How To Run The Meetings You Actually Need For Sales
How to run the meetings you actually need for sales?
If you lead a team and you’re not familiar with the concept of maker time vs. manager time, it’s worth digging into. It’ll help you think through how to divvy up days for your people based on their work.
Recently, I worked with a company where manager time drove everything. So meetings occurred constantly. There were meetings about accounts, team structures, board prep, messaging, and more. And all were more or less necessary. But calendars were dotted with non-selling meetings, squeezing the time that should’ve been spent, well, selling.
Yes, salespeople are makers who often need dedicated chunks of time to prospect, prepare for sales calls, run those calls, and more. But their schedules are often structured by others into manager time, and as a result, they’re full of meetings upon meetings.
There are one-off meetings that are useful, for sure, as it pertains to sales. Customer feedback; product development; collaboration with marketing on an initiative; and more. But too often, salespeople are in meetings that are counterproductive and wasting time.
At a base level, a company with a sales organization needs only a few regular meetings for the reps. Yes, more can be added, but only as absolutely necessary.
Let’s look at what those core meetings are, and what needs to happen in each one to prevent it from being a waste of time.
The Weekly Meeting
Purpose: Information sharing; coordination; accountability
Estimated time needed: 1 hour or less
Most organizations need some form of regular communication with the group. And no, an email won’t do it, nor will Slack. Isn’t electronic communication enough of an issue with prospects?
When we work as consultants or fractional sales leaders with companies, the way we set up or run weekly meetings is straightforward. After pleasantries and catching up some highlights personally, we dig into the results of activity.
- What did you add to the pipeline last week?
- What advanced in the pipeline last week?
- What closed (lost or won) last week?
Now, not every company’s market or sales cycle lends itself to having a complete update on each of those each week. But let’s be really honest: outside of very long, very complex enterprise sales where a rep is expected to only close 1-3 deals per year, most productive reps *should* have something to bring to the table on each of those.
Quick note: we discuss this rather than read from a CRM because it forces a form of accountability with a manager and the broader team. If Sarah always has new opportunities, is advancing deals, and is closing won or closing lost something, and I have a lot of excuses, I can’t hide.
This line of questioning also trains the team to think the way we want them to: find new deals, advance deals, close deals.
The next section involves both accountability and an opportunity to coordinate any logistics needed for managers with reps, or team selling. We ask, “What are you doing this week?”
The wrong answer is, “Making some calls” or “going through tasks in Salesforce.” “I’ve got some meetings” is also unacceptable.
We are looking for, “I’ve got X prospecting calls to make. I’ve got 2 introductory meetings. I have one qualification meeting with prospect Y.” Etc… Specifics are mandatory here.
We then have managers dig into the pipeline – at a high level – of a few opportunities.
- What’s your opportunity closest to close? We always ask, “What’s the next step?” and, “Why this one?”
- What’s your newest opportunity? It’s usually answered in the first section about what’s been added to the pipeline.
- What’s your largest opportunity? Again, this one can overlap with a previous question, but it helps to dig into where the outsized return may lie.
If there are calls for help, we take them here, but try to keep them brief and focused. If coaching can be done there, we do it, but it’s often a, “Let’s set up a time to go over that.” (And no, this isn’t getting into manager time mode, but trying to avoid longer discussions as attention spans expire.)
Any announcements need to be made here, whether about upcoming trainings, product updates, company events, or something else.
The Pipeline Review
Purpose: Clarity for forecasting; coaching; process enforcement; accountability
Estimated time needed: Varies by pipeline volume and team size
First, the assumption here is that you’re not running a pipeline meeting for transactional sales that come in and close on the same day. This could be higher-ticket B2C sales, or at least 2-10 week B2B sales cycles.
The general rule of thumb on this meeting’s frequency is monthly. It could be as frequent as every other week in some cases, but not less frequently than monthly.
This is not a time to tell great stories. This is a time to engage in some quick, arthroscopic exploratory surgery on the pipeline.
Here’s how we run it.
We ask reps to put the opportunities they’re working on in segments of time to close. It’s often broken into 2 or 4 week chunks like “2 Weeks to Close,” “30 Days to Close,” “60 Days to Close,” etc….
They list the opportunity, the name and title of their contact, their source on the deal (which reveals quite a bit as you go through the pipe, and/or meet regularly over time), why this prospect wants or needs what we have, and what the next step is.
By forcing them to efficiently answer these questions, we’re reinforcing what’s important: getting to the right person, finding compelling reasons to work together, and securing real next steps.
If they cannot quickly and succinctly answer any of these questions, we have them kick the deal back at least 30 days.
Here’s what we don’t want in these meetings:
“Well, I heard….”
“It seems like…”
“So my contact and I were having beers at the conference, and he thinks….”
“I told them…..”
We are looking for something like the following. “Acme Corp. Our contact is Shari Smith. She’s the CTO there. I called on her after I read about the recent event Acme Corp had. She wants our data analysis tool because their internal team is missing key information their clients need. She estimates the lost opportunity last year topped $4 million. We have a scoping call next week, Tuesday, at 10 am, to review budgets, timelines and what they need to make this work.”
It can happen. Sales reps can and will respond to this sort of rhythm and information exchange, if management will stick to the game plan of running this type of meeting.
Oh, we open these meetings to anyone in management who wants to attend.
And let the reps know ahead of time that we believe they’re good, we know they’re working hard, and they are valued, but that we won’t be saying those things in this meeting.
This meeting is non-negotiable. Reps make this meeting, rain or shine, busy or slow.
Purpose: Coaching; accountability (there it is again!); mentoring; deal preparation and review
Estimated time needed: 30-60 minutes
There’s a reason why we encourage managers not to have more than 6 direct reports. Holding 6 of these for one hour each, plus the attendant prep required, would be 20% of one manager’s week.
There’s also sales calls to go on. There are training sessions. There’s hiring and onboarding to do. There’s coaching that comes up throughout the week.
The 1:1 is not simply a review of the numbers. I’ve seen managers who just go over their rep’s numbers, ask a token question, tell the rep something to do differently, and document the action item given.
We want the manager to ask the rep about the prior week: what happened? This is distinct from the quick hitting weekly meeting’s activity review. We want the rep to elaborate so we can hear what they’re thinking about and HOW they’re thinking.
We ask them what they’re working on now and doing this week. Again, we want elaboration. Whom they’re talking to, when, what their plan is for that meeting.
At this point, the manager should be digging into those opportunities and with the rep, ensuring there’s a clear plan for the call going in.
If we’ll listen, we’re learn a great deal. The challenge for most managers is to say less and listen more. The thought is, “Well, I’m clearly here to help others get better, so I need to tell them something.” But it’s much better if the rep sees the manager model great listening and questioning. It’s also much better if the manager gets a great sense of what is really going on with their direct report.
Simulation or role play of the upcoming call is a part of any effective 1:1, and the manager can here do this with the rep.
The manager then asks, “How are you doing toward your goals?” The conversation should then focus on what the rep is doing to either stay on track and possibly get ahead, or do to catch up.
By the way, this meeting, like the Pipeline Review, is non-negotiable. It trumps any sales call.
Bonus: The Huddle
Purpose: Clear communication; culture-building; accountability
Estimated time: 5-15 minutes
The daily huddle was popularized by Gazelles and The Rockefeller Habits. I’m a big fan. Want it installed? Reach out to Rob Lynch of Burst Consulting.
Depending on your team, their structural makeup, your customer, sales cycle, and culture, you may need to implement one of these.
I’ve seen them used effectively in various forms: daily, 5 times per week; 3 times per week; and daily with the exception of Fridays (hey, in Austin, some people take Fridays off, sort of like classes in college).
One of the best things for a young company is that it keeps everyone truly on the same page in ways that Slack or Teams cannot.
One of the best things for a larger, and potentially distributed company is that it keeps people from hiding what they are doing or need to do.
For high performance cultures, or those that aspire to perform at high levels, huddles are phenomenal. Just be warned – they’re not for people who like quick fixes, or to move on when the shine has worn off. It’s a daily commitment.
There are many meetings you can have. But a few are all you likely need. Start and enforce these here, and you’re building a foundation for continued sales success.
Want to learn more? Reach out at email@example.com