How to Stop Sales Meetings From Being a Huge Time Suck
Join Entrepreneur's The Goal Standard Challenge and make 2017 yours. Learn more »
Often, in startup environments, employees actually look forward to the weekly sales call. The team is small and super focused, meaning everyone knows what others are working on and no time is wasted. Instead, the team spends their time as they should: strategizing, problem solving, brainstorming next steps and sharing best practices to move deals along.
But as the company and the sales team grow, the weekly sales meeting begins to devolve. Instead of a free-flowing strategy session, the weekly call becomes an interrogation session, with the manager quizzing the salesperson about their deals and everyone else listening on mute. Adding insult to injury, blame for the call’s inefficiency often falls squarely on the sales rep: “If the reps would just keep the CRM system updated, we’d have such great visibility!” say sales operations folks.
But really, selling is the sales rep’s job, and whatever time is spent updating a CRM system is time away from selling. That said, entering data is still an important and necessary element in their jobs. So, Monday through Friday, sales reps go to meetings with prospects and hold sales meetings. By the end of the week — with an eye keenly focused on preparing for the following Monday’s weekly sales meeting — reps grudgingly type notes into their CRM system, trying to remember details of their meetings held throughout the week.
And here comes another Monday, another weekly sales meeting. Once again, the call is a tedious retread of what’s already old news, with precious little time to plan, strategize and delight in the anticipation of a win. Is there any hope for the weekly sales meeting? Absolutely. You just need to refocus. So how do we get the weekly sales meeting back on track? There are two main approaches:
Continuous activity data from the sales reps, so they don’t have to spend Sunday night filling out CRM forms or do a complete play-by-play in the weekly sales meeting.
Reports on that activity for the boss, so she can use the weekly sales call to coach, not interrogate, the team
To achieve both of these, sales teams need technology that fits the way they work. Sales reps simply don’t have the desire or time to input the minutiae of each meeting with a prospect. But if the information was automatically collected from disparate sources -- such as the calendar and email on a rep’s mobile phone -- and if better tools could automatically mine that data for the context, we’d get an automated stream of activity data that they could augment with meaningful notes.
To accomplish the second, we can take a page from, of all places, engineering management. Large engineering teams have the same problem: If they spend all their time telling each other what they are doing, they’ll have no time to actually work. Engineering managers developed the agile methodology to leverage the power of continuous feedback. This approach is basically a conceptual framework that focuses on delivering working software with the minimum amount of work. Because software is shipped frequently, using this approach ensures that mistakes will continuously be brought to the attention of engineers and addressed more quickly. This idea of continuous feedback is alien to sales teams that can barely stay synchronized a few times a month but adopting it solves the communication breakdown that leads to an inefficient weekly sales meeting. For sales, continuous feedback means a steady stream of meeting details is funneled to sales managers, so weekly sales meeting conversations will instead be focused on strategy and ensuring sales reps’ success.
There is hope for the weekly sales meeting and the sales teams that must endure it. Recognizing that the weekly sales meeting is broken -- and more importantly, that it can be fixed -- is the first step to a reimagined weekly sales meeting. Then, with help from automation and by embracing a framework that supports continuous feedback, the weekly sales meeting can regain its shine and again become a valuable conversation for sales teams of any size.