Beating Meetings

By Heather Baldwin

Do you feel you spend more time coordinating or attending meetings than you do managing salespeople or selling? If so, you’re not alone. Meetings are the bane of many companies, not only because they sap time and energy but also because that time away from selling often equates to major dollar losses. So what can you do about it? Sharon Lippincott, in her book, Meetings: Do’s, Don’ts and Donuts (Lighthouse Point Press, 1999), offers six alternatives to holding meetings:

Phone Calls – Need advice, opinions or information from just two or three people? Pick up the phone and talk to each of them. You may well get what you need without tying up a larger group whose input is not necessary. When those two or three people are in dispersed locations and talking with them simultaneously is critical, plan a conference call. You won’t escape the meeting, but reps at the outstations will avoid some driving time.

Memos or Letters – Sometimes the best way to provide information to people is simply to write it down. For instance, rather than hold a meeting about a new procedure for entering information into your SFA system, put it on paper and distribute it. Not only will reps avoid time in a meeting, they’ll have a permanent guide for meeting the new requirements.

Water-Cooler Conversations – “Bumping into people in the lunchroom, hallway or health club can yield a wealth of information that might be difficult to obtain in a meeting,” says Lippincott. Why? Most people are more at ease offering ideas in a casual one-on-one environment than in the formal, public atmosphere of a meeting. Additionally, people are inclined to follow the politically correct majority opinion when in a group setting, a tendency that inhibits effective, thoughtful decision-making.

Remote-Location Brainstorming – When input on ideas is needed from multiple people, try distributing lists of those ideas and asking for written feedback. Reps can work on the task as they have time throughout the day and you’ll wind up with pages full of documented responses.

Delegate – Do you really need to be the one to handle the issue for which you’re thinking about calling a meeting? Or would it be better taken care of by someone else? Delegate tasks when possible.

Do It Yourself – If it’s an issue you can, and possibly should, handle without input, why waste others’ time meeting about it? Make a decision and go with it.