Small business series: Start-ups – learn to love sales meetings!

In the third blog in our small business series, Anderson Hirst of Kojo Academy turns his attention to what effective sales meetings look like, and why they’re so important.

Written by Anderson Hirst
Published 01 June 2022
Small business series: Start-ups – learn to love sales meetings!

Not another meeting!

With so many of us being dragged into more and more meetings, do we really need a sales meeting – especially if we’re a small business, or a start-up with only a few people working on sales? Isn’t it just pointless bureaucracy – the very thing that agile businesses want to avoid? And what should be on the agenda anyway?
If you’ve worked in larger organizations, you may have some dismal memories of sales meetings. That dreaded, slow-creeping-death type of meeting, where each member of the sales team reels off a wish list of opportunities that they’re “working on.” Maybe with the occasional interjection from a sales manager to “sell more, sell faster!”
However, if they’re managed well, sales meetings can be the beating heart of a fast-growing business. Let’s understand why.

Sales meetings set the clock speed

Research by McKinsey shows that growth can be accelerated by weekly rather than monthly sales meetings. [1] They argue that this regular cadence sets the performance expectation and allows for faster development of opportunities.
The sales team know they’ve got a week to make progress on opportunities before further updates will be shared. Everyone knows what’s expected for the next five days. And peer pressure kicks in: no one wants to stand up and say, “I did nothing since last time.

Using sales meetings for coaching and support

Closing deals can be hard. One of the core purposes of a sales meeting is to review the opportunities in play and marshal the organization’s resources to help secure them. For example, technical support may be required to convince a customer to buy.
Those involved in sales should feel that the purpose of the meeting is to help them sell, not to admonish them for not selling enough. In fact, sales meetings can be a great opportunity to look at skill gaps, and to make concrete plans to develop the team. Research by Karen Peesker and her colleagues shows that coaching salespeople is a key way for managers to enable performance. [2]

Sales meetings: what’s the agenda?

The core of a weekly sales meeting is “opportunities review” – but not all opportunities. Think of the meeting as focusing on the core sales opportunities in play, and finding ways to close those as speedily as possible.
It’s a forum for help and action planning. This should be a quick and punchy part of the meeting – a bit like the daily huddle often used in software engineering. A moment to set the focus and actions for the coming five days.
Other specialists might get involved, too, if they can help with the core purpose: moving opportunities through the pipeline.
For some, this very regular, concrete focus on closing opportunities can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to – if psychological safety exists in the team. It’s no different from a weekly production meeting, where various departments align on actions to maximize output and help each other succeed.

Sales meetings that support, strengthen and inspire

Knowledge about how to sell is often highly specific to an individual, and good salespeople find unique ways to support and convince customers. But sales can also be a lonely job, and the opportunity to hear how others sell products and services is often well-received – and highly motivating. What’s more, rapidly sharing best practice has been shown to accelerate sales. [3]
This kind of activity can be time-consuming, so it might go on the agenda for a monthly or quarterly meeting, rather than the weekly pipeline review.
Sales meetings can also be used for training, networking – and having fun! Boosting motivation and strengthening a sense of team belonging are really important outcomes here too.

What gets inspected gets respected

Finally, every meeting should have a concrete action plan – the “What? Who? and When?” – so that there’s accountability and progress. If the action plan is always followed up, it reassures people that discussions aren’t a waste of time, and that change can follow.
Regular meetings, with regular actions and reviews, are the absolute core of performance management.

Support from the Small Business Toolkit

The toolkit has detailed information on coaching, managing underperformance, and the role of the sales manager in creating predictable, sustainable revenues. You’ll also find guides about sales KPIs and sales processes, to help you focus on the right measures in your sales meetings.
Even with very small sales teams, it’s never too soon to start regular meetings. They establish a performance-based culture from the get-go. And even more importantly, they drive growth.
[1] Baumgartner, T., Hatami, H., and Valdivieso de Uster, M. (2016). ‘Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World's Sales Leaders,’ McKinsey/Wiley.
[2] Peesker, K., Ryals, L., Rich, G., and Boehnke, S. (2019). ‘A qualitative study of leader behaviors perceived to enable salesperson performance,’ Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 39:4, 319-333. Available here.
[3] Leslie, M. and Holloway, C. (2006). The Sales Learning Curve [online]. Available here. [Accessed June 1, 2022.]

About the author

Anderson Hirst

Anderson Hirst

Kojo Academy

Anderson started out in front line technical sales in 1991 and ‘carried the bag’ for 7 years, before entering the field of sales training and consulting. Working for 10 years at an international training consultancy, Anderson sold, designed and delivered multiple international sales improvement projects. 

Then in 2006, he studied an MBA at Warwick Business School and used his research into sales processes to start up Selling Interactions, an organization focused on sales improvement projects. In 2018, with 3 other directors, he started up the Kojo Academy, which created the on-line sales management content for the MindTools Small Business Toolkit. 

He has extensive experience of helping a wide range of businesses build highly effective sales organizations, and is a regular researcher of sales best practice.  

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