Becoming a Transformative Sales Leader During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, regular communication with your sales team is more important than ever. I suggest at a minimum, weekly team meetings via Zoom or Microsoft Teams as well as weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with each individual.

Here are some best practices for running effective weekly sales team meetings whether you are in person or via video conference.

 

I’ve heard disheartening stories of Monday morning sales meetings during which the sales manager focused in on one individual’s performance and proceeded to publicly berate that poor soul if the numbers weren’t on track. The so-called logic behind this approach – I assume – was that everyone would “up their sales game” to avoid being picked on the following Monday.

 

I believe that running this type of meeting has the opposite effect: causing tension, uncertainty, and low motivation, none of which results in higher sales. I also cannot imagine the Sunday night stress level your team would be feeling before coming into work the next day.

 

Plus, what real value does this approach create for the company?

 

As we all know, there are significant differences between a leader and a boss. This example is clearly one of a boss – and not a very good one at that. A better idea is to motivate people through transformative leadership, which can help any group of sales professionals work together to overcome challenges as a team.

 

Approaching Issues as a Team

 

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Be conscientious of your tone in your messaging, especially during a crisis.

Much of jump-starting your sales team has to do with how you deliver your message. What you say and how you say it both carry heavy weight in setting the tone and culture within the workplace. It’s okay to be tough sometimes, as long as you’re being fair and setting realistic expectations at the same time.

 

Sales meetings provide the perfect opportunity in which to do this, as well as demonstrate to the team that no matter what, you are there to support them especially during this crisis.

 

You can achieve this balance by addressing issues as a group and framing them together as collective issues as opposed to individual ones.

 

For example, remind your salespeople of the team sales goal and the progress you are making toward it as a team. During this crisis your company’s sales may be significantly down; let them know how you feel about this and what it means to the business. Ask them how they feel about it and allow them to express their emotions. This can be a scary time for salespeople as we are used to being in much more control than this environment allows us to be.

 

It’s time to show your show your support for them and your confidence in them that, with your help, they will do what needs to be done to help mitigate this challenge.

 

As we settle into this “new normal” be sure your salespeople know what needs to be accomplished each week and even daily, along with what you expect of them. Your job is to continually ensure that they know what success looks like, especially now when their worlds have been so shaken.

 

If the team is failing, needs redirecting or is displaying an ongoing negative attitude this is a time to call it out. This is not to remove accountability from any one individual who’s causing you concern. It’s just better to have those conversations privately instead of in a group setting.

 

The team meeting is also the perfect time to review the pipeline of the most active opportunities toward achieving the goal, and openly discuss where they may be short.

 

A Quick Story

 

I was working with a sales team recently that had been told of the 3-4 key activities that lead to success: sales calls with their distributors, uncovering opportunities with end users, product demos conducted, and product knowledge sessions facilitated. It seemed simple enough, as the company had told their sales people eat their annual sales training how many of each activity they needed to do. Now it’s important to note that many of these salespeople had less than one year of experience as the company was growing and expanding the team.

 

When we followed up with our bi-weekly team reinforcement conference calls, each person was asked which metrics they are tracking and how many of each they are doing on a weekly basis. In other words, had the direction that was provided “stuck” with them? Did they learn it, remember it, and were they applying it? They were not, to the shock of the CEO! So even when you think they’ve got it, they may not have been able to apply it. Or even remember it, with everything else they have on their plates. So review, reinforce and be patient. People change their behaviour in small increments.

 

Preparing for Your Sales Meeting

 

Even before sending out the agenda, transformative leaders consider how to elevate each sales meeting into an opportunity that encourages growth and creates an energetic, motivating environment where everyone feels supported and better equipped than before the meeting. This might take a while to develop, but if you work toward it, you’ll get there. Your intention in truly wanting to help your salespeople to success is what counts here.

 

This doesn’t happen on its own. It comes by thinking of a clear purpose for each meeting, as well as defining its outcome – what you’d like the attendees to take away. You can modify it each week to go over anything that is topical for that week.

 

For example, consider what your team needs help with right now, or which topics deserve more time to transform your team into one that hits their goals. Also, think about how you can challenge them, engage their hearts, and inspire each person to see themselves as an important member of a winning team.

 

Based on your findings, you can then set the meeting agenda and manage it with more energy and efficiency once the meeting begins – which you should ensure it does on time, every time. Even if only one or two people can attend, your people need to see and experience your commitment to these sessions by starting the meeting on schedule. Show respect for everyone’s time by not waiting for stragglers or going over time at the end. Be ruthless with everyone’s time.

 

In today’s age, where people can dial-in from anywhere in the world, there is no reason for you to cancel a sales meeting. Remember: where the leader goes so goes the team, so your commitment to the meetings will reflect the commitment you demonstrate yourself.

 

Setting Your Meeting Agenda (45-60 minutes)

 

Based on what I’ve used in the past, here is a suggested agenda you can use and modify to your needs:

 

  1. Personal updates: Go around the table and have people talk about their weekend, recent vacation, personal updates, weddings, births, etc. This helps to build relationships, camaraderie, and team cohesiveness. Again, ask them how they are feeling, how their family is doing (2 – 3 minutes).
  2. Celebrate wins and share brief success stories: And I mean celebrate! That is, after all, what we’re all here for. Be sure to showcase outstanding team and individual performance.
  3. Team Sales YTD vs. YTD Goal (or monthly, quarterly): Use your CRM dashboard for this, and always be positive and upbeat even when you’re falling short of your goal. If you don’t use the CRM dashboard, your sales people may not use it(5-10 minutes).
  4. Review the pipeline of the most promising opportunities: Have your people highlight key deals that will help them to achieve their sales goal
  5. Corporate policy or other updates pertinent to sales: You can include this only if necessary (5-10 minutes)
  6. Each rep provides an update on their key KPIs: (10-15 mins each MAX):
  7. Sales YTD vs. YTD goal
  8. Highlight(s) last week (following up on last week’s commitments)
  9. Priorities this week (setting commitments for the current week)
  10. Deals they need help from the team with (not detailed deal updates – save those for your one-to-one meetings)
  11. Be sure to set takeaways and action items for the team, and gain everyone’s commitment for specific next steps on deals. Document these and follow up on them later in the week, if necessary, or at the next sales meeting.

 

Avoid discussing topics such as project status, inventory levels, delivery schedules, or non-sales topics to keep these meetings strictly about sales and driving the business forward.

 

Elevating Your Agenda for Added Engagement

 

Have you ever been in a sales meeting where you only discussed sales results? Sure, those are essential elements of any sales meetings, but do little to build meaningful bridges with your team.

 

You can create stronger relationships by opening up your agenda to interactive sales-related items that go beyond the numbers, such as:

 

  • Deeper dive into success stories/best practices: Hold an open discussion about how your team achieved its latest wins
  • Hold a training session: Introduce a new product or conduct a refresher on a current sales tool, skill or tactic
  • Deal strategy brainstorming: This is the time for the whole team to talk about significant deals. You may also do a post-mortem on a lost deal, or interestingly a discussion on a deal that was won and why your company was selected.
  • Guest speaker: Invite an executive or other sales leader to provide sales updates and discuss corporate goals
  • Educational “gift”: Share a book, article, or podcast someone on the team found helpful
  • Business/sales plan presentations: I suggest annual presentations by each person on the team and then doing quarterly updates to keep the plan alive
  • Open-ended discussion: As a team, discuss how you can overcome current obstacles the team may be experiencing, policies hindering success, or just to let out a little steam – set expectations for decorum and don’t let things get out of control

 

You know you have a successful cadence of meetings when people find them valuable and look forward to attending them. That’s the type of win all companies want!

 

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