Get the most out of your creative sales meeting.
Sales meetings are a regular fact of life for professional realtors, especially if they’re doing anything that feels like “innovation.” This makes sense: doing something genuinely new is always accompanied by risk and uncertainty, so bringing stakeholders together to share knowledge and explore solutions helps ease that. Done properly, a sales meeting can also trigger new ideas that lead to genuinely new solutions.
Sales meeting can be a lot of fun, potentially. Just about every month we should include at least one sales meeting, and it can be some of the most productive, challenging and ultimately satisfying experiences you can assist. A sale meeting can also be a complete train wreck, but here are some tips to have a successful one.
The difference largely comes down to planning, preparation, and setting expectations. A sales meeting is a creative challenge, and like any challenge, reaching a successful outcome takes smart standard practices as well as the creativity and flexibility to fit those practices to the people you’re working with.
- Set context before you do anything else: It can be tempting to immediately start planning out activities and shopping for Post-its, but much of the hard work of facilitation starts even before that. To get the most out of a workshop, there are a few questions you need to ask:
- Who will be in in the room? Do they know each other already, or is getting-to-know-you part of the reason everyone’s there?
- What’s the purpose of the sales meeting? Are you building common understanding around a new project, or clarifying your position on a complex issue? Perhaps you need to generate new ideas or evangelize a new technology or technique. Understanding this purpose — and communicating it to participants — is crucial. People like surprises, but not about the reason why they’re in the meeting.
- What outcomes are you expecting? This could be a collection of concepts or marketing directions, or a document outlining a plan of action. It could also be a shared emotion or understanding: enthusiasm about an initiative, for example, or a greater sense of trust. It’s important to develop these expectations alongside your clients and partners and describe them explicitly to attendees once they’re set.
- Flow doesn’t happen on accident: This might sound obvious, but flow often gets lost in the shuffle. When you’re planning out the different activities that are going to happen over the course of the day, makes sure they make sense as a whole, and not just as a series of independent exercises. One should lead naturally into the next: an icebreaker activity, for example, could leave you with a set of written notes that can be incorporated into a subsequent brainstorm exercise.
- Generate exchange: A meeting isn’t a presentation, which is defined by one-way communication. It’s an opportunity for exchange, and the best way to get people exchanging ideas and learning each other’s perspectives is to get them making things together. This can be something intangible, like a service design map, or something very concrete, like a sketch model of a marketing plan.
- Listen like the sales meeting depends on it: If you’re the facilitator, you’re often the only one in the room who’s not actively producing or collaborating. So your job, when you’re not setting up for the next activity, is to listen. Listen closely to the conversations people are having — not just what they’re saying but how they’re saying it.
- If several participants get frustrated or excited over a topic, make note of that.
- Try to identify who wields influence, and who has the most knowledge on topics (not always the same person).
- Let the insights you gain from listening shape how you lead subsequent activities.
Estimating outcomes is necessary for initial alignment, but that doesn’t mean every team needs to end up where you expected. An intentional departure from the plan, in fact, can be a powerful lesson or unearth a useful insight or new direction for future work. But while the outcome of a creative workshop can sometimes be unpredictable, the process by which you get there shouldn’t.