What if you hold a meeting and nothing changes?
A sales manager told me about her recurring nightmare following mid-year sales meetings.
It goes like this;
“It’s a great meeting. We not only have a great time celebrating past success and past achievement but we also knuckle down to plan and prepare for future business successes.
The thing is that back at work, on territory next week, nothing changes.”
The danger with sales meetings (of any kind) is the assumption that, by just holding the meeting, that the outcome will always solve the identified performance problem(s) … that there will be an improvement; less of something and more of something else.
In other words, the rationale for holding a meeting is usually based on its predictions, NOT on its assumptions.
Here’s why sales meetings are so prominent in corporate sales life, and yet such a waste of time and money.
The idea of “solutions through meetings” lies in the sanctity of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote; “build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.”
This is the older version of “build it and people will come” immortalised in the Field of Dreams movie.
Or for sales meetings – “hold it and they will come around.”
And that’s the danger of all sales meetings.
The intent is simple – “in order for the reps to understand what to change and do now, they need details and motivation. Then they’ll see how this new whole team sales strategy will fix their sales problems and/or set them up for future success.”
The shaky thing that validates this is approach is that it depends on the willingness of the audience to understand the information, and tacitly agree to change the way they normally sell, or do things.
And the presenters, no matter how charismatic and convincing they are at the time, assume that change in the sales process (or whatever) will flow through the sales organisation under the force of gravity, top down.
What they don’t appreciate is that, once the meeting or conference is over, they no longer have control of the change.
What happens is, faced with their day-to-day pressures of customer access, competition, creating value, and the like, your reps try the change in selling procedure once or a few times, find no magic transformation and go back to what they were doing before, even though it may not be a perfect process.
Better the devil you know.
Now some good news.
McKinsey’s has researched and formalised what we’ve all suspected.
If there is a need to change/ adjust the sales process there is one role that has more influence on sales organisational performance than any other. McKinsey calls it “the pivotal job” and it belongs to the first line sales manager.
McKinsey says that their direct and profound influence on sales effectiveness, and on any implementation of change to the sales process, is due simply to their far deeper and better understanding of their reps than their ability to describe the virtues of the changes.
Sales managers, who spend their time coaching reps in territory visits, are the real instruments of implementation because they communicate and drive the changes in terms that reps personally identify with.
They broker the representative buy-in needed for change.
In summary… when it comes to sales meetings, the best return for the business is determined by what the (first line) sales manager does (with their sales reps) before and after the meeting.
And that brings us back to mousetraps.
The typical mousetrap you buy today was patented in 1899 by an American, John Mast. Since 1899 there have been some 5000 patent applications for “better” mousetraps, but none has yet surpassed the spring-fired trap in the market.
None of them appeal to the public’s sense of mercy and values in providing a quick and “painless” kill.
Nobody has yet to “build a better mousetrap” because it’s the customers/ market/ audience that determine what is acceptable quality and value. Nobody has been able to talk them into it accepting any change or get any buy-in.
If you start noticing that nothing has changed this morning or any morning, don’t blame anyone or “the meeting”.
It’s the opportunity you’ve been looking for to exercise your coaching, leadership, and management talent for representative buy-in.