A VP’s 4 tips to running a successful sales meeting
Have you ever been to a sales meeting and thought to yourself, “Why are we here?” You sit and listen through a big spiel, but there’s no real rhyme or reason to the structure of the meeting.
Published September 10, 2020
Last updated December 13, 2021
We’ve all been there. A Harvard Business Review survey found that 71% of senior managers believed meetings were unproductive and inefficient.
For sales teams, unnecessary meetings with a bad agenda are especially damaging. Reps need as much space in their schedules as possible to communicate with prospects, so you don’t want to waste their time.
What is a sales meeting?
Before we get into what makes a sales meeting successful, let’s quickly define the term. A sales meeting is an internal gathering of sales professionals, leaders and practitioners, within a company. The goal is for leaders—a VP, a director, a sales manager—to communicate important ideas and updates.
Running an effective sales meeting can be a tall order, whether it’s a sales kickoff or an annual sales meeting. Especially as teams work remotely through a pandemic. But don’t worry, sales managers, there are some easy ways to stay ahead of the curve. Zendesk Sell VP Monica Telles breaks down how to run meetings that benefit you and your sales reps.
1. Use input from team members to inform your sales meetings
Before you have a team meeting with your salespeople, ask your reps what they want on the agenda. Schedule one-on-one chats, or send emails requesting specific discussion items, from customer challenges to other pain points, that you can cover in your meeting.
Opening up these communication channels not only informs you about how to support your team but also engages reps and boosts group morale.
Engage your team via brainstorm
One of the best ways for a sales leader to engage team members is to ask them to bring three examples of customer-related inquiries or challenges to your weekly sales meeting, such as an underwhelming attempt to make a case for a software change from the week. Bringing these examples to a meeting helps you identify any recurring themes and puts reps in charge of their personal development.
Not able to collect input beforehand? Ask which customer questions they’d like to discuss at the beginning of your meeting. By hearing from every rep, you might identify recurring customer issues on the spot that need to be addressed or put on the agenda for more training.
One of the best ways to get input from team members is to ask them to bring three examples of customer-related inquiries or challenges to the meeting.
If the customer-related inquiry or challenge doesn’t stretch across different team members, it could mean a rep is facing a more unique issue. In that case, you can make a note to follow up with reps individually after your meeting.
To gather input, it’s critical that you build a compassionate work environment, where team members feel comfortable speaking their minds. If you dismiss reps’ ideas, they’ll likely avoid sharing their thoughts in the future. Handle these inquiries with respect (no matter how big or small) and your team members will feel like you have their backs.
2. Start each meeting with a clear goal
Opening every sales meeting with your big-picture goal is a good way for a sales manager to focus the salespeople on a concrete outcome and help attendees know how to prepare for discussion. Use the SMART framework—smart, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—to set clear meeting objectives. Make sure goals fit each criterion before scheduling your meeting. For example, your meeting objective might be:
- Set specific sales KPIs for the team to track and measure
- Update the status of current sales projects
- Address individual and overall sales challenges the team is facing
Then, use these goals to help set your meeting up for success by sharing them with your team.
Bonus sales meeting tip: Track and celebrate wins
We have a separate Slack channel to track all wins as a team, and then we bring them to our all-hands sales meeting. A fun way to celebrate those team wins remotely is using any and all Giphys! Say, for example, you’re running a forecasting meeting.
- Make sure team members understand why you are calling the meeting
- Ask that they come prepared to talk about specific KPIs
- Then, open your meeting by reiterating: “Today we’re here to talk about our six-month client check-ins, with a focus on upselling rates, which is a KPI our team is working to raise this quarter. We’ll go over some scripts to help bring clients the most value from our paid features.”
3. Give your meetings a set structure
Making a timetable for your sales meetings clarifies the agenda and helps reps prepare for the discussion, which maximizes what you are able to accomplish together.
For regular sales meetings, like team check-ins with your direct reports, set a schedule that you use every week. Break your meeting into sections, and give each one a timestamp that you use as a guide to keeping meetings running efficiently.
Try reserving a couple of minutes at the end of each section to take questions, and make sure everyone is ready to move on. Even a simple “Is everyone on the same page?” ensures that your reps are aligned. This helps your salespeople focus on each topic as you discuss it, whereas holding on to questions and concerns until the end of the meeting can reduce attentiveness.
And don’t forget to periodically evaluate your meeting structure to find what works best for you and your group. If you always run over time on one section, make the space to expand it, or consider making it its own meeting topic. If your team is hesitant to speak, try instituting a two-minute icebreaker at the top.
Try asking reps for their opinions on your structure and suggestions for tweaks, in addition to making your own evaluations. They may have valuable insight into what is working and may have ideas to make things more valuable for them.
4. Be selective about your meeting invitees
There’s no good reason someone should be at a sales meeting if it doesn’t apply to them. They shouldn’t be stepping away from their work and feeling forced to join for the sake of waiting for one topic to be covered.
Minimize general meetings that cover a wide range of areas. They tend to be unfocused, and the invite list often includes people who don’t need to be there. In contrast, single-topic sales meetings are often easier to run, as everyone stays on track with one idea to discuss.
There’s no good reason someone should be at a sales meeting if the meeting topic doesn’t apply to them.
With a more selective invitee list, make sure that every attendee gets a chance to interact with other team members. Due to COVID-19, many people work remotely now, which makes these meetings all the more important. When you get people invested in one topic, let them bounce ideas off of each other to supplant random brainstorms you’d normally have working in a full office.
5. Empower universal participation
Encouraging participation throughout your sales meetings is key for getting reps to feel ownership of their learning. If your “meetings” consist of you, as a manager, monologuing for 20 minutes, with little interruption, they aren’t meetings––they’re presentations. And while some reps might be eager to speak up, getting universal participation can be much harder.
To help everyone feel empowered to take part:
- Institute a pause for 30 seconds before asking questions, which gives ample time for everyone to think.
- Request that different reps take ownership of providing examples or running the Q&A each week, allowing them to prepare beforehand.
- Give positive feedback when people speak up, which can be as simple as saying, “Thanks for your thoughtful comment” or “Great to hear your perspective on this” after a rep contributes.
- Ask open-ended questions to begin the discussion, which prompts people to share their thoughts.
Aiming for universal participation doesn’t mean that every single rep speaks for exactly the same length of time or with the same frequency in every meeting. It does mean encouraging people to participate and making sure everyone feels comfortable speaking up in sales meetings, generally. Making these practices a part of how you approach meetings will help make that happen.
6. Keep engagement up during remote work
If you are struggling to create Zoom meetings as engaging as real-life ones, you aren’t alone. And when employees are disengaged, your business suffers. Low team morale often means low productivity. Not to mention, the cost of employee turnover can range anywhere from 75-150% of their annual salary.
You can encourage engagement in your virtual meetings by offering different ways to participate, giving reps some unstructured time to chat, and taking advantage of the flexibility of the remote meeting.
Turning on the mic and speaking isn’t the only way your reps can get involved. Encourage your team to use the chat function to submit questions, add relevant resources, and respond with emojis throughout each section of the meeting to show they are following discussions.
You can also rotate a note-taker for a shared, virtual notes doc. This ensures that all reps take responsibility for helping their teammates throughout the month.
And try setting aside some time for small talk. As workplaces have gone remote, your reps may be feeling a little isolated from their team. Allowing a few minutes at the start or end of the meeting for casual check-ins and camaraderie goes a long way toward keeping your team engaged with each other and feeling like they are a part of your workplace.
Bonus sales meeting tip: seed the conversation
If you’re running a virtual sales meeting, ask questions prior to the meeting. Sometimes I will prep individuals with what I’m going to ask in a virtual meeting so they can think of a good response to promote deeper conversation.
For a one-on-one meeting, try allowing reps to call in by phone for a casual conversation away from the computer. Your remote reps are likely feeling Zoom fatigue, so they’ll probably appreciate having this flexibility.
You might even suggest they walk around the block to get some fresh air as you chat, or encourage them to make their favorite cup of tea or coffee to have while you do your weekly meeting. Giving reps options for their one-on-one chats can go a long way toward supporting your remote team.
7. Post-meeting best practices
There are a few simple things that sales managers can do after every meeting to keep everything with a sales force on track and maximize the impact of your discussions with reps.
Harvard Business Review recommends that managers take the time to reflect on the flow of each meeting right after it happens in order to evaluate their reps and themselves. Use this time to identify who did the most speaking, whether the same questions were repeated, and whether or not people seemed distracted.
As soon as possible, share any general follow-ups that may be needed, like links to additional resources and answers to questions you needed to think about. An easy way to do that is to reserve space at the top of your virtual notes doc for post-meeting items.
This post-meeting addendum to your shared notes can also be a space to reiterate what you heard from reps in your meeting to show that you are listening to them, or to strengthen the message you want to get across to your team. Especially after a difficult meeting, or one with low morale, adding a thoughtful line or two to your meeting recap can help your reps connect with your leadership.
Then, handle any action points that arose for you in the meeting—if you need to step in with a particular client or create a new learning resource for your team, do not wait to get the ball rolling.
Finally, do individual follow-ups. If a rep shared an example that demanded more attention, for example, contact them by EOD to schedule a time to chat. But also check in with reps who seemed uncharacteristically quiet, distracted, or worried. You can head off potential problems this way, and reps knowing their manager is keeping an eye out for them is good for team rapport.
Stay flexible with sales meetings
Sales meetings require structure, but the order doesn’t have to remain static. Feel free to adapt your sales meetings based on your team members’ schedules and workloads.
This flexibility is especially important when your sales team is busy and stressed. Check in individually with your team members to see how they’re doing, and gauge whether a calendar invite will add to their anxiety. Approaching meetings with this compassion can go a long way toward making your reps feel supported.