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February 20, 2019 | Coach’s Corner | Greg Martinelli

Top 3 Things to Get More Out of Your Sales Meetings

Use these action items to get more out of every meeting

Almost robotically, we attend the quarterly or annual sales meeting and follow the exact same pattern. We race to find our group – our closest peers – our posse.

Once there, we covey like a flock of quail. Where one goes, so goes you. What do you do while in your covey? Complain that you don’t get anything from the meeting, wish it was over and then you race out of the meeting like someone yelled “fire” when it is finally over.

Here’s my advice. First, “Stop it!” Quit acting like your time is so important that you can’t spend a few minutes and learn something or help someone else to learn something. Secondly, use the following three action items to get the most of your time.

  1. Meet someone new: Watching the first few hours at a meeting reminds me of the term, “old home week." 
    Everyone searches for their closest friends, reconnects and tells the same old stories from the past.
    “Remember when Lloyd backed the boss’ car into the lake at that sales meeting?” “Oh yeah, or when Donnie fell asleep and fell out of his chair at the sales meeting, 20 years ago!”  
    It feels comfortable in this socially awkward environment to find our closest friends and rehash old stories.
    As salespeople, we spend all our time alone in our cars or across the table from a customer. This large group setting can be intimidating, even for someone who meets people all day long. Quickly, get past that need to reconnect with those you know really well. Venture into the meeting room and introduce yourself to someone you haven’t met or don’t know as well. Excuse yourself from your posse and make an intentional effort to sit at dinner with a completely different crowd.
    It’s just an hour or so. If you don’t like them, you can go right back to the safety of your group after dinner. When selecting a new person or group to connect with, don’t just focus on who you should meet to better your sales or connections.
    Sure, it’s good to meet and network with someone higher in the organization. However, just look for someone new. You never know how that interaction will help the company.
    Meet someone in operations, administration, customer service, distribution, or accounting. Trust me, they feel as out of place at these meetings as you do.
  2. Find a new way to participate: This one requires a bit of a stretch on your part, but it’s worth it.
    Look for a new or different way to participate. If you complain that you don’t get anything out of the meeting, maybe you should share your vast knowledge.
    Offer to give a presentation on a topic you know well or that has been working for you. If you don’t want to be on stage all by yourself, then suggest a panel topic and offer to be one of those on the panel.
    You attend industry events throughout the year, which means you see some great or not so great presentations. Bring one of those ideas back to your meeting. Event organizers are always looking for ideas to make their meetings better. Share with them what you see at other meetings that is working.
    Another opportunity is to suggest a “subset” meeting or topic. Big or all-inclusive meetings have to stick to topics that are apply to everyone. Suggest a time period for a subset group to meet. Examples of this could include in a group of dairy nutritionists, those that sell inoculants/preservatives, or in a group of agronomists that focus on corn/beans/wheat, suggest a small group meeting on selling into a specialty market: fruit, vegetable, organic, etc.
    At this year’s trade shows, hemp production has generated a lot of attention. While still in the early stages of forming, it might be an opportunity in certain areas.
    Here’s one last suggestion for finding a new way to participate: offer a new idea for the sales meeting activity.
    Typically, what social activity does every sales meeting have? Golf. Now, if you like golf, that’s great. One of my most proud achievements at our annual sales meeting was the fishing alternative.
    From the 60’s, 70’s an 80’s, the only activity the sales meetings had was golf. While many enjoy the game of driving around in go-karts and swinging a tiny stick at a little white ball 18 times, it’s not my favorite activity. Plus, we were usually in some of the best fishing areas in the nation.
    Organizing a “fishing trip” option, my first sales meetings only got a few people to opt in. Within a few years, our fishing option was as much as half the team. One of our salespeople actually met and married one of the fishing guides I hired. All because of a suggestion.
  3. Connect with the external attendees: Your company will bring in speakers, trainers, experts, vendors, etc. to speak at your sales meeting. After they get done presenting, connect with them.
    While your company only hired them to present for a short period of time, they most likely have a lot more information or topics in their business. Most will gladly share this with you, if you ask.
    Sure, they might want to charge you for it, but many will just appreciate the interest and gladly help you with information or connections.
    They work on their topic every day and have a lot more information at their disposal than you might think. I’ve had some great discussions and networked with some great people after they approached me at the end of my presentation.
    One really great way to engage a speaker is to ask if you can offer some feedback. Trust me, we always want to know how we can improve or connect our message better with our audience. Keep it constructive and it should come across as a positive thing.

For those of you lucky enough be in the position of planning a meeting, here’s a suggestion to make your next meeting better. Force the above three action items. Schedule time and activities that force people to meet someone new, allow people to participate in a new way and engage the external attendees. I call it “forced participation.” Yes, everyone will complain when you make them do it, however, they will like the benefits and the change up.

I was going to end this with a recommendation to quit complaining about meetings, but I really don’t think that’s going to happen. So, go ahead and complain. Then, use these three action items to make your next sales meeting a blast.

Good luck and enjoy your next sales meeting!

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