Expert advice: What should a weekly 1:1 sales meeting look like?

A 1:1 sales meeting provides sales managers and sales reps time for reflection and goal setting, as well as an opportunity for both sides to raise their concerns.

As a manager, you shouldn’t look at your weekly individual meetings as simply a time to go over sales numbers. Your responsibility is to foster professional development for your reps, and arm them with everything they need to be successful in your organization.

So, what makes an individual meeting between a manager and rep truly effective? We gathered advice from six sales professionals on what a 1:1 sales meeting should look like and how to maximize the face-time you spend with your reps.

Related: Five tips for holding a productive sales team meeting

1) Start by listening.

1:1 sales meetings are an ideal time to learn for sales reps and sales managers alike. Both parties should go into these meetings ready to listen and work together.

“The sales manager’s job is to provide resources and guidance to each salesperson,” says Diane Helbig, Business and Leadership Development Advisor at Seize This Day. “The only way to do this effectively is to first listen to what they are experiencing. This way, sales managers can address specific items with that salesperson.”

Helbig stresses the importance of making these meetings unique to each of your sales reps. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing,” she says. “People work in their own way and have their own unique needs. They require different levels of assistance and attention. Effective sales managers understand this and approach their 1:1 sales meetings with this in mind.”

The moral of the story? Before you create a mental checklist of all the things you want to accomplish in your one-on-one meeting, start by listening. This will ensure that you’re addressing the specific needs and concerns that are coming up for your salespeople, some of which you might be completely unaware of. Listening gives you a better picture of what’s going on in your business and makes your individual meetings more collaborative.

2) Focus on skill development.

“You’re only as good as your last performance” is a common attitude in sales, and it’s one that causes undue stress in many sales reps. Without ongoing professional development, it’s hard to beat that “last performance” or acquire the tools that will help you improve as a seller.

Sales professionals at all levels can benefit from sharpening their skills. Managers should focus on coaching during their 1:1s with reps, and put effort into understanding their reps’ baseline skill levels and identifying what needs work.

“You should take the time to evaluate and sharpen your salespeople’s critical thinking skills,” advises Carol Archebelle, a former advertising sales manager and current Digital Media Manager for Foundations Wellness Center. “For instance, your salespeople need to know how to size up potential prospects: Are they a good fit for what we are selling? Can they afford it?  Are we asking them to switch from someone they are currently doing business with or would this be new for them? If it’s a switch, how can we do better? If it’s new for them, how do we demonstrate value?”

The 1:1 meeting gives sales managers a valuable opportunity to coach to individual needs, in a way you can’t with a team meeting. Each rep will have their own strengths and weaknesses in sales, and may need coaching in different areas.

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3) Discuss and understand your reps’ motivators.

We all have different motivations, and what drives us can have a huge impact on how we perform professionally. Sales managers can use their 1:1 sales meetings to better understand what their reps are motivated by.

“Sales managers need to coach their reps based upon their ‘Push’ and ‘Pull’ motivators,” says Cynthia Barnes, Founder of the National Association of Women Sales Professionals. “Push motivators are those that encourage us to accomplish basic survival goals (paying the rent, buying groceries, etc.). Pull motivators, on the other hand, draw us to a higher level. Once a rep is secure knowing that his/her basic needs are met, those same push motivators will not propel them to the next level.”

According to Barnes, knowing where your sales reps are will help you meet their needs and understand their motivators. “Someone who’s worried about whether they’re getting evicted next month isn’t thinking about the President’s Club or being on top of the leaderboard.”

This point is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most critical factors in sales success since motivation has a huge impact on how sales reps work. By understanding what motivates your sales reps, you can help unlock their true potential.

4. Look for new opportunities.

A 1:1 sales meeting is more than a chance to discuss what’s working and what isn’t. It’s also a chance to look for new opportunities for improvement and growth. Some sales managers think they don’t have time to do a 1:1 meeting with each rep, but in reality, managers benefit from this process as much as their reps do.

According to Steven Benson, Founder, and CEO of Badger Maps, “The manager benefits from this regularly scheduled touch-base because it allows them to gather the information they need to update their forecasts for accuracy. They can learn which deals are progressing faster or slower than expected, which ones are new, closed, or lost deals. The 1:1 meeting allows them to spot areas of improvement for the rep in terms of bettering his or her sales craft. Finally and most importantly, the manager can spot patterns that uncover opportunities for improvement for the whole organization.”

Of course, there are plenty of benefits for reps too, as it gives them a different perspective on the entire process. “It’s a great excuse to step back and look at all the deals from a zoomed out view, which inevitably reminds the rep of some deals that need attention,” Benson continues. “Also, it allows them to spend a few minutes and get a fresh pair of eyes on their territory. Salespeople have their fingers on the pulse of where deals are at, how the company is doing in comparison to its competitors, and what the customers want from the company.”

1:1 sales meetings present a regular opportunity to open the lines of communication between the sales manager and each sales rep, which leads to new ideas and improvements of the team’s sales process.

5. Provide resources.

Another important thing sales managers should be ready to do in 1:1 meetings is provide tools and resources to make their reps more successful.

Heather Vreeland, Owner of Occasions Media Group shares how she begins each 1:1 meeting. “Before I ever get started with what I need, I ask them ‘What do you need from me?’ I ask what obstacles are they currently encountering with their prospects, and then together we troubleshoot from there. I want them to start their week with their coach and feel empowered to overcome the inevitable ‘Nos’ of sales so they can charge through without disappointment to the ‘Yeses.’”

Sales managers can make the most of 1:1 sales meetings by supporting their reps in anything they might need. These meetings are about goal setting and accountability, but they’re also for learning about what your reps might be lacking and what roadblocks you can clear out of their paths.

6. Have a little fun!

The weekly (or monthly) 1:1 sales meeting doesn’t have to be a total bore. Sales professionals should use this time to connect with each other and humanize the process. Everyone needs a minute to breathe, and a 1:1 sales meeting should allow for that as well. In fact, according to David Goldsmith, Sales Manager at ezCater, having fun can actually make these meetings more productive.

“We work hard, all day. When I let each member of my team know through my actions that I’m not taking myself too seriously, they will follow suit and loosen up. This leads to more productive conversations, more transparent feedback, and a meeting culture that is far more attractive than its counterpart.

“It’s a rallying cry to lead by example,” Goldsmith continues. “If I’m prepared, if I’m transparent and communicative, if I’m ready to commit, if I’m having a great time—my sales reps will be too.”

Related: How to use Slack to motivate your sales team

Bottom line, make sure that you’re using these individual sales meetings to energize your sales reps, and have a bit of fun doing it. Your goal for these meetings should be, first and foremost, to motivate your reps. 1:1 sales meetings should leave your reps feeling good about themselves and about their work. One of the best ways to make that happen is by making the meetings a little more relaxed.

Got any other tips for holding a productive 1:1 sales meeting? Tweet us @nutshell and share your best tips!

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