More Effective Sales Meetings
By Dr. Greg Story
"Public floggings and massive humiliation will continue until morale improves." This is a very neat description of the flavor characterizing many of the sales meetings I have participated in over the years. You might think sales meetings are a limited and specialized function within an enterprise, and that the sales managers know what they are doing. Keep dreaming! The vast majority of sales managers are untrained and merely parrot what they have seen in their previous companies. There they were recognized for their individual sales production and were promoted to a leadership role. Such promotion usually occurs without any training on how to morph from one of the sales team to sales leader. In their new role, they run the same sales meetings they have seen, so there is terrific continuity at the lowest value.
A sales team’s time is one of the most prized resources in any enterprise for two reasons: the time spent face-to-face with the client has the highest value, and everything that happens outside this frame should support that activity. Anything that doesn’t do so is an opportunity cost of potential not realized.
There is also the cost of salary wasted on low return activities. If large numbers of staff are participating in the sales meeting and you calculate the hourly cost for them to be there, and then add in the hourly opportunity cost of them not being in front of clients getting sales, the costs become substantially scary. Most sales meetings are a review of the current results and feedback on key clients. When 20 percent of your sales team produces 80 percent of the results, it is a very challenging time for the 80 percent of people producing 20 percent of the results. Outcomes can range from pointed questions, harsh tones, and accusatory glances to outright haranguing or humiliation on a devastating scale. Rather than speak with an individual separately, metaphorically chaining them to a post in the town square and flogging them for their sins is a not an uncommon preference among sales leaders. Throwing inanimate objects, accompanied by verbal abuse, at failing salespeople is the thing of legend in Japan. A sales manager meltdown is a thing of terror and decimates the motivation of the team.
In sales, your emotions are never steady. The exhilaration of the sale is numerically rare, while the despair of failure is the norm. We need to consider the psychological component of the activity and the appropriate structure of the sales meeting to lift the spirits of a team facing rejection on a daily basis.
1. Begin the meeting with an inspirational opening. This should be brief, and taken in turn by each person in the meeting.
2. Communication of key information about events, schedules, and new products or processes should be kept brief.
3. Goal reporting should be broken down to weekly targets. If the target has not been achieved, the sales manager instead of telling people how useless they are, can focus instead on getting them to realise what they need to be doing to improve the results. In a sea of rejection, the Sales Manager must offer them words of hope, so they can keep going and try harder.
4. Customer updates are great opportunities to share information about what the team is doing. They also offer great best practice ideas and examples that are learning opportunities for everyone. The updates need to be worked on pro-actively and the key learnings drawn out from the salesperson by the sales manager.
5. Training components don’t have to be elaborate. Simple role-play practice on specific components of the sales call can be isolated for attention. The sales manager should coach the activity and praise what is being done well and articulate what could be done better.
6. Don’t save praise for a rainy day; if good is being done, recognize, praise, and encourage it. Don’t forget to recognize the support team who make the star sales person’s life function more easily.
7. Get salesperson commitment to the activities that will drive the results. We should all know our ratios of contacts/appointments/sales. Get the team’s commitment each week to make the effort to reach their weekly target.
8. Finish with an inspirational close to end on a high note.
Sales are often said to be "a transfer of enthusiasm," yet we forget about the importance of the transfer of enthusiasm in the sales meeting itself. Try it!