It seems our days are consumed with meetings. We have meetings to develop win strategies for a deal. We have meetings to develop proposals. We have endless reviews–pipeline, deal, account, territory reviews. We have meetings to talk about new programs or initiatives. We have meetings to talk about meetings.
And then there are the meetings we have with out customers–all following similar patterns to those mentioned above.
Yet, despite all these meetings, somehow we struggle with getting things done.
Part of the problem is these meetings get in the way of getting things done. We need to have fewer, more purposeful meetings.
But we do need to meet, since we are sales people/managers, we get things done through and with other people.
But we use our time in meetings poorly. And then, to often, nothing happens as a result of the meeting.
How do we get things done? How do we leverage our time more effectively? How do we accomplish more in the time we invest in meetings?
Some things I find to be effective (and none of this should be new, we just don’t make them habit):
- Know what the objective of the meeting is before you walk into the meeting. We don’t meet just to meet. We have a purpose/objective. We want to accomplish something. It may be to share information. Hopefully, the majority is to accomplish something. Make sure everyone participating knows what you intend to accomplish and is aligned. Do this with all internal meetings, do this with all customer meetings. Sometimes when I talk to sales people about this, they are aghast, “We can’t tell our customers what we intend to accomplish…..” Wrong! Our customers value their time, just as we do. We should be aligned with what we want to accomplish.
- Be prepared. Yes, I was a Boy Scout, I still remember the motto. Too often, I sit in meetings where people aren’t prepared. (Maybe because we haven’t done (1). As a result, we waste a lot of time trying to figure out what information we need, what people we need, how we intend to accomplish what we intended. Inevitably, we spend the time we intended to use to accomplish something, figuring out what we need to accomplish. So we have to schedule another meeting… Again, this is very powerful with customers. We and they want to accomplish something. We and they need to be well prepared to do that. It’s helpful to set an expectation of what information might be needed, who needs to participate. All of this comes from (1), all of this is facilitated by an agenda we have agreed upon, in advance.
- Meeting discipline. So many meetings wander or get diverted to other topics. At the end of the meeting, we find we haven’t achieved what we had hoped, so we have to schedule another meeting. Agendas work! They help keep us focused. Of course other things might come up, log them, put them aside, come back to them later, or schedule a meeting. Make sure you manage the meeting to achieve what you intended, otherwise you have wasted your time and that of every person in the meeting.
- Agree on action plans and next steps. The majority of our meetings are to accomplish something, not share information. Yet, too often, we meet, have great conversations, then adjourn and go back to doing other things. End each meeting with action plans and next steps. Make sure each person knows what they are responsible for and when it must be completed. Write them down and track them. Record them in CRM as tasks, in your messaging/collaboration systems, or as tasks in email. Make sure they are recorded in a way that everyone can see them and you can follow up.
- Follow up. Part of accomplishing things is making sure we meet our commitments in doing the things/actions we commit to do . Following up, on ourselves and others, helps us maintain that accountability. It’s not about embarassing or beating up ourselves or others. It’s about establishing a culture of accountability and getting things done. It’s about creating good habits.
These are simple things do do. We’ve always known we should do those things, yet we fall into bad practice. As a result, we fail to achieve the things we want to achieve, or spend too much time trying to recover.
We need to use our time well, we need to use our people’s time well, we need to use our customer’s time well, we need to get things done and help our customers get things done.