Sales and Sales Management Blog

March 25, 2010

Why Sales Meetings Are Absolutely, Positively, Without a Doubt a Waste of Time—And How to Change It


“Paul,” said one of my coaching clients the other day, “I swear if I have to sit through another Monday morning sales meeting I’ll quit.  They’re supposed to be an hour; they always last at least an hour and a half and often two hours.  It’s nothing but a management bitch session and a bunch of side conversations with salespeople about how crappy their performance is.  I either quit or go postal, and even though going postal would be the more satisfying course of action, I’m not ready to go prison–yet.”

Richard has obviously sat through a great many of the same sales meetings I’ve sat through—and I’m sure that you’ve sat through.  In fact, I’m willing to bet a number of people who read this have never sat through a sales meeting that wasn’t as pointless, obnoxious, and downright insulting as the ones Richard has been sitting through.

I’m also willing to bet that somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% of all weekly sales meetings are absolutely, positively, without a doubt a waste of time.

They don’t have to be.

In fact, regular (regular does not necessarily mean weekly) sales meetings can be the backbone of creating a thriving, high production sales team.

Most often, however, they are the ruination of the sales team.

Weekly sales meetings have killed more manager authority and respect than probably any other activity a manager engages in with the possible exception of the ride along.  They have also driven a great number of high performers to the competition, one of which may be my client Richard who is one of the top 5 sellers in his company’s 300 member sales force.

Sales people generally hate this weekly meandering through sales meeting hell and the accompanying glimpse into the hollow caverns of the sales management brain in stupefying inaction. 

Why?

I believe there are four primary reasons sales meetings are such a waste of time and effort:

  1.  No purpose.  A great many sales meetings are held for no other reason other that it’s Monday (or Friday, or Thursday, or whatever day of the week they are normally held on).  Consequently, the meeting is destined to be a time waster.  One time wasting meeting is bad enough, but I know of some companies who have three or even five of these meetings every week (often these mulit meeting companies are seeking to keep control of their salespeople).
  2. No preparation.  Whomever is in charge of the meeting (generally the immediate manager of the assembled team) has invested not a single minute in preparing for the meeting.  As they’re sitting down for the meeting, they take out a pen and jot down two or three things to talk about.  Again, the perfect setting for a waste of time.
  3. Too many tangents.  Without having prepared for the meeting and knowing exactly what to deal with, it is easy for the manager to veer off onto tangents that ultimately have nothing to do with anything. Yet another factor that guarantees the meeting will be useless.
  4.  A haven of negativity.  Especially during times like the present when business is tough, an unprepared manager tends to focus on trying to cajole numbers out of his or her team.  People are put up for ridicule in front of their peers because of poor numbers, they are forced to justify their performance, and the rest sit in silence, knowing their turn is next once the manager has finished “coaching” their current prey.   Now not only is the meeting a waste of time, it is a real morale killer too.

Great, so sales meetings suck.  Everyone already knows that.  What can managers do to make sales meetings valuable?

I’ve found four simple rules seem to work very, very well:

  1. No purpose, no meeting.  Only hold meetings when there is a REASON to hold a meeting.  That may be once a month, once every two weeks, once a week, or as needed.  The company no longer paying for coffee is not a reason for a meeting; that’s a memo.  Reviewing the pre-call planning steps is a reason for a meeting.
  2. No preparation, no meeting.  If for any reason the person managing the meeting has not had time to thoroughly prepare, the meeting is canceled.  There is no excuse for wasting the team member’s time because the manager didn’t get their job done.
  3. A sales meeting is not the place for individual coaching.  A sales meeting is a group activity.  Address the group’s needs and issues, not individual salespeople’s.  There is no excuse for denigrating anyone in front of the group or for wasting the group’s time for individual coaching.  Each team member should have coaching time scheduled outside the sales meeting.  The rule is, if a meeting degenerates into individual coaching, the team members are free to leave (note, however, that answering a specific issue a team member has with the subject matter being discussed is not individual coaching).
  4. Set a time limit, stick to it.  Salespeople need to be selling, not attending meetings.  Under normal circumstances, sales meetings should be kept to an hour or less.  Only under extraordinary circumstances should a meeting exceed an hour. 

Your sales meetings should concentrate on helping team members sell.  Reviewing market conditions; presenting new products or services; reviewing sales skills such as prospecting, making presentations, asking questions, pre-call planning, and the other aspects of selling and the sales process; role playing activities; and other core content should be the heart of the meeting. 

Seller recognition and reinforcement should also be an integral aspect of your meetings.  Leave the meeting on a high note, not a downer.

Housekeeping notes and announcements should kept at a minimum—discarded completely and put into memos if at all possible.

Meetings are important, but too many meetings or too much wasted time turns what could be a valuable tool into a wrecking ball plowing through your team, leaving lifeless, dispirited bodies in its wake.  If your meetings are unorganized, are designed to do little more than keep control of your salespeople, or drag on incessantly, you’re killing your team, not building it.

Turn your sales meetings into real strengths, not team killers–both you and your team members will be glad you did—and within short order you’ll actually see some smiles and enthusiasm Monday morning instead of the deadwood that drags itself into the meeting room.

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9 Comments »

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by paul_mccord: Why sales meetings are absolutely, positively, without a doubt a waste of time-and how to change it http://tinyurl.com/ycvmp9n

    Trackback by uberVU - social comments — March 26, 2010 @ 1:00 am | Reply

  2. Great article. I am 100% on board with your thoughts. I see so many people having meetings, and then having meetings about having meetings! There should certainly be more structure and purpose behind them so they turn out to be helpful instead of a waste of time. Bravo!

    Comment by Ashley — March 26, 2010 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment Ashley–and thanks for your readership, it is greatly appreciated.

      Comment by Paul McCord — March 28, 2010 @ 10:45 am | Reply

  3. Ah, the dreaded sucky sales meeting!

    I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts Paul!

    The last thing I want to do as a sales professional is sit through a bunch of administrative nonsense that could have been conveyed in an email. As for those who allow tangents, I have secretly wished someone would hit them in the neck with a blow dart but I digress!

    One suggestion that I would make to those who run the sales meetings is to be willing to take on the role of “facilitator” to make the meeting more interactive.

    Think of some good topics to get the discussion going. If you are at a loss for topics, ask your team! (probably should do that anyway) Why not stop by some of the Linkedin sales groups and borrow a topic to discuss live, have everyone read a certain article or book for discussion. Assign other pre work like coming prepared with 5 knock you on your rear end questions to ask our prospects to get them thinking, creative door openers, etc.

    How about inviting special guests who can contribute like a star sales rep from your network or another location of your company who can call in and share best practices.

    Thanks again Paul. We really needed this post!

    Respectfully,
    Paul Castain

    Comment by Paul Castain — March 27, 2010 @ 10:24 am | Reply

    • Good suggestions, Paul. Addressing pertinent issues and getting the attendees involved is an excellent way to not only get and keep their attention, but to help put the strategy being discussed into the salesperson’s real world. Also working as a group through an article or book–lends itself to everyone preparing beforehand and allowing different people to take on the discussion leader role.

      Paul

      Comment by Paul McCord — March 28, 2010 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  4. I agree 100%..I have sat on both sides of the table. I have seen colleagues of mine make up all sorts of things trying to keep the heat off of themselves from managers who seemed to enjoy the opportunity to berate. For my sales teams, I always kept meetings brief and to the point. We focused on what we could do as a team to support each others efforts and of course there was always the employee of the month announcement that everyone eagerly awaited to see who would win.

    Note to fellow manager’s out there….if you are truly managing your sales teams you know where they are in their pipeline…you don’t need to bully them into having the need to put up false numbers in their sales projections during a “sales meeting”. If several members on a sales team continually fall below their projections this is a good indication that you need a new manager!!!

    If you are doing a great job as a manager your sales team looks forward to the meetings because they know that they will leave the meeting with something that will help them reach their sales goals…which is what everyone wants!!!

    Getting feedback, from your sales team, of what they need or want to see in the meeting is a good way to stay focused on the goal of the meeting and that is to make sure the sales team has all the tools/resources they need for success.

    Finally, always always prepare a meeting agenda before any meeting please!!! Whenever possible present it to the attendees well in advance for comment and possible additional agenda items. Meetings that have an agenda with input from the attendees gives them more “ownership” to the meeting and will produce better results.

    Comment by Donna Kivirauma — March 29, 2010 @ 8:43 am | Reply

    • Donna,

      Absolutely–get input from team members on the agenda. Sales meetings are not one sided, although many managers treat them as though they are. Both management and sellers must participate in order for the meeting to be successful and that means not just participating based on the manager’s desired content, but on the content needs of the team members as well. Unfortunately far too many managers are of the opinion that they are the only ones who know what’s going on and what needs to be addressed.

      Paul

      Comment by Paul McCord — March 29, 2010 @ 12:17 pm | Reply

  5. That is right Paul…I have seen it a lot! It is great to talk about the wins and how we got them…very positive agenda item…nice to know what we lost and what we learned from it…a good manager brings out honesty in their sales team and they will share with you what went wrong so it is not repeated…this can be done very positively too!!! Bottom line…give them what they need!!!

    Comment by Donna Kivirauma — March 29, 2010 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

  6. You’re so right, Paul. 9 out of 10 meetings are a waste of time. They need to help salespeople sell, but don’t. Most are led by people acting in their own self-interest.

    Jeff Ogden, President
    Find New Customers “Lead Generation Made Simple”
    http://www.findnewcustomers.net

    Comment by jefflogden59 — April 25, 2010 @ 3:22 pm | Reply


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