Some professions are genuinely cinematic. Journalism, medicine and policing are the backdrops for some of the silver screen’s greatest ever movies, while other jobs just don’t translate to epic storytelling.
Sales definitely belongs in the cinematic professions category. Even the seemingly mundane sales meeting translates to the big screen. While no blockbuster begins with a quarterly procurement meeting, the monthly catch-up of supply chain, or the annual marketing conference, the humble sales meeting has featured in classics ranging from Glengarry Glen Ross, Wall Street and Boiler Room to The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street.
It’d also be fair to say that the sales meeting doesn’t always get the best rap in Hollywood. It’s usually where a suited-and-booted Alpha male gets to dispense hilariously shameless lines like: “Put that coffee down!! Coffee’s for closers only.”
The reality is usually more mundane. Just like those procurement, supply chain and marketing meetings, some sales meetings are great, some are good and an awful lot of all meetings are terrible. But what are the main ways in which sales meetings suck and what can companies do to try to make them more bearable, fruitful even, for all involved?
Perhaps bolstered by the traditional view of salespeople as being great improvisers with the gift of the gab, preparation is almost seen as a weakness within some sales circles, a demonstration of your inability to ad-lib. That attitude has leaked into internal sales meetings and become one of their most significant flaws.
Whether it’s a call with a prospect, a quick catch-up with a client over coffee at an upcoming conference, or a monthly sales team gathering, an agenda is a prerequisite. Not having a plan is a sign that you don’t respect other attendees’ time, not that you’re the sort of person who works best when being spontaneous.
That same level of respect applies to the organizing of sales meetings. Managers shouldn’t react to a poor week by telling everyone to drop everything and calling for an impromptu meeting at the end of Friday afternoon. They should be scheduled regularly at a time convenient for the entire sales team, no matter where they’re located, or they should be organized at least a few days ahead of schedule.
Using a scheduling tool can help you find the best time slots in both circumstances and is especially helpful if you have salespeople spread across several countries and timezones. Plus, scheduling tools avoid the constant email back-and-forth associated with big team meetings, which again shows a level of respect for team members’ time, allowing them to focus on delivering business instead of losing hours to scheduling an internal meeting.
Misjudging the tone
Another sales stereotype is that of the sales manager or director who confuses anger and aggression for motivation and incentive. Pressure, they tell themselves, turns coal into diamonds. In fact, they probably have a poster saying precisely that on the wall of their office.
However, sales is already a highly stressful occupation and the reality is that nobody does their best work in such acrimonious circumstances. Real motivation is intrinsic and the best sales managers understand and support that.
At the other end of the spectrum is the back-slapping sales meeting where cronyism tends to flourish, in-jokes are told and managers refer to everyone as “mate” or “buddy” between regaling them all of the gossip from the recent office party. While less fractious, this tone is just as unprofessional.
The right tone for a sales meeting is one of competence and then thorough and systematic analysis.
- Start on a positive note by pointing out recent big wins.
- Share any relevant organizational news and changes.
- Provide an update on the pipeline, deliver prospect insight and look at the overall metrics.
- Workshop how you might overcome obstacles.
- Set a positive and uplifting note to end the meeting with clear goals for the period ahead.
Many sales teams hold regular weekly meetings to help them kick-off or end the week. While consistent scheduling can help salespeople organize their calendars, it can often result in unnecessary meetings held just because they’re in the diary.
That hour or two each week may seem harmless but, for a profession in which employees are already feeling overstretched, that unnecessary meeting could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Forty-four percent of professionals consider poorly-organized or unnecessary meetings to be the main reason they don’t have time to do the rest of their work, with 38 percent explaining that these meetings result in a loss of focus. One significant finding for sales teams, in particular, is that more than a quarter of professionals believe unproductive meetings and processes actually weaken their relationships with clients.
So make sure that all your meetings are necessary. Having an agenda for every meeting helps with that. If there are no pressing items to discuss, consider rolling them over into a future meeting and allowing the team to focus on delivering sales.
Bad prep and etiquette
What’s more annoying than an ineffective or poorly organized meeting? Actually, according to our research, lots of things:
- Almost 90 percent of professionals are irritated by conference calls or video meetings with poor reception.
- 55 percent of people consider other attendees taking phone calls or writing text messages during meetings to be a pet peeve.
- People who interrupt or don’t listen to others annoys half of respondents.
- Attendees arriving late or leaving early irritates 49 percent of employees.
Chances are, if you’ve been in even a handful of sales meetings, that some or all of these are familiar peeves for you too. It’s really on the meeting organizer to set the tone and levels of respect and professionalism expected during sales meetings. This can be done in person at meetings or on the agenda for each meeting. Some ideas include:
- Arrive and leave on time.
- No open laptops in meetings unless you’re taking notes (and explain that to everyone before the meeting starts) or you’re using it to present.
- If you are using your laptop for one of these reasons, close all other tabs and programs other than those necessary for the meeting itself.
- Phones on silent and off the table.
- If dialing in, check your video conferencing software and wifi connection all work before the meeting — not during the first five minutes.
Making it all about the manager or company
“I need you to make more calls.” “We have aggressive sales targets this quarter.” “The company is expecting us to deliver a record-breaking month.” “We need this one in the books before the end of the month.” “The board is expecting better.”
Good salespeople know that you never discuss what you need from them, when you meet with or call a client. The onus is on you, the salesperson, to do your research, earn and keep the prospect’s attention.
The same should apply to how a sales manager handles their team and their team meetings. Rather than leading with what the manager or company wants, the focus should be on the team’s needs. Raising the stakes is more likely to dwindle results, whereas helping each other to find solutions and strategies to address recurring problems is an effective and efficient use of time.
Ultimately, managers are there to serve their team members and those who bear that in mind will find that their meetings are positive and useful experiences. Although shouting out zingers like “I want you to deal with your problems by becoming rich!” may sound appealing, like contrast-collared shirts and greased back hair, it’s an approach best left in the movies.
If you’re looking for ways to spice up your meetings with clients then we’ve got some tips for how to do that here.