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Often a series of status updates and tangents, topped off with a lecture about hitting KPIs, it’s no wonder weekly sales meetings do little more than inspire dread.

A Harvard Business School study found that out of the nearly 200 executives surveyed, just 17% say that meetings are a productive use of workers’ time.

According to Atlassian, 91% of workers daydream during meetings while 73% use this time to do other work and 39% admit they’ve fallen asleep in a meeting.

The Atlassian report also put a price tag on meeting waste, estimating that US businesses collectively spend $37B in salary each year on unproductive meetings.

HubSpot reported that salespeople also only spend about a third of their time actually engaging buyers and roughly 12% of their time (or about 19 hours a month) sitting in meetings.

They’re boring, unfocused and inconvenient, yet at the same time, essential for any company with an active sales force.

In this article, I’ll look at some steps you can take to prevent your sales meetings from becoming another statistic.

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How to conduct sales meetings that don’t waste sellers’ time

While there’s no shortage of stats that point out the general uselessness of most meetings, it’s important to note that this problem isn’t all that hard to fix.

See, it’s not that “meetings don’t work,” it’s that many organizations fail to plan ahead, focus on goals or engage participants. A Gallup poll found that the most productive workers attend regular meetings and find face-to-face interaction energizing.

Below, I’ll go over some tips for conducting sales meetings that engage, inspire and most of all—drive action.

Start with a clear purpose

Here’s the thing, a sales meeting shouldn’t happen just because there’s a recurring Google alert that says so.

Every sales meeting, even regular weekly updates, should be linked to a clearly-defined purpose.

Now, there are many reasons you might have a sales meeting, but you might focus on any one of the following topics:

  • Review team goals & set new targets.
  • Workshop modern sales skills
  • Discuss prospect & client feedback.
  • Share wins & lessons learned.
  • Brainstorm new sales tactics & solutions.
  • Resolve issues.

Setting a purpose allows sales leaders to keep short and to the point.
Ideally, you’ll focus on one objective per meeting, but so long as you’re covering less than three, you should be in good shape.

Set an agenda

Once you’ve established what your meeting is about, you’ll want to put together an agenda.
Be sure to send it to your reps in advance, allowing them to prepare for the meeting.

If you’re hosting, setting an agenda will save you some time, as you’ll no longer need to spend time bringing everyone up to speed.

Generally speaking, the agenda should include the following details:

  • The reason you’re having this meeting in the first place
  • Key talking points
  • Decisions to be made
  • Length of the meeting
  • What materials participants need to bring

If you’re hosting a weekly update meeting, chances are much of the content will look the same each week, and conversations tend to focus on deals in progress, numbers and goals.

  • Deal statuses
  • Outreach numbers
  • Progress on outreach
  • Next step actions to be discussed

That said, you might create an agenda that includes these recurring themes, then leaves room for new material. For example, your meeting agenda might look something like this:

  • Share wins. (5-10 minutes)
  • Discuss pipeline status and goals (10-15 minutes)
  • Training exercise — each week, focus on a different skill. (15 minutes)
  • Problem-solving or brainstorming session — this might be a group discussion focused on specific challenges, a discussion around industry trends or an opportunity to brainstorm new sales tactics. This portion of the meeting should also change each week. (15 minutes)
  • Discuss next steps (5 minutes)

Be upfront about expectations

You’ll also want to let the team know what’s expected of them in terms of etiquette and participation.

For example:

  • Attendees should come prepared based on what was included in the agenda–that means preparing reports, questions or coming up with solutions to share with the group.
  • Make it clear that attendees are expected to participate in discussions and activities.
  • Explain that meetings are a “safe” space for reps and participants must be respectful of others’ comments, opinions and time.

Speaking of time, sales meetings can quickly go off the rails if no one is keeping an eye on the clock. A 20-minute update meeting can turn into a 45-minute discussion when someone brings up an important point and everyone else weighs in with their own two-cents.

Avoid sitting back and watching your meeting devolve into chaos and make a judgment as to whether this conversation relates to the agenda.

If it does, can you decide on a solution within the time limit? If it’s off-topic, consider whether it’s worth scheduling another meeting for a more in-depth discussion.

Properly prepare for remote meetings

Given the current pandemic situation, chances are most teams are running meetings via webcam.

Slack makes a good point in a recent blog post, the tools that work best for one-on-one conversations aren’t necessarily the best tools for hosting a weekly strategy meeting with your 25-person remote sales team.

Make sure you select a meeting platform that meets your needs—whether that’s accommodating a large group, demo-ing a new feature, or engaging in a role-play exercise.

In a recent CustomerThink post, sales expert, Matt Heinz outlines some tips for making the most of remote sales meetings.

He recommends training sellers on video call best practices ahead of time–from practicing eye contact to selecting an appropriate backdrop for your calls–you know, no selling from your bed, put on a decent shirt, etc.

Heinz also suggests that reps practice not interrupting during calls, instead of taking notes when they feel that they have something to say and pausing between thoughts.

While this might seem obvious, video calls remove some of the cues we take for granted during in-person conversations.

Finally, because remote work involves more screen time than most workers are used to, make sure you keep meetings short and focused.

Make the experience interactive

Rather than lecturing your team about hitting their metrics, every meeting should provide valuable training, tips and insights that can help them improve their skills.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, over 80% of marketers say customers love interactive content, quizzes and games.

If you need further proof, consider how popular Buzzfeed’s quizzes are — readers can’t resist finding out which Disney princess they are or what Hogwarts house they belong to.

You might try using a meeting platform that incorporates game-like elements, quizzes and points-based leaderboards that tap into sellers’ natural competitive streak.

Engage in role-play

Role-play is the only opportunity for practicing critical sales tactics like presenting and closing in a controlled environment.

Hosting regular role-play workshops provides teams with an opportunity to sharpen their skills, get specific feedback and improve their sales pitches. Each week you might focus on a particular skill–think sales presentation tactics, asking qualifying questions or overcoming objections.

Solve problems as a team

While salespeople are known for their competitive streak, teams are more successful when sellers work together—hence the rise of account-based marketing (ABM).

Encourage sellers to be open about their challenges, and use meetings as an opportunity to share best practices.

Allow individuals to tell the group about a deal they’re struggling with or a recent loss. Then, ask the rest of the team to weigh in with solutions. How did they overcome a similar situation? What tactics work best for this type of prospect?

If you’re leading the meeting, you might need to get the ball rolling and call on reps to share their input, however, once sellers start weighing in, the team will quickly begin to engage in discussion.

Use a timer to keep the meeting on track, and at the end of this exercise, take a vote on the best course of action and get a commitment from the rep with the problem.

Additionally, you might try breaking the team into smaller groups to help them stay engaged. If the group is too large, sellers are likely to check out while others are talking.

Bring in outside speakers

Bringing in some outside speakers can help frame critical topics in a whole new light.
You might invite a subject matter expert that operates in the industry your customers work in, a sales expert or even one of your customers.

While sales experts might lead an exercise or give a speech, customers and SMEs will bring more value to the table if you use this as an opportunity for sellers to ask questions and engage them in discussion.

Don’t forget the next steps

As with any sales interaction, you’ll never want to leave without pointing your audience toward a clear “call-to-action.”

You’ll want to make sure that your team leaves the meeting feeling energized and motivated to knock their next deal out of the park.

Be sure to address what you want sellers to achieve as a group. What actions can they take to work collaboratively toward hitting their sales goals?

You’ll also want to help individual sellers hit their targets by giving them a specific, actionable goal after sharing personal updates.

These goals might include booking X amount of calls with a decision-maker, increasing revenue generated through upsells, or improving their outreach strategies to improve response rates.

Finally, you’ll want to motivate sellers by making it easy for them to work toward their goals. Provide clear, focused next steps, so there’s no question about how they should move forward.

Final thoughts

While the statistics might seem grim, sales meetings don’t have to be a dreaded obligation.

With a bit of planning, a purpose-driven agenda and an interactive format, meetings become an opportunity to master new strategies, share ideas and drive continuous improvements.

Give your team clear, achievable goals based on the topics you discussed, and always end on a positive note.