. Hold everyone to the standard. If reps are expected to bring specific client examples / success stories or to contribute fresh ideas, hold them accountable. Do not jeopardize the credibility of your meetings, and you, by being accepting of team members who show up empty handed.
  6. Obtain tangible commitments to action from reps at the end of each meeting and have scheduled milestones to check on progress. Plan to see a return on every meeting investment!
  7. Sales leaders invite open constructive feedback from the team so you may continuously enhance the value of these important pow-wows.
  8. Sales reps “manage up.” Take responsibility for you. Tell your leaders what you want from your team meetings. And don’t just throw ideas at their doorstep and expect it to happen. Offer to put your idea into action.
  9. Be ruthless. Do you really need to meet? If there’s no value in getting together this week then don’t. If you don’t need an hour together then don’t create agenda items to fill time. It’s unproductive and a shameless waste of selling opportunity. And wouldn’t you rather have your team selling than snoozing?

Would love to hear what you think makes a great sales team meeting. Or please share some of the best practices you’ve encountered. Leave a comment below and I will personally respond.

Good selling!