As a day-to-day sales manager, I loved 99 percent of my job: coaching, training, motivating and leading the troops. The one percent I hated was the Monday morning one-on-one meeting with each of the sales reps, in which we spent 30 minutes discussing - among other things - their weekly planner.
Conducting these meetings was a laborious task, one after the other after the other. By the end of the day, my blood-sugar levels had eroded, and those last few reps got the full bore of my wrath. Still, I knew it was the most important meeting of the week. This is where I found the holes in their planning: Are their calls being targeted correctly? Is there a good call mix, with prospects as well as current clients? Is there a good mix of A, B, C and D accounts, versus working only with developmental accounts? Are the calls real, or are they fluff?
Simply put:You must inspect what you expect. If you don't know where your reps are going as they start the week, chances are neither do they. Do you wonder why they are in the office at 10 a.m., when they should be out from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.?
In a recent management seminar, I asked for a show of hands of managers who consider weekly, one-on-one meetings with sales reps to be mandatory. Maybe 10 percent of the hands went up. I then asked if time constraints were the main obstacle to these meetings. The rest of the hands went up.
But, I think there's another problem: The sales managers aren't prepared. Here is the full text of a one-on-one meeting I recently witnessed:
SM: Hi there.What's going on?
Rep: Not much ... got this and that (hands over the work plan for the week)
SM: Okay, need any help?
Rep: Not really.
End of meeting.
The fact is, once I developed a prepared outline for the one-on-one meetings, I actually looked forward to them. Here are some observations:
- Set a regular day and time. Mondays are good, although some sales managers do them successfully on Fridays. If they're scheduled for Monday, do them on Monday. If you let the day go by, you've already lost 20 percent of the week. Catch the reps early, so you can help them before their calls.
- The length of a one-on-one meeting depends on your staff, but 30 minutes is a good rule of thumb. In most cases, the manager will go over 30 minutes if no guidelines have been set for the meeting.
In the green box is a checklist that sales managers use at our LPG-consulted stations.The key point is that the meetings have an agenda; the reps come prepared, knowing what the sales manager is going to ask. Both the sales manager and the rep get maximum impact from the meetings.
Weekly 1-1 checklist
- Go over numbers and percentage to goal - for the current month, and two months out.
- Review last week's goals.
- Discuss three major goals the rep has for the upcoming week.
- Discuss three new clients the rep will see this week.
- Ask which three clients will receive a long-term proposal.
- Discuss weekly planner: Choose three to four accounts each week to inspect as possible in-field coaching ride-alongs.
- Look at weekly projected numbers and compare them with their monthly budget planners.
- Look at the weekly tracker: Choose another four to six accounts to inspect on past weeks' activity. What accounts have not been seen? Why?
- Check accounts receivables. Look for past-due money and potential problems.
- Cover some part of their strategic budget planner/annual planner.
- If time permits, brainstorm on specific accounts.
This may seem like a lot, but once you build some continuity, your rep will anticipate these questions and arrive prepared, which will help them to plan their week better.
Perhaps the most important component of these one-on-one meetings is that the manager should never be late or cancel for some lame reason. Close your door and devote your undivided attention to your rep. Never let other reps intrude on your oneon-one meetings. Attending to each of the items in the checklist takes a lot of discipline, and not all managers can do it.Those who do, however, are able to build incredibly productive teams that produce extraordinary sales growth.