I've been asked a number of times by sales managers if I had any thoughts on how they might make the individual focus meetings with their salespeople more productive. What's interesting about this is that I get asked almost every week by sales people why they even need to have an individual focus meeting with their sales manager. As you can already tell, there seems to be an issue with this weekly meeting—neither side is getting what they want out of it. I think I understand why this is happening…
Sales managers are overwhelmed by the last-minute urgencies that break out unexpectedly in the office. Often, they have too many direct reports, so they have difficulty finding the time to slow down and have a 30 to 45 minute meeting with a seller, who in their opinion, is not interested in meeting.
Salespeople have their pressures too. They have urgent task lists that need to get done; they keep up with their CRM; they do their weekly internal paperwork; and let's not forget,they have clients who need their attention. They also know they can find their manager if they need to, so meeting for 30-45 minutes only feels redundant.
The fact is: these meetings, when done right, can be game changers. I’ve seen it happen.
Try these 3 steps this week and see if you can improve your own individual focus meetings:
1) Let the salesperson run the meeting.
You are only there to be a resource for your salespeople, and you should hand over the reins during this face-to-face. All individual meetings must focus on the salesperson's best customers (Key accounts) and their best prospects (Target accounts), but it needs to be their meeting to run. Remember to spend this time focusing only on accounts and account development. Coaching the salespeople to improve their skills should be done when you are in the field together.
2) Pay attention, and let them know this is important.
Shut the door, turn off your phone, rotate your computer screen, turn down the volume on your computer, and limit any other distraction that might pull your attention away from your salesperson. Hang a note on your office door that says “Please do not interrupt. Individual Focus Meeting in progress.” (Start on time, take notes, actively participate, and never reschedule.)
3) Make a plan.
Use this time to help the salesperson to build a plan that moves things forward. After you discuss each Key or Target account, make sure you ask these two easy questions: What is your next step with this account? What is your projection date to this get accomplished? This is the key to making sure this is a working meeting with clear action steps rather than simply a recap of what was done last week or last month. Take notes and send them out with the detailed next steps and the timelines that were discussed.
Follow these 3 critical steps and I am sure you will find that your individual focus meetings will be more productive. With practice and repetition, you will find that this will become a meeting that no one will want to miss.