Keeping a meeting interesting is something even the sharpest sales reps struggle with. Experts share a few tips on how to mix things up.
The sales meeting for some is a dreaded hours-long absence from the queue of voicemail and e-mail piling up at their desks. Especially in today's hyper-connected world, how do you keep your sales team's attention to communicate important updates without having them fiddling with their BlackBerrys under the table or daydreaming about a lunch break?
"It's something that more and more companies are struggling with," says Troy Scott, director of sales for RL Hudson, a maker of molded rubber and plastic products based in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. "In today's environment, everybody seems to be busier and busier than they have been. It's a bother to them. It's using up their time. They would rather go to a dentist and get a filling than spend time in a sales meeting."
Keeping a meeting interesting is a problem that often hurts team leaders who are trying to motivate sales staffs. Conference room experts share a few tips on how to spice up your sales meeting.
Spicing Up Your Sales Meeting: Keep It Short
One of the most common mistakes with sales meetings is trying to stuff too many items into a single meeting. Yes, you might only have a major company-wide sales meeting once a quarter or year, but still you must recognize that you can't cover every topic in a single meeting.
"They try to cram in far too much information in too short a time," says Kelley Robertson, president of The Robertson Training Group, which has worked with LG Electronics, Siemens, and Samsung. "They really try to get the biggest bang for the buck. It's not really productive."
Instead, you should be keeping your meetings short, efficient, and on point, especially if you hold meetings on a regular basis. This avoids repeating the same information over and over again in every meeting.
"Not many sales reps I know enjoy sitting in meeting," he says. "It just gets boring after a while."
To keep the meeting punchy and interesting, stay aware of the clock and never let your time run out, says Suzanne Bates, CEO and president of Bates Communications, which is based in Wellesley, Massachusetts. If you have multiple meetings scheduled, pick up where you left off and don't spend too much time rehashing old topics.
"Make sure every meeting you're advancing the conversation," she says.
Spicing Up Your Sales Meeting: Switch Up the Format
Scott Tapp, executive vice president for PGi, which specializes in virtual meetings, sums up how many professionals feel about the software that was once considered the centerpiece to any conference room.
"We think PowerPoints are terrible," he says.
Instead, PGi likes to use its innovative iMeet conferencing system to add a new level of interaction to the virtual meeting. The system allows users to integrate videos, audio, and other files directly into the virtual meeting. Users can even include links to Facebook and LinkedIn profiles on the same screen so all parties can learn more about each other.
"You're immediately allowing them to see who you are, not only on a professional level but also on a personal level," Tapp says. "You tend to pay more attention when you're using more of your senses."
Robertson says that when meeting with a sales team or large group, breaking up the seating is an easy way to make things more interesting. He recommends "banquet-style" seating with small pods of tables and the speaker up front.
"It fosters more communication, more activity," he says. "It gives you the opportunity as a sales leader to have individual groups work on projects."
Spicing Up Your Sales Meeting: Use Real-World Examples
When your audience drifts off and starts checking their BlackBerrys, you know you've lost them. The problem occurs, Bates says, when the front of the room hasn't thought about the audience. She recommends practicing "180 thinking," which means getting in the mind of the audience and thinking what they care about.
That involves asking lots of questions and keeping the crowd in the room involved in a dialogue. But it also means sharing case studies and war stories to bring the presentation to life.
"You're using a real-life scenario that everyone can relate to," Robertson says. "When people leave they've got a bigger toolbox of ideas and strategies they can use in the real world. They're leaving the meeting with something they can actually use."
Telling stories is an easy way to break up the rote meeting structure, too.
"The absolute best way to sell anything is to provide relevant examples of how you've helped people like them," Bates says. "If you can learn to tell a great story and create an arsenal of great stories, an anthology of great stores, you can use them in your presentation."
Spicing Up Your Sales Meeting: Engage on a Personal Level
Most experts say you should turn over at least a portion of your meeting to the sales team to hear from them directly.
Just that alone changes the dynamics of the sales meeting," Robertson says. "When people are involved, they pay more attention."
Scott says he always solicits feedback from everyone involved in the meeting while planning the content and agenda.
"If they have no input and no part in planning the meeting, its basically just an info dump for the sales people," he says. "They lose interest in the meeting."
Especially for long days that could consist of a series of meetings, it's important to break up the agenda a bit, which gives your sales team a chance to check e-mail and return phone calls. Scott also likes to leave his sales meeting with the enticing prospect of fun events outside the office: team building outings in the evenings or on the weekends, for instance.
"It can't be an eight-to-five meeting with a lunch break," he says.