How to Have Sales Meetings That Aren’t a Waste of Time

Editor’s note: This is the eighth post in a new series devoted to helping new sales managers survive and thrive in their new role. For more essential tips and tactics, sign up for our free email course, The First 90 Days: A Sales Manager Survival Course.  

How’s this for a radical thought: Sales managers should not dread leading regular team meetings, and it shouldn’t be drudgery for salespeople to participate in them!

Sales meetings can be powerful and productive; they need not be painful. They’re supposed to align, equip, energize and engage the sales team. Nowhere is it written that they must be a waste of time and energy or the low point of the week / month / quarter for the sales leader. In fact, sales meetings offer a wonderful opportunity to reinforce the desired culture of the sales organization, set the tone for the team, celebrate victories, encourage hearts, share best practices, improve selling skills and help team members feel part of something bigger than themselves!

Oh, it’s easy to understand why so many people hate sales meetings. While I’ve sat through a small handful that have been wonderful, most made me squirm in discomfort and want to scream. There are plenty of valid reasons sales meetings get a bad rap:

  • The meeting has no stated purpose; salespeople aren’t even sure why they are there.
  • There is no respect for time. Salespeople, and often the sales manager, wander in late. Or, worse, meetings run long and don’t end on time.
  • Salespeople show up distracted by other issues or with a bad attitude; they are present in the room (or on the call), but not truly “present.”
  • They become bitch sessions and a negative feeding frenzy about everything that’s wrong in the company.
  • They’re all the same, and, frankly, pretty darn boring.
  • Managers misuse the team meeting as an inappropriate venue for accountability and berate or embarrass sales reps.
  • They’re not even sales meetings! The majority of time is spent on project updates, operational and service issues, corporate nonsense and other non-sales items.

Meetings like I just described are not only all too common, but they accomplish the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do in the first place. Instead of leaving the meeting better equipped and more invigorated to sell, team members leave drained, exhausted and demotivated! Who wants to sacrifice valuable selling time to attend a meeting like that?

One of biggest causes of bad sales meetings is that the sales manager carries too much of the burden. She does all the planning and prep work and then also plays host, facilitator, teacher, trainer and motivator during the meeting. That’s crazy. There is no rule stating that the manager must do all of this herself.

Here are three tips to radically reorient and recharge your sales team meetings:

1. Stop using your team meeting as a primary venue for individual accountability!

That is not appropriate. Save the hard conversations for your 1:1 meetings with team members. Yes, you absolutely must be holding regular results and pipeline-focused 1:1 meetings with each of your people on a regular basis (and I’ll share exactly how to do that well without coming across as micromanager or demotivating people in next week’s post for this series). It’s fine (and necessary) to review results and rankings in sales meetings. By all means, distribute sales reports and highlight outstanding performance. But don’t take potshots at underperformers or try to embarrass them in the team meeting. Frankly, that doesn’t motivate anyone and it also makes you look like an ass.

2. Spread the work around.

Ask people on your team to lead various parts of the meeting. Rotate through different reps. Ask them to come prepared to share one of their best practices, to tell a sales success story, or to facilitate a deal-strategy roundtable discussion. You will be lightening your load and simultaneously improving the quality of the meeting and engagement of your people. Everyone wins!

3. Add some spice and variety to your agenda topics.

Many sales meetings are boring because it’s the same old, same old every time. Get creative and mix it up a bit. I’m often asked by sales managers for help coming up with agenda topics for meetings. Here’s an abbreviated list covering a few of my favorite topics to help start adding variety and value to your meetings:

  • Success Stories and Case Studies: Have a few reps come prepared to share the details of recent wins, how they secured the deal, or what issues your solution is addressing and how you’re providing value and producing great outcomes for customers
  • Best Practices: Do you have a rep who is a master at opening doors and securing that initial discovery meeting? Ask that person to take ten minutes at the meeting to share how she does it. Is one of your team members a rock star presenter? Give her the floor to model how she does it. Find opportunities to have different reps share their best practices.
  • Executive or Guest Presenters: Bring in other key people from various areas of the company. Have an operations director come in to talk about his cool new workflow process and how that will benefit customers. Ask the CFO to talk about banking relationships or cash management strategies. How about inviting the customer service manager in to brag about how his team is thrilling customers by reducing response times?
  • Blog or Book Review: Read a sales book as a team. Or assign a chapter as homework and have a different rep lead a discussion at the next meeting. Try asking team members to find a helpful blog post covering a topic your sales force is facing and ask them to share the link to the article and lead a mini-discussion on the topic.
  • Deal Diagnosis: Have various salespeople describe the situation around a “stuck” deal. Let other reps play doctor by asking great questions and go around the room to ask what they’d prescribe to help move the deal forward.

One last tip to improve your sales meetings: Ask your top performers what they’d change about the meeting and what they’d like to see. I guarantee you’ll get an earful of good suggestions.

See you here next week as we tackle the all-important 1:1 results and pipeline-focused sales manager-salesperson meeting. Great selling to you and your teams!

More Tips for New Sales Managers

Get caught up by reading any previous posts in the series you may have missed:

  1. How (and How Not) to Coach Sales Reps: An Inclusive Guide to Sales Coaching
  2. How to Incorporate Sales Coaching into the Review Process
  3. “A” Players Only: The Secret to Never Settling on a Bad Sales Hire Again
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