Meetings are just a part of life for most sales managers. They have periodic meetings with senior management. They may occasionally meet with high-value clients. And, of course they hold regular sales meetings with their team.
Anything we do repeatedly eventually becomes a routine, and any routine can deteriorate into a rut. If you're a sales manager who's holding weekly (or perhaps daily) sales meetings, then the last thing you want to do is have those interactions with your team become part of a rut — e.g., time wasters or, even worse, finger-pointing disputes.
With that in mind, here are three keys that will help you keep your sales meetings productive, uplifting, and motivating.
Key #1: Understand Your Team as Individuals
In order to have a productive sales meeting with your team as a whole, it's important to be mindful that each team member is unique. Personality, emotional makeup, communication style, goals, desires, concerns - all these factors differ from person to person. You must understand where each team member is coming from in order to communicate with them effectively.
Think of this as "laying the foundation" for a great sales meeting. Schedule some one-on-one time with each team member throughout the week. Observe how they react to constructive feedback, and any stressful sales calls that may come their way. Note their strengths and growth opportunities.
By building a "mental profile" of each team member ahead of time, you'll be able to generally predict how they'll behave in a meeting. Most importantly, you'll glean ways to help them grow as a sales rep within a group setting.
Key #2: Set Clear Expectations
At the beginning of each sales meeting, it's best to leave nothing to the imagination. Make the format, flow, and purpose of the meeting crystal clear to your team members. For example, everyone should know:
That last point is important. You don't want your meeting to turn into an interrogation session for underperforming sales reps. It's often best to give each sales rep some uninterrupted time to express his or her thoughts. This will enable your team members to be themselves without fear of censure.
Which leads into our third key...
Key #3: Establish a Judgment-Free Zone
Last but not least, you want to make sure that all of your team members view the meeting as a "judgment-free zone." The purpose of a sales meeting should be to exchange ideas and information — never to lecture or criticize team members over performance.
In fact, welcome the uncensored input of each team member. Their insights will help you to continually improve your sales process day after day.
At times, keeping the meeting "judgment-free" may require that you bite your tongue. Even underperforming reps that legitimately need some constructive feedback should be made to feel respected during these meetings (and during future one-on-one sessions).
The old saying "once bitten, twice shy" definitely applies in this case: You don't want to do anything that will scare your reps away from giving their honest, unfiltered opinions in a group setting.
Use Sales Meetings to Boost Productivity
There are challenges when it comes to preparing, coordinating, and leading sales meetings. However, if you implement the three keys discussed above, your team will enjoy productive, and even refreshing meetings.
Use your sales meetings to motivate the team to try new things. Energize them to "get back to the trenches." Ultimately, your entire team's performance will improve, and your business will grow as a result.
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The sales industry often revolves around meeting metrics, making quotas, boosting the bottom line, and finding the latest top sales tip. It's a "production mindset" that has been ingrained within many salespeople for years and years. So it only makes sense that when an organization's sales process isn't working properly, management's instinctive reaction is, more often than not, to look for a quick fix — e.g., the proverbial "miracle cure."
If only it were that simple.
The Myth of the Miracle Cure
The reality is, very rarely can all of a company's growth-related problems be traced back to a single cause. Businesses have many moving parts. They are made up of many individual actors. Because of that complexity, the notion that "all of our problems can be fixed if we address this one issue" is typically exposed as faulty reasoning (sooner or later).
Let's talk about a common scenario. Many organizations blame their sales problems on a lack of quality leads. That seems reasonable, right? If there aren't enough good leads coming in, then how can you expect to grow a business? As a result, these companies may try out new CRM systems, add extra incentives for reps that make their quotas, or look for that magic sales tip from an outside consultant.
All of those actions are good. They will likely provide some benefits. But... what if the problem isn't really the number of leads?
Why It Doesn't Work
Imagine that Company X does what it takes to bring in more leads for their sales reps. To them, that's the "miracle cure" that will solve of all their problems. However, after several months their revenues haven't really increased. Why isn't the quick fix working?
It could be any number of reasons. For instance:
What's the point of all this? Simply put, don't look for a quick fix. It's better to take a step back and probe for deep-seated issues that need to be addressed in order to move forward.
Oversimplification = Underperformance
It can be tempting to boil down all of a business' sales issues to one cause. After all, popular culture teaches us that if people can just fix that one, fatal flaw (Achilles' heel, Darth Vader's anger, Hamlet's indecision), then everything will be smooth sailing. The truth, of course, is usually far more complicated.
The myth of the miracle cure has its roots in oversimplification. But let's not kid ourselves: It takes a lot more time and effort to address underlying performance issues than throwing money at a "quick fix" solution and hoping that things work out.
Here's the key takeaway. Don't oversimplify your sales problems.
Be willing to put in the work of analysis and research. Take time to figure out all the factors that could be contributing to your team's underperformance. Don't be quick to point the finger at any one thing, person, or department. Seek an outside perspective, if you need it.
If you avoid the trap of the "miracle cure," then you'll be in a much better position to identify and address performance issues — and your business will benefit as a result.
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As the sales leader of your company, you want to train, support, and nurture your reps to the best of your ability. Sales leadership is about implementing repeatable, effective sales processes to grow revenue. How can you make those goals a reality? What actions and mindsets should you proactively avoid?
In this article, let's specifically tackle that second question. We'll talk about three sales leadership pitfalls that you need to navigate around in order to really improve your team's performance.
If you're staying far away from these situations, then give yourself a well-earned pat on the back. If you can relate to one (or more) of these scenarios, don't despair! After all, identifying the problem is the first step towards fixing it.
Pitfall #1: The Spaghetti Thrower
Have you ever thrown spaghetti noodles against the refrigerator? It's an old trick that lets you know when the noodles are cooked all the way through. If they're not done, they don't stick. If they are, they do.
Some sales leaders are like spaghetti throwers. They keep trying out new solutions, and hope that, eventually, something will stick. They may cycle through one "growth activity" after another - mission statement writing, sales training and up-skilling, marketing collaboration sessions, team-building...you name it. The problem is, none of those solutions ever really "stick." None of them make a lasting impact in terms of performance or revenue.
Here's the million-dollar question: Is the "spaghetti thrower syndrome" a solution issue, or a sales leadership issue? The reality of the sales industry is that there's no "secret sauce" to make the spaghetti stick to the fridge. Results don't magically appear overnight.
A sales leader's impatience will cause his or her team to constantly change course, without any set destination in mind. Then, everyone in the company is going to think something major is broken — even if it isn't.
The takeaway? Don't expect big wins immediately. Give any proposed solution some "breathing room" before moving on to the next big thing. Your team will certainly appreciate the increased stability — and will be more willing to make those changes that are actually needed.
Pitfall #2: The Cinderella Story
This is a scenario that may or may not be avoidable, depending on your company's particular circumstances. The basic premise is this. Your business (Cinderella) needs to grow sales ASAP. Otherwise, you'll lose your investors, partners, and maybe the company itself (translation: your carriage will turn into a pumpkin).
A lot of startups find themselves in this time squeeze between rounds of investor funding. It's a great problem to have — if your sales team operates like a well-oiled machine, and you're closing sales left and right. If not, then you may feel like hitting the panic button. When faced with a "do-or-die" scenario like this, many leaders will go into desperation mode, and resort to sales tactics that aren't good for the brand, and don't really work.
What's the solution to this problem? Basically, you need to take the time to analyze what your sales team is already doing that works. Then, optimize your process from there. Don't risk everything on a big, untested idea that could blow up in your face. Use what you have. Call in backup. When time is of the essence, make sure that you're not wasting any of your efforts.
The takeaway? Don't panic when your sales team is under the gun. Optimize the parts of your process that are working; and get help for the parts that need improvement. Don't gamble on an unproven sales tactic. Build on the foundation you've already laid.
Pitfall #3: The Runaway Train
This is perhaps one of the more common sales leadership pitfalls that companies fall into. The sales team is bringing in revenue (i.e., the train is moving). But there's no unifying strategy to maximize the revenue stream (the train is a runaway). As a result, the company is overly reliant on "barn burner" sales once or twice a year, and leaves a lot of potential profit on the table.
Oftentimes, the lure of a quick win is what makes this pitfall seem like an opportunity. For instance, think about a business that discounts its products to 50 percent off during an end-of-the-year sale. Sure, the sales team will be able to drive revenue hard over the course of that promotion — but at what cost? What about the leads that would have bought the product at full price the month before, but decide to wait for the sale instead? Or the customers that just bought the product, and then discover that it's half-price? The strategy may keep the company's lights on, but it simultaneously reduces the business' revenue stream and devalues the brand.
Sales leaders that get stuck in this kind of rut may think there's no way to "stop the train." In many cases, though, the company isn't really on the brink of disaster. Maybe all that's needed to get the train back on track is a change of perspective.
Ask yourself: "Instead of worrying about the next three months, what can we do to grow the business over the next year? Should we really sell based on price alone, or can we sell based on other factors, like quality or uniqueness?"
The takeaway? You may need to take a step back and see if you and your sales team are stuck in a rut, and leaving growth opportunities on the table. Never devalue your brand or product without a good reason. Don't focus on quick wins to the exclusion of long-term revenue growth. Look further ahead than the next few months, and look for ways to improve sales performance in sustainable ways.
Sales Leadership in a Nutshell
There you have it: 3 sales leadership pitfalls that you should absolutely avoid to the extent possible. If you've fallen into any of these thinking patterns, then get to work on setting things right! You may be surprised at how impactful even small adjustments can be to your team's overall focus and performance.
If you'd like more insights on how to improve sales performance for your SMB, be sure to sign up for our newsletter, contact us directly, or explore our website for valuable resources and webinars.