Sales Management Digest

How to Get More out of Your Sales Meetings
Gerhard Gschwandtner
To realize more sales out of sales meetings, encourage active participation in the meeting process. Here is a step-by-step plan to make your next sales meeting more active and, therefore, more productive.

1. Plan the meeting around a specific theme. Meetings without a specific theme are like cameras without a lens. After a meeting with a well-focused theme, your salespeople will leave with a clear picture of what you want them to accomplish.

2. Don't allow the meeting to turn into a gripe session. To avoid this, clearly specify the purpose of the meeting, explain the need for sticking to the agenda, and offer a brief time slot following the meeting for those few salespeople who need to discuss special problems.

4. Build a strong defense. Here is a paradox that has puzzled many sales managers: when you ask salespeople about their low performances, they, in turn, ask you for ideas on what to do about their problems. When you tell them how to deal with their problems, they attack you and tell you that your advice is useless. Effective leaders don't give away solutions; instead, they ask questions that lead group members to solve their own problems. For example, if salespeople complain about tough price objections, don't volunteer your answer. Ask, "Who in this group can answer this one effectively?"

5. Help co-create winning ideas. Use your meeting to sell your salespeople on your ideas by letting them think the ideas are theirs in the first place. For example, if you want your salespeople to increase their prospecting activity by 30 percent, split your group into three subgroups and give each subgroup a different assignment. Group "A" should discuss 10 new ways to find new prospects, Group "B" should discuss the best techniques for asking existing customers for new leads, and Group "C" should calculate the impact on sales if every salesperson in the group were to obtain 30 percent more leads.

6. Change your meeting pace every 20 minutes. Prepare a meeting agenda that forces your salespeople to alternately perform four different mental activities: listening, speaking, thinking, and acting. If you leave your group in any one of these four basic modes for too long, productivity will drop dramatically. To get optimum results, balance your timetable so that you will have a 20-minute presentation, a 20-minute feedback period, a 20-minute case study, and a 20-minute role play.

7. Follow up. Positive memories spark positive results. During your sales meeting, collect and record all valuable ideas, and type up a brief summary of key ideas. Be sure to distribute these summaries no later than three days after the meeting. At your next meeting, ask your salespeople how the summary has helped them. Meetings should never be routine or boring. They should solve problems, increase profits, produce results – or be cancelled.

Remember, your attitude as the leader determines the degree of participation you'll get from the group. The more authoritarian your behavior, the less your salespeople will engage in a give-and-take discussion. To get active participation, give up your role as the teacher and step into the role of the student who wants to learn from the wisdom of the group. If you ask questions with sincerity while giving your group valid reasons for answering your questions, you'll tap into a gold mine of profitable information.
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