Eliminate Most Meetings

A great team meeting

When used wisely, meetings can be extremely effective for communication, collaboration and team building for any sales organization. When used unwisely, they can be a frustrating waste of time and resources.

In this post, I’ll cover how to identify which meetings to eliminate, which ones to attend, and how to make the most of them when leading Inside Sales.

Every meeting you attend or host should be considered for elimination as I recommended in my Small Rocks post:

“Eliminate as many meetings as possible by asking the purpose of the meeting, the agenda and “what am I expected to contribute?” You’ll quickly be able to assess if it is critical for you to attend. If there’s not a clear purpose, an agenda and a designated chairperson/organizer, then why are you attending the meeting?”

Next, I encourage you to calculate how much this meeting is costing the company by doing two quick two calculations below:

  1. Estimate each attendee’s salary.  Add these up, multiply the total by 1.3 to account for taxes and benefits, then divide the total by 2000 (working hours/year). This gives you an estimated cost for each hour of the meeting. A meeting with 10 people earning $75K costs your company at least $500/hour. Now ask yourself, is the meeting really generating this value?
  2. If a sales manager is attending, use his team’s quota to calculate the value of an hour of his time. A sales manager with 6 reps carrying $500K quarterly quotas needs his team to generate $6000/hr.  Is this meeting helping to generate $6000? If not, is it really the most effective use of his time?

Chances are, everyone reading this blog has a few meetings they attend that can be eliminated.

Below are common meetings and when to consider having them.

Run away from Monday Meetings

Monday Morning Meeting – never

These are standard for many sales teams.  I never like having meetings on Monday mornings.

Whenever I have the authority to do so, I will eliminate these for many reasons:

  • I don’t want anyone on my team doing meeting preparation over the weekend – unless it’s for a customer meeting.
  • SInce I send out a Weekly Recap email every Friday afternoon, everyone on the team knows exactly where we stand, my expectations, and what needs to be done this week. 
  • There’s often a backlog of email and issues from the weekend which need to be addressed.

And finally, I think it is a good practice to let the team ease into Monday mornings. A slightly longer coffee break, some small talk with their coworkers, and a bit of administrative catch up time will go a long way to getting the team ready to grind it out for the rest of the week.

So instead of having a meeting on Monday, I just move it to another day of the week in the afternoon. I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years with no negative consequences.

Sales Team Meeting – every week

This is a regular weekly meeting with my sales team that I consider mandatory.  I have a set agenda, a slide deck for presenting, and cover these topics:

  • 3 Big Rocks – including updates on current performance to date (Bookings, Pipeline, Activity)
  • Action Items (eg. Follow the Daily Plan, Focus more on Closing this month)
  • How are we doing with Action Items?  Overall team  and stack rankings.
  • Small Rocks -1 Slide covering administrative & logistics items
  • Weeks Left in Quarter – Discuss urgency, this week’s focus etc.
  • Optional – Guest speaker, Training, Special Topics
  • Knight in Shining Armor Award – Rep of the week chosen by me. I call out someone who went above and beyond. It’s not based on the Leaderboard.

When I meet with my team during 1-on-1s each week, I’ll make notes of topics that I should cover under “Optional” in the team meeting. These may include training, solutions to new problems, success stories or other topics that I feel would benefit the team. I’ll often ask a rep to present on a specific topic in the next team meeting. This gives the team a break from listening to my voice and more importantly, it gives my rep practice presenting to the team.

My weekly team meetings are scheduled for 60 minutes. However, I’ll keep them to 30 minutes or less unless we have a guest speaker or training session. Everyone loves when a meeting ends early so I like to make this a regular occurrence.

I like to run these meetings in the afternoon on a Tuesday or Wednesday. By then the reps are well into the work week but still have time left in the week to make adjustments, if needed.

I will cancel this meeting occasionally when it makes sense:  during the last week of a quarter when we are 100% closing focused, during a short holiday week, if more than half the team is out, etc.

1-on-1s with your Reps – every week

These are quite possibly the most important meetings an Inside Sales Manager can have.  I dedicated 1 hour per rep each week. Over time, they may drop to 30 minutes.

This is an ideal time to provide coaching, mentoring and feedback to your reps. By practicing good 1-on-1s, neither you nor your rep will ever be surprised with activity, performance, expectations or much else. Make sure to use the staff log when doing these.

Not only are these extremely valuable to the reps, I’ve found them to be one of the most rewarding things I do as a manager. .

I’ll cover 1-on-1s in depth in a separate post.

Individual Pipeline Deep Dive Meeting – every week or two

Pipeline deep dives and sales coaching are a critical part of Inside Sales Management. It is the sales manager’s responsibility to do these regularly to ensure the reps are moving Opps, closing deals and forecasting accurately.

I’ll cover how I like to run Pipeline Deep Dives with a separate post. For now, know that I recommend doing these 1-on-1 with the individual sales rep (or his team of Field/Inside/Sales Engineer if they share a team quota).

Team Pipeline Deep Dive Meeting – don’t do these ever*

I’ve been in several companies where weekly pipeline deep dive meetings included the entire sales team. Each rep would review his current pipeline deal by deal with the Sales VP while every other person in the meeting listened (allegedly).

Attendees included all inside reps, field reps and sales engineers. In some companies, even executives and managers from other departments would regularly attend these Weekly Pipeline meetings!

This type of meeting is so inefficient and unproductive that it makes me want to stick toothpicks in my eyeballs.

I understand that the intention is to include any potential stakeholders in the sales process and to solicit their cooperation. It’s also so that the sales reps can learn from each other. If your company is really small and your sales team has 2 reps, these reasons might apply. But once your sales team grows beyond this size, it just becomes an incredible waste of time.

When these meetings are done with larger groups, most of the attendees are not paying attention.  They tune out and use the time to catch up on email, browse the web, do administrative work, or daydream.

*There are two exceptions where a Team Deep Dive is warranted. The first is during QBRs, where a rep will present a small number of key Opps. The second is when you have inherited a brand new team and want to train the team to perform Deep Dives by walking them through one rep’s pipeline. 

Brainstorming Meetings – as needed

I was first exposed to Brainstorming when I worked in IT for an Advertising Agency.  We were tasked with coming up with a brand name for a new lime flavored beer and a new cherry flavored beer that our customer was launching.

Everyone in the agency, from IT to creative to the receptionist, met for a long lunch.  Food and beer were brought in.  Our Agency Director explained what we were trying to accomplish and then he went up to the whiteboard and said “Give me ALL of you ideas. The only rule is that nobody can criticize anyone’s idea.”

This meeting was a blast.  We filled the entire wall with ideas.  We laughed a lot and everyone got a chance to use their creative muscles. It was also unexpectedly great for team bonding.

I’ve since copied this approach in numerous other companies with outstanding results.

Oh, and as for the beer name we chose…see the label above.

Team Lunches – sometimes

I’ve had mixed results with team lunch meetings.

The best ones happened at 2 different very fast-paced, high growth startups. At both of these, we’d gather a group of people every Friday for lunch. We’d go to a restaurant offsite, push together a bunch of tables, and take over a small section of the restaurant for a few hours.

These lunches gave people a chance to speak with each other.  In the office, everyone was so busy, we rarely had time to have a real conversation.

Over the lunches we’d tackle serious topics like:

  • How can we fix our customer service response times?
  • What are we going to do about this competitor who is poaching our clients?
  • How can we help our employee who we suspect has an eating disorder?

And we’d cover fun topics like:

  • What should we do for March Madness?
  • Who’s going to win the Sandbagger of the Month award?

The next best lunch meetings were included me and just one or two others.  We’d usually have a purpose for our lunch like career guidance, mentoring or even introducing two people who will need to work together. Whoever was the senior person usually set these up and helped guide the discussion and identify next steps.

My least favorite lunches were big corporate lunches.  These included the entire sales team (or even the entire company) seated at really long tables or jammed into a convention center room. Often employees were intimidated because a Senior Exec, who otherwise didn’t interact with the rank and file, would join the lunch. Some reps would kiss up to the execs while others who got stuck at the wrong table ended up talking to someone they didn’t want to for the entire lunch. There might be speeches or even some corny awards ceremony as part of these lunches. Perhaps some people really enjoyed these. I did not.

It’s best to hide from meetings that are time wasters.

Cross Departmental Update Meetings – weekly or never

In startups and small businesses, this might be called the All Hands meeting or Manager’s meeting. If you’re in fast paced startup mode, a weekly meeting can be very helpful in getting everyone on the same page. Usually the CEO will lead these and drive cooperation across the teams.

In larger companies, this will be called something like “XYZ Update Meeting” or “Interdepartmental Weekly Meeting”.  It could be organized by Sales, Marketing, IT, Support, Finance or any other department. The stated purpose is usually something like “Our department wants to make sure everyone in the company is aware of everything we’re working on, to answer questions and give you a chance to ask questions and provide feedback.”

Most of the time the info can be distributed via email or a report instead.

I try to avoid these like the plague.

If you find yourself wishing you never had to attend these meetings, chance are it’s time to stop going to them.

Ad-Hoc Action Oriented Meetings – as needed

Often these are the best kind. They are specific to a particular problem or opportunity. I like to grab the key people, pull them into a room, come up with a plan, assign responsibilities and then take action.

The key here is that everyone agrees on who is accountable for each next step.

One of my most enjoyable ad hoc meetings occurred a few years ago.  Our VP realized late in Q1 that our marketing investment was not returning the volume of inbound leads that were projected. This resulted in a significant revenue gap that would compound over the year.

He pulled a few key managers from sales, marketing and finance into a conference room. He explained the problem.  He asked Marketing if increasing the budget would increase the lead volume, Marketing couldn’t guarantee this.   The he asked me if we could makeup the gap if we were able to hire more sales reps than originally planned.

We plotted out the numbers on the whiteboard and calculated that we could do this if we hired 60 reps in 60 days by the end of Q2.

In less than 30 minutes, we had created a plan to transfer a portion of the marketing budget over to sales and increase the sales team by over 35%.

Within an hour, I had a similar meeting with two of my sales managers to create our tactical plan for hiring “60 in 60”.  Prior to this, the most sales reps we had hired was 10 in a month.

We did it. And we made up the revenue gap. It was one of my sales team’s finest moments.

I credit our VP, Marketing, Finance and the sales managers for all working together to make this happen. It was truly a team effort. In many companies, there would be too much politics to pull off something like this.

I’ll close with a few tips that have served me well:

Start on time. When I started meetings late, everyone  new it was OK to arrive late. Once I made starting on time a habit, people starting coming on time. If someone is late, I won’t interrupt the meeting to bring them up to speed. The latecomer can talk to another attendee after the meeting to cover anything he missed.

End early.  Watch the clock and end the meeting on time. If possible, end early. Everyone loves to get a few minutes back on their calendar.

Identify clear next steps, action items and deadlines. Unless I do this, next week I’ll be having the same discussions with no resolutions.

Observe the meeting attendees. If the majority are checked out, either the info is not valuable or the meeting is should be cancelled. I’ll often just ask, “Should we end this meeting?” Sometimes we should.

Give frequent breaks if you are in a long meeting or an all day session.  People need to move around every hour. I won’t ask people to grind through it ands skip a break. They’ll be fidgety, hungry, tuned out, or watching the clock. You can observe this at nearly every QBR or day long meeting.

Don’t rush to cover everything. Sometimes a discussion knocks us off track, a speaker goes too long,  or I incorrectly estimated the time required to cover something.  If I cannot cover everything in the allotted time then I eliminate some topics, speakers or agenda items.

Assign two people to work on an issue offline when it does not require the entire group’s input.

With that, I’ll conclude this post with one final suggestion – If you are wondering why you are attending a meeting, you probably shouldn’t be there.

If you want some help building your sales team or improving sales, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you. 

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