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At the end of a meeting, have you ever said to yourself, “That was a total waste of time. It could have been an email.” You likely have, since, according to MIT Sloan Management Review, only around 50% of meeting time is effective, well-used, and engaging.
That’s a sobering thought because the impact of ineffective sales meetings extends far beyond wasted time.
One of the many roles of sales managers is to lead team meetings that help build high-performing sales teams. New research found that top-performing sales managers are 42% more likely than other managers to excel at leading valuable sales team meetings.
Furthermore, how a sales manager is perceived as a meeting leader contributes significantly to the team’s overall confidence in their manager.
When sales managers aren’t successful here, the team’s performance suffers. This translates into lower win rates, more deals lost to competitors or no decision, and missed targets.
Plenty of books, university-level courses and other resources promise to teach you how to run successful meetings. But like many topics in business, the secret to success is to do a common thing uncommonly well.
To run successful sales team meetings, you must do these nine things:
1. Create attendee value
Your meetings may be valuable to you. You get what you need, find out what’s going on and drive the actions you want. But to get these outcomes, you must make sure people want to attend your meetings. For that to happen, give your attendees value in every meeting.
One way to do this is to think through “Learn, Feel, Do” before the meeting.
What do you want attendees to learn? If they get something valuable, they’ll keep coming back.
What do you want attendees to feel? Is it motivation to succeed? Pride in their achievements? Confidence in you? Encouragement to step up and perform?
What do you want attendees to do? This may be something general, such as staying on top of their plans to hit their targets or something meeting-specific, such as completing a particular action item.
2. Have objectives and an agenda
You don’t want people wondering what the meeting is about. Make sure you explain the importance of it in a sentence or two. Objectives and an agenda provide a compass and roadmap for successful meetings.
This doesn’t mean meetings need to be rigid. For instance, you might set aside some time to brainstorm a particular topic. But people need to know in advance the purpose of the meeting and what you’ll be covering. Anything that could be covered in an email, a call or a video is often better done that way.
3. Manage meeting hygiene
Start on time, end on time, make sure your technology is set up and working ahead of time — have a plan B for what to do if something stops working and so on.
And if you don’t need all the allocated time, release people and gift them their time back. They will thank you for it!
4. Grab and maintain engagement
As the leader, it’s up to you to grab attention at the beginning and maintain it throughout. Remember to:
Start well: Use an icebreaker. Engage people early. Tell a quick story. Do something to start the meeting with good energy.
Involve people: The more a meeting is collaborative and has multiple voices, the more engaging it tends to be.
Remember the 30 + 3 rule: You have about 30 seconds to grab engagement at the beginning of a meeting, and you need to ensure it stays high every three minutes — especially in virtual meetings.
Take notes: If it’s an in-person meeting, use a whiteboard or flip chart. In virtual meetings, screen journal key points. It’ll help keep people’s focus.
5. Stay MOSTLY on track
As the leader, it’s up to you to ensure the meeting stays on track. Assuming you have an agenda, you can always say, “I’m going to stop here to make sure we’re able to cover everything on the agenda.”
Meeting leaders that don’t do this allow others to divert the discussion, taking time away from critical topics. But be careful not to embarrass the off-topic person. Just jump in and keep the meeting going. Do it right, and you’ll gain the confidence of all the attendees.
6. Facilitate, collaborate, and be inclusive
Successful meetings are interactive. Facilitate. Ask questions. Draw out the discussion. Include team interaction.
Before the meeting, give people roles to play or things to contribute. Allowing people time to prepare is helpful for any introverts on your team. Collaboration and interaction help make meetings more successful and engaging.
At the same time, remember that meetings are a status arena. When people have roles, share ideas, ask questions and are involved, it builds their brand and reputation. Give people space to do this, and you’ll have a high-performing and engaged team.
7. Motivate (and don’t demotivate)
Research shows that the No. 1 capability of top-performing sales managers is motivating the team to achieve top performance. Give positive feedback, and highlight successes in meetings. When you do this, you increase motivation.
Be careful not to demotivate. This doesn’t mean you can’t dive into problems and challenges — you can — but build a safe space where people can say what’s on their minds and feel they won’t be attacked or judged harshly. Otherwise, they won’t participate in your meetings. Focus on issues, not people, when discussing problems. Save critical feedback for one-on-ones.
8. Be prepared, and show you’re prepared
Imagine yourself as an attendee at a meeting. The leader shows up somewhat frazzled from previous meetings, shuffles through notes for a reminder of what this meeting is about, and then says, “Okay, what’s on people’s minds for today to cover?”
Imagine the leader shows up on time as usual, has the agenda posted for attendees, and then says, “Okay, folks, for today, I’d like to start with a question” — and then engages the team on something worthwhile before moving into a set agenda with ease and efficiency.
Most people get value from the second type of meeting, but not the first. And most people have high confidence and opinions of the second type of meeting leader, but not the first. If you are prepared and come across prepared, you put yourself in a stronger position to lead the team.
9. Finish with actions, drive accountability
Finally, finish with actions and then drive accountability. Often, meetings result in action items: something important needs to get done, someone volunteers to do it, and you set a timeframe for it.
Conclude your meetings consistently with a summary of actions — including what, who and when — and then review them at the next meeting. If you need to, follow up with an email after the meeting to help keep the team on track.
Of course, within these nine keys to effective meeting leadership, there’s more to learn, think about and explore. However, if you keep these nine points in mind, your meetings, and your teams’ performance, will be more successful.