How to structure a sales meetings which saves time, increases motivation, productivity and solves problems.

Meetings create new ideas and initiatives. Meetings achieve buy-in. Meetings prevent ‘not invented here’ syndrome. Meetings diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot. Meetings are effective because the written word only carries 7% of the true meaning and feeling.

Meetings are better than telephone conferences because only 38% of the meaning and feeling is carried in the way that things are said. The other 55% of the meaning and feeling is carried in facial expression and non-verbal signals. That’s why meetings are so useful. (Statistics from research by Dr Albert Mehrabian.)

Hold sales meetings, even if it’s difficult to justify the time. Plan, run and follow up sales meetings properly, and they will repay the cost many times over because there is still no substitute for physical face-to-face meetings. Hold sales meetings to manage teams and situations, and achieve your objectives quicker, easier, at less cost. Hold effective sales meetings to make people happier and more productive.

Here is a solid basic structure for most types of meetings.

1. plan – use the agenda as a planning tool
2. circulate the meeting agenda in advance
3. run the meeting – keep control, agree outcomes, actions and responsibilities, take notes
4. write and circulate notes – especially actions and accountabilities
5. follow up agreed actions and responsibilities

This is what I consider the optimal structure, agenda and rules for running the very best sales meetings in the business

Frequency: Weekly, create a rhythm and expectations. Sales meetings are one of, if not THE most important meeting of the week. It sets the tone for all the key activity.

Day: If you can get your hands on all the data, do your sales meeting on a Monday. If you need time to run weekend results, update order books etc. then run it on a Tuesday. Do not push it any further into the week, as it blurs the lines and is easy for business challenges to create and excuse not to hold the session.

Attendees: Depending on the size of your organisation sales, marketing and finance. Sales and marketing need to have a close relationship if you want to increase the number of qualified leads and conversions. In fact, companies with ‘dynamic, adaptable sales and marketing processes’ have significantly more of their sales people hitting target. You need to get these guys in the same room, regularly and get them talking about the same goals, in the same language. The role of finance is often overlooked. They need to be producing the numbers – sales volume, yield and margin, comparisons to target and prior year… you need them supporting the process not remote and critical of the activity or result.

Agenda: Produce the meeting agenda. This is the tool with which you control the meeting. Where possible, keep the agenda the same for each week. This helps ‘train’ all attendees to understand what they need to contribute to the meeting. For each sales channel that you are running here are some simple sales KPI’s to form the key elements of your agenda:

• YTD performance vs Budget and Last Year
• MTD performance vs Budget and Last Year
• Last 7 day run rate and forecast out-turn vs Budget and Last Year
• Marketing activity planned for the balance of the sales period and expected leads to be generated from that activity
• Future appointments booked to close business (face to face or telephone)

Duration: 2 hours – max! Try to start early, or finish at the end of the working day. Two-hour meetings in the middle of the day waste a lot of time, as it impacts workflow.

Outputs: After the meeting, type the notes (it’s usually quicker for you to do it), and circulate them straight away, copy to all attendees, including date of next meeting if applicable, and copy to anyone else who should see the notes. You should include an updated forecast as to the expected sales result for the period. The notes should be brief or people won’t read them, but they must still be precise and clear. Include relevant facts, figures, accountabilities, actions and timescales. Any agreed actions must be clearly described, with person or persons named responsible, with a deadline.

The final crucial element is following up the agreed actions (your own included). If you run a great meeting, issue great notes, and then fail to ensure the actions are completed, all is lost, not least your credibility. You must follow up agreed actions and hold people to them. If you don’t they will very soon learn that they can ignore these agreements every time – negative conditioning – it’s the death of managing sales teams and results. By following up agreed actions, at future meetings particularly, (when there is an eager audience waiting to see who’s delivered and who hasn’t), you will positively condition your people to respond and perform, and you will make sales meetings work for you and your team.

• Rule #1: Sales meetings are not optional. They are the most important thing we do on a weekly basis. Unless of illness, family emergency, traffic accident or vacation, staff do not miss sales meetings, ever.
• Rule #2: People must show up early, and never late. We must respect each other, and the importance of the meeting. Never be late.
• Rule# 3: Leave your phones outside. Texting, emailing and taking calls in meetings is not acceptable.
• Rule #4: No interruptions by anyone, anytime, unless it’s a family emergency. Clients can wait an hour for a call back. Explain why the sales meeting is so important and enlist other members of the team to handle calls.
• Rule#5: Attendees come fully prepared. They know their numbers, understand what activity is planned and the impact that is going to have on the result.

Culture: Stimulate an attitude that every meeting positively affects the result. The length of sales cycles, might differ from one organisation to another, but a bloody minded attitude that the result ‘for the month’ can be affected ‘in the month’ is key. It aligns sales, marketing and finance to a positive, results based culture. And don’t forget to have some FUN! Nobody want to show up to a meeting where all they get is a kicking about underperformance. Manage skills, people and activity correctly, leave no stone unturned to drive the result and you will create a culture of accountability, where the team ‘self-police’.

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