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What you need to know to conduct powerful sales meetings

By John R. Treace

Designing a powerful sales meeting is not an easy task, but it is one of the most importantaspects of building and maintaining a high-velocity sales organization. The objective of all sales meetings should be to increase sales—period. That’s why we call them sales meetings. Entertaining the participants and having them leave full of enthusiasm is a good thing, but it should never overshadow the need to produce sales.

It is the sales management’s responsibility to be a good shepherd of corporate resources, so spending money without expecting a measurable return is not good business. Every high-performing salesperson who attends a meeting will be thinking, “Is this meeting making me money, or is my time being wasted?”

Mixed messages

A company’s high performers will usually produce at least 60% of the company’s revenues, so when you waste top salespeople’s time with poorly designed meetings, it sends several negative messages:

1. You are not considerate of employees’ time (high performers know that time is money), and

2. You do not understand the business, do not know what needs to be done to increase sales, and are wasting corporate resources.

If the sales team begins to suspect that you don’t know how to increase sales, morale will be negatively affected and team members will question their choice of employers. Additionally, salespeople are conscious of the way you spend company money, so seeing waste during ineffective meetings degrades their confidence in the company and makes them less considerate of protecting the corporate resources under their control.

Unproductive meetings also signal that you are not committed to excellence—and powerful salespeople don’t want to work for companies like that. They want to make money, want to focus their attention on that goal, and want to work for managers who are committed to being the best.

Develop a statement

With so much at stake in a sales meeting, how can you ensure that the meeting will bring value to the sales team and produce sales? The answer is simple, but the implementation is not: You need to develop a statement of strategic intent for the meeting, along with defined, time-sensitive metrics that will be used to measure the meeting’s success.

For example: You might say that the strategic intent of your meeting is to train representatives to sell X product, with the goal of 80% of them exceeding quota within 30 days of the meeting and maintaining that performance through the end of the year.

The challenge in developing a statement of strategic intent is in knowing what needs to be accomplished in the meeting to reach the required performance goal. The specifics must be laid out, and an aggressive but realistic performance goal must be defined. Carrying out this process takes a deep understanding of the business, the sales force, and the competition.

Powerful sales meetings driven by statements of strategic intent and clear objectives are at the core of powerful companies. Management teams that hold them regularly will always stay on top.

Five common afflictions

There are five common afflictions that affect many sales teams, each of which reduces morale and sales performance. They can be found to some degree in most almost every organization. Smart management teams are aware of these afflictions and work to avoid their potentially destructive impact.

Any one occurrence of these problems will not necessary hurt the sales effort, but if allowed to progress to extremes, or if multiple conditions exist at once, they can be extremely harmful.

•Affliction 1: Wasting sales representatives’ time. One prime affliction of sales teams is forcing them to spend time on non-sales tasks, such as making accounts receivable collections, managing product recalls, or filling out reports that do not directly relate to the sales process.

If you, for instance, divert 5% of a sales team’s time to managing customer collections, you effectively reduce the number of feet on the ground by the same amount—and the reverse is true as well.

Sometimes it’s necessary to assign non-sales tasks to salespeople, but before you do,  audit your sales process to determine whether the tasks could be assigned elsewhere. Finding as many ways as possible to remove unnecessary tasks from the sales team’s shoulders will result in sales increases that will more than pay for the adjustments in duties.

•Affliction 2: Poor sales meetings. Another affliction of sales teams is poor or boring sales meetings. Powerful salespeople are self-motivated, and they intuitively know if their time is being wasted. Again, the simple way to ensure effective sales meetings is to develop a statement of strategic intent that includes clear success metrics and defines in specific terms what needs to be accomplished and the metrics needed to determine whether the goals set in the meeting were accomplished. The bottom line is that powerful sales meetings produce sales and keep morale high.

•Affliction 3: Poor strategy. Ineffective marketing or sales strategies will always negatively impact the sales team. The sales team will recognize ineffective strategy and will lose faith in the managers who developed it. If the players on a sports team lose faith in the coaching, the path to winning will be difficult, if not impossible; the same is true with sales teams.

Don’t let lackluster or nonexistent strategy cause this lack of faith. A successful sales effort hinges on good strategy, and companies that fail in this regard severely handicap their sales teams.

•Affliction 4: Capping or reducing income. Powerful companies have managers who do not get envious when large paychecks go to the sales force. Managers who are resentful of this often respond to rising sales income by reducing commissions, capping earnings, reducing territories, or removing products. These are all practices to be avoided, as they destroy morale, which hurts sales.

When it is absolutely necessary to cap or reduce reps’ earnings, it must be done carefully. If it’s done carelessly, you will send the message that future earnings for the sales team have been limited.

Powerful salespeople want to leverage today’s efforts into greater sales and income for tomorrow. If their commissions are reduced, earnings capped, or territory removed, they will feel like that ability has been taken away, and the high performers will quickly look for employment elsewhere.

•Affliction 5: Favoritism. Everyone has favorites in life and that’s normal, but playing favorites with individuals on a sales team is very destructive. Salespeople want to work for companies that keep the playing field level for all. If select salespeople are given extra incentives, special attention, benefits, or favors not afforded others, you are sending a clear message that there is a privileged class within the team.

And that is one of the best ways to lessen team spirit, as reps will spend their time trying to move into that special class and not trying to close sales. You can’t buy the loyalty of a team by strengthening a small political power base within a company. Playing favorites within a sales team causes problems for all team members (even the favored ones), but keeping the playing field level will pay big dividends.

Wasting time, poor sales meetings, poor strategy, capping income, and playing favorites are, with few exceptions, situations to be avoided. They are destructive to morale and they lead to poor performance. Effective managers will be careful to avoid these situations, and astute salespeople will bring these practices to the attention of management for correction.

John R. Treace

John R. Treace has over 30 years’ experience as a sales executive in the medical products industry and in 2010 founded JR Treace & Associates, a sales management consulting business. He spent over 10 years specializing in the restructuring of sales departments of companies that were either bankrupt or failing. Investor groups and venture capital firms hired him to manage turnarounds of pre-IPO companies. He can be reached at 904-314-1442, john@treaceconsulting.com, or through www.treaceconsulting.com.


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