Eliminating Unproductive Sales Meetings

Eliminate Unproductive Sales Meetings

Most sales reps groan, “Here we go again” at the thought of another sales meeting. “Another sales meeting? We just had one on Monday. How much has changed since our last meeting?” Yet again, another hour that will be lost forever once the sales meeting finally concludes. Unproductive sales meetings cause both sales leaders and sales reps frustration and annoyance. Worse, bad sales meetings can cause aggravation and require hours for sales reps to recover from. If you’re in sales and looking to maximize the effectiveness of your sales meetings, this article is for you. We will explore the causes of poor sales meetings and what you can do today to turn your ordinary sales meeting into highly productive sales collaborations.

Cost of a Bad Sales Meetings

As a sales leader, have you ever taken the time to calculate the cost of an hour-long sales meeting with your sales team? Let’s do the math for a small team of 10 sales reps. If the average annual salary is $75,000, based on a 40-hour work week, that’s around $36 per hour. Multiply that by the ten sales reps and the sales meeting costs the organization a minimum of $360 per hour. And this does not include the time of the sales manager or sales operation and support staff.   

Without a doubt, sales meetings represent a significant investment for every organization. But the cost of a bad sales meeting goes beyond time and money. A bad sales meeting can negatively impact the morale and motivation of the entire sales organization. In addition, sales leaders who regularly hold unproductive sales meetings lose credibility and influence with their sales team. This results in higher turnover and attrition for the sales department. Like Jason Fried said, “Meetings should be like salt – a spice sprinkled carefully to enhance a dish, not poured recklessly over every forkful. Too much salt destroys a dish. Too many meetings destroy morale and motivation.”

Definition of a Bad Sales Meeting

Bad sales meetings have a few characteristics in common. First, they don’t start on time. They also don’t end on time and rarely have a defined agenda. Most sales meetings start late. My definition of late is a sales meeting that starts one minute after the scheduled meeting. From experience, most sales meetings start five minutes or longer after the scheduled time, allowing stragglers to enter in while everyone else fills their coffee cups. The fact of the matter is that sales meetings that don’t start on time are a form of “time theft” and should be looked on as someone stealing office equipment from the company. However, office equipment can be replaced, lost time can’t. 

The obvious outcome of starting a sales meeting late is that it will end late. If you’ve ever been in a sales meeting which you anticipated would end at a specific time, only to have it extend past the allotted time, every minute feels like an eternity. Worse, you are distracted by what you could be doing and not entirely focused on the information being shared. Consequently, the next time you are required to attend a meeting conducted by the same individual, your attitude is based on the previous interaction. Hence, the words “time-suck,” “deja-vu,” and “this meeting could have been an email.” When sales leaders schedule meetings, it should not be viewed as a trip to the dentist’s office. That’s the definition of a bad sales meeting. Unfortunately, bad sales meetings have become normal, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

The Productive Sales Meeting

As sales experts, we’ve heard our fair share of complaints from sales reps about sales meetings. Two complaints we’ve never heard from a sales rep are, “I wish we could have longer sales meetings” or “I wish we could have more sales meetings.” Brevity in a sales meeting is a virtue and better for all parties involved. There’s a common saying, “The longer the sales meeting, the less it accomplishes.” 

Frequent sales meetings, on the other hand, are an indication of the sales leader’s poor organizational skills. Peter Drucker, the creator of management consulting, said, “The fewer meetings the better.” Said another way for sales leaders, the first thing we can do to improve our sales meeting outcomes is to have less sales meetings. Similar to leads and prospecting, think quality over quantity. Many new sales leaders feel compelled to schedule a meeting to share updates and new information. Veteran sales leaders can use frequent meetings as a source of power. Either way, these “gatherings” lose their value the more often they occur. 

No Sales Meeting Without an Agenda

We’ve all been there. A sales meeting is called with no notice and quickly branches into different topics. By the time you leave the sales meeting, you’re asking yourself, “What was that meeting about?” To be productive, sales meetings should be scheduled well in advance with a detailed agenda. The agenda could be an exchange of ideas and information, to set priorities or for collaboration. What the sales meeting should never be is a data dump or a gripe session. The best sales meetings are focused on problem solving. In modern selling, sales reps are coached to put the customers’ needs first. This is good advice for sales leaders when scheduling sales meetings. Sales leaders can ask themselves this question: “When the meeting is scheduled, what can the sales reps take from the meeting that will positively impact their performance?”

Without a detailed agenda, sales meetings quickly lose focus, waste time, and result in unproductive meetings. New sales leaders are often guilty of this common mistake. For example, their direct supervisor shares a new piece of company information, and the first thing the sales leader does is schedule a meeting. However, by rushing into a meeting without a detailed agenda, they are perpetuating the meeting habit. For the new sales leader, it feels like work. We think we are being productive, but in reality we are being reactive. Remember these words — no agenda, no meeting. No exception. When the agenda is vague or non-existent, the longer the meeting, the greater the confusion. Last year, we published an article, 5 Essential Steps to Ensure a Successful Sales Meeting, which outlines setting an agenda, which is worth reviewing for new sales leaders.

Perfect Length of Sales Meeting

There is plenty of debate online about the optimal length of the sales meeting. Some experts say it should be no longer than 15 minutes. Others say that 30 minutes is the ideal length. The answer that makes the most sense is as long as necessary and as brief as possible. Why would you want to spend 15 minutes in a meeting for something that could be communicated in five minutes? Alternatively, you definitely don’t want to squeeze a 30-minute meeting into a 15-minute time slot. The optimal meeting duration is a myth. Having a one-size-fits-all timeline for meetings is always, by definition, less than optimal. Deadlines drive decisions, so schedule the meeting with the minimum amount of time necessary to accomplish the objective and then stick to the schedule.

Invest in Your Sales Meetings

Why should sales leaders treat sales meetings as an investment? Because the best sales reps know (or at least should know) that in sales, time is money. And to maximize their sales performance, they do not have a minute to waste. Sales reps don’t want to spend time in meetings, but they will want to invest time if they believe the meeting will provide a return on their investment. But most sales leaders don’t treat their sales meetings as an investment. Hence, sales reps feel like they are sacrificing their most valuable resource, time. This leads to motivation and moral issues, as we mentioned earlier, which are symptoms of bad sales meetings. Sales leaders can respect their report’s time and treat every sales meeting as if the sales rep is making a financial investment because, in truth, they are. When sales leaders view their sales meetings from an investment perspective, they become stewards and not just managers. The difference is profound. 

In Conclusion

A productive sales meeting is an exercise in leadership. Unproductive sales meetings are expensive both in terms of time and money. When sales leaders disregard the sales reps’ time, reps become frustrated and demotivated which increases turnover in the sales department. When sales leaders fully embrace the investment mindset, they become steward of their attendee’s time, and the value of their sales meeting will increase. To further increase value, sales leaders can have shorter and less frequent sales meetings. Finally, having an agenda is mandatory for every sales meeting. This means sales meetings require effort and planning, not impromptu gatherings. When sales leaders conduct meetings following the approaches covered in the article, every meeting is an opportunity to expand the sales team’s success. And when you think about it, that’s the best reason to have a sales meeting. Just remember, fixing unproductive meetings requires commitment. The goal is not to eliminate sales meetings, although many sales reps likely will wish for that. The goal is to eliminate unproductive and bad sales meetings.