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Friday, 30 December 2011

The Problem with Sales Meetings......

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Some while ago I wrote a short piece on the problem with board meetings, following work with recent clients it seems that there is also problems with sales meetings. Let me recount recent experiences to illustrate what I mean. The meeting starts well and their is an Agenda of sorts. What happens next is that a member of the team is asked to describe what they have done for the preceding month. There follows a long rambling commentary about how busy they have been and what opportunities their are and a volley of reasons why they haven't sold us much as they thought. This monologue took about 20 minutes.
Image by Nils Geylen via Flickr

The next member of the sales team them repeated the process with one objective in mind; to spend more time talking that the person before him. Repeat that four times and your have a very long sales meeting. In the worst case it was 6 hours, yes, 6 hours I kid you not. Worst still, at least from my point of view, was that very little valuable information was provided either to management or from management. It was also clear that the sales team saw the meeting as largely a waste of time, and at 6 hours who can blame them. Having said that the sales team were also part of the problem.

Sales people by definition quite hard to manage. This is because they are trained to handle objections (management questioning) and get around obstacles (management questions and reporting). Put another way without a strong focus its difficult to put sales people on the spot. Except of course when they've just made a big sale and then of course they will remind you at every turn. We shouldn't criticise but simply understand that this is the nature of sales people and we just have to learn to manage it. 

So the problem with sales meeting is that they are run by managers who are not trained as sales managers and who have to deal with trained sales people. In many cases it's just an unfair fight. The result is often that sales people don't treat the meeting with the respect it deserves and take advantage of their managers' lack of experience. This is not universal but in my experience it is a common situation.

So if you fall in this category as a manager/owner what can you do about it?

It all starts with asking the right questions. Sales meeting reporting need to be precise and unequivocal. By that I mean getting information from your sales people that is binary either a yes or no. So to keep control of a sales meeting its best to get your sales people to report on items such as business won in the month business lost in the month and business expected to close in the next month (or weekly depending on your sales cycle). 

Getting sales people to report on numbers makes it easier for you to understand what is really going on. It also leaves much less wriggle room about what has or hasn't been achieved. As a manager/owner you will have a target for monthly sales you need to know  are they being achieved and if so is thee significant over or under achievement. Depending on the answer, which by the way can be identified from the reports, you will know what kinds of questions to ask. It also means you can get through the meeting more rapidly because it becomes a Q&A session rather than a series on monologues. Further it will be easier to identify actions to take place before the next meeting thereby providing focus for future meetings and making it easier for you to stay in control.

You can get a sample of reporting formats I've been discussing by clicking here and downloading them.

Exigent Consulting provides specialist services for High Growth Business Business Turnaround, and Mentoring to the Small and Medium Business. We help Business Owners improve the profit performance of their business. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree, and I also think it helps to choose entertaining venue for sales meetingsthat can provide some excitement and good entertainment nearby :)