If you’ve planned sales meetings, you know this situation: Putting together the agenda, you notice a couple of things. First, there are a lot of “required” presentations by various talking heads in the company, and they’re BORING. Second, your breakout sessions largely consist of other people from the company (products, marketing, etc.) talking at your salespeople – again, potentially boring. So, to try to make your sales meetings less boring, you hire a speaker or some entertainment.
The problems with this approach?
- You’re not addressing the core issue, which is that your internal VIP presentations are boring. Salespeople will still be bored and counting down the hours until the hospitality suite opens.
- The rented speaker often overshadows the business messages you want salespeople take away from the sales meeting.
- You’ve spent money on external speakers who entertain, but don’t help your salespeople get better.
- You’re wasting the unique value of sales meetings!
Sales Meeting Time Has Unique Value – DON’T WASTE IT!
The unique value of the sales meeting – and hopefully the reason you’re having a sales meeting in the first place – is the opportunity for salespeople to:
- Interact with the company – especially for remote sales teams, face time with corporate is crucial
- Learn from each other – especially for solo sellers, time with fellow practitioners is invaluable
- Practice their craft – for any seller, practice with peer feedback is precious
These are active, lab-type activities – not the lectures you’re subjecting them to when your VIPs fire up the PowerPoint.
Even though these make intuitive sense, most companies miss the mark on application. Let’s break down these three uniquely valuable aspects and clear up some misconceptions:
Interacting with the company is different than hearing from the company.
While there is definite value in having executives deliver messages to your sales force, that’s not necessarily the most valuable part of their presence.
In fact, sellers we survey express slight dissatisfaction when VIPs appear only for their presentations, then hightail it to the airport immediately after.
Alternative: Many of our post-meeting surveys find that Q&A with VIPs is viewed as more valuable than the speech. This isn’t surprising – even if they’re practiced at the art, executives are usually more “real” when they’re reacting to questions. Sellers are also more satisfied because their concerns are being addressed.
How to capitalize: Make your executives available! The more time they spend at your sales meeting in informal dialogue, social settings, and Q&A, the more you’re capitalizing on the unique value of your sales meeting.
Learning from each other is different than hearing from each other.
A lot of sales meetings feature superstar sellers telling the story of how they landed the big deal – but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
The problem with “how I did it” sessions at your sales meeting? There are so many variables in sales that you’re asking a lot for sellers to transfer somebody else’s success story to their own worlds.
Instead, the best teachers do more than tell you how they did it – they help you figure out how you should do it.
Alternative: Make time for small-group, seller-driven sessions that focus on addressing specific recurring aspects of your sales, not a historical narrative of one sale. So instead of stories of “how I sold X to so-and-so,” sellers are sharing strategies like “here’s how I deal with competitor X in this type of sale – what do you do?”
How to capitalize: Give your best sales role models a template to work from and an easy process to follow so they don’t have to spend much time preparing. Then coach them (quickly!) on how to turn the ideas into their head into a practitioner’s discussion at their table.
Practicing the craft doesn’t mean theoretical role-playing.
Let’s be clear: Practicing DOES mean role-playing! It’s theoretical part we’re disposing with here.
Admission: I used to help clients do it the wrong way! I have put together countless case studies for sales meetings that tried to represent real customers and opportunities – and I mostly failed. (Equally ineffective: When product marketers create role play case studies.)
Why? For the same reasons I mentioned earlier – there are so many variables in sales that asking sellers to transfer learning from the theoretical domain to real-life practice is a high throw. If you want salespeople to be “street smart” and not just “school smart,” they need their practice opportunities to resemble real life as much as possible. So ditch the generic case studies!
Alternative: Use real customers, prospects, and opportunities as the basis for practice. Break salespeople into small groups and have them work on each other’s stuff, from both a strategy and execution perspective.
How to capitalize: Capture game tape! Ideally, you’re using tools in your sales stack (Refract, Call Miner, etc) to facilitate post-meeting coaching. Even knowing someone is taping their performance with a smartphone for later viewing causes most salespeople to sit up and take role-playing more seriously.
Sales meetings have unique value – YOU DON’T HAVE TO WASTE IT!
There is no higher, better use of sales meeting time than giving your sellers a medium to interact with the company, learn from each other, and practice their craft. Fortunately, all of the tools you need to improve the value of your sales meetings are at your disposal today.
Use these thoughts to ask yourself – and your company – some provocative questions:
- Are we getting the most out of salespeople being face-to-face with executives?
- Are we capitalizing on our salespeople being face-to-face with each other?
- Are we asking enough of salespeople at this meeting? Or are we just asking them to sit and listen?
- What can we do to make our sales meeting less boring and more valuable for our salespeople?
Of course, we are at your service for ideas on how to incorporate more of these best practices into your sales meeting. Good luck!
Dan Smaida is a Managing Director at Specialized Sales Systems and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org