Are your internal sales meetings creating or killing revenue?

Internal meetings are the lifeblood of sales teams. When they work well, sales businesses hum. Consider the weekly sales meeting. Effective meetings lay out the core objectives for the coming week, give salespeople a chance to highlight the progress of important opportunities, and allow the manager to discuss tactics, make resourcing changes and assign key accountabilities.

When they are run poorly however, sales teams fall into a muddle; participants are unprepared, there’s confusion over who owns what and the discussion tends to veer off into less important or non-sales related topics – the proverbial waste of time.

How often do sales leaders get meetings right?

Our survey of 2,000 banking, financial services, FMCG and pharmaceutical salespeople reveals one overwhelming pattern – ‘not often’. The data shows the average salesperson spends 6.4 hours preparing and attending internal meetings each week. To test the perceived value of the meetings, we asked salespeople to estimate what percentage of time spent preparing and attending meetings was ‘highly productive, value adding’. To our surprise, the average salesperson answered with a lowly 45 per cent! This implies that more than half the time salespeople spend in meetings isn’t productive.

How much do ineffective meetings cost businesses? 

We believe there are 3 main costs to consider:

  1. Direct salary cost
    Salespeople are expensive, so having them sitting around in tedious meetings is obviously costly. The typical pharmaceutical representative attracts a wage of between $90-110K per year . If you do a crude hourly cost calculation based on 100 salespeople, the wasted meeting time adds up to at least $500,000 of underutilised sales wages each year! 
  2. Foregone sales revenue
    Alternatively, you could think of the cost in reduced sales activity and lower sales results. Imagine an emerging B2B enterprise in a large market with a number of well-established incumbents. The potential is there, but to persuade enough buyers to switch over from competitors, the business needs lots of sales labour. It will literally take thousands of hours of effort to target opportunities correctly, design solutions and meet and build relationships with buyers.

    In this situation, time is precious; the business can’t afford to squander any resources. But if the average salesperson loses 3.2 hours each week in meetings, and the business employs ten salespeople, that calculates to 32 hours of lost sales labour each week – the equivalent of an extra salesperson. Think of how many extra contacts or meaningful discussions the business could have if each salesperson was carrying out an extra 3 hours of proactive selling each week? It’s clear that no business can afford to waste so much of its selling time. 
  3. Low morale and engagement
    Everyone knows how frustrating it is when meetings discuss the same thing repeatedly or stray off agenda and descend into non-critical or irrelevant issues. Our research shows a significant correlation between low meeting effectiveness and low salesperson satisfaction, engagement and increased flight risk. The cost tends to play out through a dip in motivation and sales effort. At its zenith, people simply get fed up with the dysfunction and leave the business, triggering the long and expensive process of finding a replacement. On top of this is the cost of getting a new hire up to speed, which is usually a period of lower sales and lost time as the manager redirects focus on helping the new hire (there’s also the additional risk that the new hire will fail, triggering an entire new hiring process and increasing the potential cost). 

‚ÄčHow can you minimise ineffective meetings?

To maximise time spent selling, every business should review the number of meetings salespeople attend, with the end goal of removing as many duplicative or ineffective meetings as possible. The following 5 guidelines provide a checklist to help you boost the effectiveness of your meetings and generate more selling time:

  1. Establish a clear agenda
    If a meeting doesn’t have an explicit agenda, it should never go ahead. A good agenda is imperative because it lays out what needs to be done before and during a meeting and helps participants prepare and focus on the most important issues. If problems still occur during a meeting, such as disagreement over a key point, a well-designed agenda increases the team’s ability to address the problems or think about an alternative solution.
  2. Ensure integration between forums
    If a meeting is not integrated into the organisation-wide operating rhythm, it should be stopped. Modern-day sales businesses are complex and need to be managed systematically to ensure decisions are made and executed smoothly and waste is kept to a minimum.
  3. Maintain discipline around time
    If you can’t remove a non-essential meeting, try to at least reduce its length. Instead of 60 minutes, start with 30, or even 15, and aim to finish early. Be punctual. If people are slack and saunter in late or unprepared, call it out as unacceptable. Similarly, don’t schedule a meeting for something you can address with a phone call, and don’t make a phone call for something you can communicate via email. Time in sales businesses is invaluable, and it’s incumbent on everyone not to waste it.
  4. Get the right people in the room
    Before scheduling a meeting, always ask what the priorities are and who needs to be there. If someone is on the periphery or not absolutely necessary, don’t invite them. It’s important to control the size of your meeting and have key decision-makers in the room. Don’t fall into the trap of sending out blanket invites just because online calendars, scheduling apps and email distribution lists make it easy to do so. Inviting senior people to meetings they don’t need to attend is an absolute ‘no-no’.
  5. End with accountability
    Finally, don’t end a meeting without defining next steps, deadlines and individual responsibilities. Make sure you keep a record of who’s responsible for what — and by when. If the meeting uncovered items requiring further exploration, set up a time for a follow-up discussion. If you don’t, your meeting will most likely end up being ineffective.
These 5 steps should help all businesses reduce waste and get salespeople doing what they need to do – selling!

Worded by Chris Horn

Unlocking Sales Manager Coaching Impact
Unlocking Sales Manager Coaching Impact

Understand what Best Practice coaching looks like to accelerate frontline salesperson development and performance.