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  • Mercer Smith-Looper

How to make the most out of your sales meetings

Harvard Business Review ran a study where they asked 182 senior managers how they felt about meetings. Of those managers, 72% said that meetings were inefficient and a waste of time; 65% said that meetings stop them from completing their work, and 62% said meetings miss the opportunity to bring the team closer together. Something has to change with how we do meetings, especially if this is how the people who are running them feel. There are so many different things that you can do to boost productivity during sales meetings, and each of them will have their benefits and…

Harvard Business Review ran a study where they asked 182 senior managers how they felt about meetings. Of those managers, 72% said that meetings were inefficient and a waste of time; 65% said that meetings stop them from completing their work, and 62% said meetings miss the opportunity to bring the team closer together. Something has to change with how we do meetings, especially if this is how the people who are running them feel.

There are so many different things that you can do to boost productivity during sales meetings, and each of them will have their benefits and drawbacks. However, no matter what type of session, there are some best practices to create space for maximum productivity. Here are six things you can start doing today to help your team get more out of your sales meetings.

Respect their time

Salespeople spend almost 12% of their time in company meetings. That’s about 19 hours over a month. Compound that with the fact that sales team members only actually spend a small fraction of their time selling, and it makes you understand why your team might perceive internal meetings as a waste of time. Why should they be listening to you talk about goals when they could be out closing deals?

Make sure that when you call a meeting, you’re respecting your salespeople’s time. Start and end your sessions when you say you will, and have a regular cadence that people can expect and plan around. If you cancel at the last minute, you are effectively robbing team members of the time they could have scheduled with clients.

Evaluate whether you are having meetings more or less frequently than you should. If you are consistently ending early, you could probably cut the time. If you regularly go over, it may need to be more frequent or use a longer timeslot. Set expectations appropriately and stick by them; otherwise, your team might start to resent you.

Speak to the group

If something you’re talking about doesn’t apply to all of your team members, you shouldn’t discuss it with the group. Daydreaming is the chosen habit of 91% of meeting attendees, whereas 73% try to multitask and finish other things while they should be listening. As soon as you start talking about something that doesn’t matter or pertain to them, people’s brains shut off.

Don’t take the time to review:

  • Individual team members’ performance
  • Revenue projections for individuals
  • Singular complaints, negativity, or frustrations
  • Collections for specific accounts
  • Specific renewals that only one person can action

Keep those for calls catered explicitly to those topics, like 1:1s, renewals calls, or quarterly goal-setting meetings. Otherwise, you’ll lose your audience.

Set an agenda

If possible, have a set plan that you can reference each time you have a recurring meeting. If you create it in a publicly accessible place, like Notion, Trello, or Google Drive, individual team members can also add agenda items they’d like to discuss. Agendas help you make the most of your time together and encourage team members to prepare ahead of time.

While writing your plan, consider:

  • Who will be responsible for each part of the meeting?
  • How long will each section need to take?
  • Will you save questions for a specific time during the meeting?
  • What actions do individuals need to take on each section?
  • Who will kick off the meeting?
  • How far ahead of time should things be added to the agenda?

Here’s an example template:

SectionTime (minutes)PreparationWho Runs?
Introduction/ Good News10Add your good news!Jason
Retention Review10Add any churn risks to the docMariah
Call Review20Review Biff’s call from 10/21 in Gong, and add notes.Biff
Product Updates20Jane the PM comes to review product roadmap for FY2021. Please review this doc.Jane
Out of Office Time10Add any upcoming vacation to the docJason
Things to change10We note anything we like or don’t like about our meeting structure.Jason

Having something like this lets people know what to expect and get well-prepared before coming to the meeting.

Feel free to change it up and keep it spicy, too. Consider having one section of the meeting that you change out every week. Here are some ideas: 

  • Having a customer come speak
  • Including someone internal from outside of your team (like the product updates section above)
  • A guest speaker from outside of your company
  • Break-out groups
  • An off-site or bonding exercise
  • Book club discussion

Having something new and different (but still part of the regular schedule) can keep team members engaged and excited.

Make sure everyone comes prepared

Creating an agenda is the first step in this process. After you’ve done that:

  • Make sure that people read the schedule.
  • Make sure their computer and headphones are working.
  • Take the time to come prepared for your meetings.

Not only will this make your meetings more meaningful, but it will also save you the time of having people read through the content when the session is already going. Your reps will also be more engaged because, instead of just listening to their manager speaking at them, they’ll be a part of the dialogue and make informed contributions.

Meetings are more meaningful if everyone has a say and time to formulate their opinions beforehand.

Ask your team their thoughts

Use your team meetings as a time for discussion. There are so many things that salespeople can provide information on if you just ask! Here are some things to consider for group discussion:

  • Feedback on the meeting or your sales strategy as a whole.
  • Where in the sales process they’re running into the most challenges.
  • If they are receiving pushback from prospects, and how others have countered it.
  • What tools do they need or want to make their job easier?
  • Tips or tools of the trade from top salespeople.
  • New ways to position products or upcoming betas.
  • Ideas for software or companies you could partner with
  • How your competitors are performing and ways to counter them.

Team brainstorming can be a great way to get multiple perspectives and help people riff off each other. You’ll get more in a group than you would one on one.

Make things positive

Recognition is important. In a recent survey, 68% of HR professionals stated that recognition is one of the most valuable things you can do for retention. Use your sales meetings as an opportunity to talk about the things that your team is doing well and to shout out individual high performers.

It will boost your team’s retention, but it will give new employees a performance model. Similarly, suppose you always talk about opportunities to get better but never celebrate the already good things. In that case, you may create a negative culture rather than one focused on growth.

Teamwork makes the dream work

No matter what type of meeting you’re planning, do so by putting your team at the front of your mind. Consider things that will be useful to them and the team’s goals, rather than just knocking things off your to-do list. 

Plan content that is meaningful for all participants—keep individual metric review for 1:1s. Set a schedule that is easy to follow, explain what you expect of your team, and how long it will take. At the end of each meeting, ask participants what they want more or less of—nothing should stay the same forever.

Iterating on sessions makes them more meaningful and useful in the long run and encourages participation from the people in them. Sales is a team sport; help your meetings reflect that!

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