When you gather all your reps for a sales meeting, you’re taking away time they could have been closing deals. That’s why--especially in tough economic times--it’s vital that you make these meetings worthwhile, both for the reps and your company. Here are five tips to make the most of your sales meetings.


1. Set a clear objective.

When a top rep walks into a sales meeting, the first question he asks himself is “How is my time here going to increase my sales and make me money?” The biggest mistake sales managers make is not clearly answering that question, which leads to low engagement and frustration. To make the most of the meeting, establish your objective in advance and share it with all attendees. This objective should be very specific, and it should always relate to increasing sales. Here’s an example: “In this meeting, we’ll teach all sales representatives to sell XYZ product. We’ll know we have been successful when 90 percent of our reps make quota within thirty days of the meeting.” Once the goal has been set, keep the meeting laser-focused on it, so that each salesperson knows exactly why he’s there.


2. Give plenty of notice.

This seems like a common courtesy, but I’m always surprised by how little time some managers give their reps to prepare for a meeting. If you announce a sales meeting just before it’s scheduled to take place, you’ll often intrude on reps’ schedules, potentially decreasing their sales. In the meeting, these reps will be focused on how inconsiderate management is and on the appointments they had to break; they won’t be paying attention to what you have to say. Plus, good reps won't stick with a company that doesn’t respect their time.


3. Keep it short.

 Frequently, sales meetings drag on and on, spilling over into nights and weekends. Make sure that you are considerate of the time employees are spending away from their regular work and family. Cut out all the extraneous nonsense and stick closely to the objective. And if you have to hold the meeting over a weekend, acknowledge that you’re taking up time the rep would normally use to plan for the week and that you’re probably infringing on his personal life. Consider setting aside time at the meeting for reps to work on their call schedules, and, if possible, give each salesperson a gift in exchange for the weekend time he spent with your company. Try making it something the rep and his family can enjoy.


4. Watch the expenses.

Keep in mind that sales meetings can be a financial drain on sales reps--especially when salespeople have to pay their own way. I once worked with a company that held all its sales meetings at swanky golf resorts. It was great for the managers--they got to combine business with a few rounds of golf. It wasn’t as much fun, though, for the independent sales agents, who were expected to attend but didn’t have the money to blow on such an expensive venue.


5. Get a jump on the meeting.

If you’re going to cover new training material in the sales meeting, be sure to send some, if not all, of it to your reps ahead of time, and encourage reps to look at the material before they arrive. This will speed up the learning process and allow you to focus on the more advanced areas of the training in the meeting. You could even give a short quiz at the beginning of the meeting to find out who did her homework and who didn’t. The results will tell you who’s committed to the business--and who isn’t.