Looking for sales meeting ideas? Ask these 5 questions first to see if you should have a meeting at all

by Jo Johansson

“Actions speak louder than meetings.” — Lee Clow | Global Director, TBWA

Another day, another meeting. An hour later and it feels like the only thing successfully accomplished was wasting time.

Everyone talked in circles, no decisions were made, and the whole team leaves frustrated and exhausted. Except for the one guy still there, who fell asleep halfway through. 

Sound familiar? Meetings get a pretty bad rep. According to one study, 47% of employees think meetings are the biggest waste of time in their business, and 39% admit to dozing off during them.

Sometimes when you're looking for sales meeting idea, the best idea is to have LESS meetings, but make each meeting count more.

But here’s the thing: Meetings don’t have to be that way. If your sales meetings suck, it’s because you suck at running them. You can’t just set a time and date and expect value to create itself. Productive meetings are the result of intentional planning, not wishful thinking.

Take your meetings from meaningless to meaningful by asking these five questions.

Question #1: What’s the goal of this meeting?

Every effective meeting has one thing in common: A clearly-defined goal.

The goal of your meeting dictates its structure and flow, so you and everyone in attendance should know what it is. This will help you stay productive and on-topic.

Here are six common goals, and an effective meeting structure for each.

Goal #1: Make a decision

When you need input from other decision-makers to move forward, call a decision meeting. These meetings are most effective for major changes in the business, like hiring a candidate, reallocating funding, or launching a new marketing campaign.

Decision meetings are small, short, and hyper-focused. They should only be attended by the most relevant decision-makers, who can either influence or are directly affected by the decision.

Goal #2: Resolve conflict

Conflict within a startup needs to be resolved as quickly and completely as possible. The best way to do that is to hold an alignment meeting between the affected parties.

These meetings can take a number of different forms. It may be a one-on-one meeting between co-founders, or a team-on-team meeting between sales and engineering. It may be resolved in an hour, or a day. It doesn’t matter, as long as everyone is on the same page by the end.

The earlier you identify conflict, the quicker it can be resolved. Instead of waiting for tension to build, call alignment meetings the moment you notice any misalignment.

Goal #3: Brainstorming session

New and innovative ideas are what keep businesses alive. Hold a brainstorm meeting whenever you need new ideas about product development, market expansion, sales and marketing campaigns, or goal-setting.

For the best results, ask everyone to brainstorm before or at the beginning of the meeting. Otherwise, according to this Fastcompany article, brainstorming during the meeting will cause the first ideas to dominate, preventing better ideas from developing.

The brainstorm meeting itself can be a small group, or company-wide gathering. Just remember that this meeting is about ideas, not decisions.

Goal #4: Company-wide update

Company-wide update meetings are common in early-stage startups, where teams are small and the lines between departments are blurry.

These short meetings are focused on the health of the business as a whole and usually cover topics like fundraising, policy changes, pivots, and other major announcements.

As your business grows, transition to holding an in-person meeting with only the most relevant department heads and sending out an email update to everyone else.

Goal #5: Team update

A team is only as effective as their communication, and team meetings are a great way to keep everyone connected and productive.

Use these check-ins to set goals for the coming week and reflect on whether or not last week’s objectives were met.

Most teams meet once a week, but others choose to meet daily. If you take the daily approach, try and limit each meeting to fifteen minutes. You can help enforce this time limit by turning your daily meetings into standup meetings. After fifteen minutes, no one wants to be standing any longer.

Goal #6: Individual update

Individual feedback and advice can seem hostile in a group setting. For that reason, it’s smart for managers to hold occasional one-on-one meetings with each team member.

These meetings help managers understand how each member of their team operates and allows them to create fitting objectives for each person.

Limit these meetings to once a month to avoid unnecessary interruptions and to make sure that there’s enough data to review.

Question #2: How brief can I make this meeting?

That weekly hour-long meeting everyone dreads? You could probably get in done in 15 minutes if that’s all the time you allocated.

Set a strict deadline for your next meeting, shorter than you think you need, and enforce it with a timer. When the alarm goes off, the meeting is over. It might take some getting used to, so set a reminder or two before the final buzzer.

It may take a couple meetings to get the hang of a time limit, but your teams will be more productive because of it.

Question #3: Who needs to be at this meeting?

Most meetings are full of people who don’t need to be there.

The average meeting has 9 participants, and 33% of them consider the meeting a waste of time. That means one third of attendees are not providing or receiving any value.

To make your meetings efficient, keep them small. Only invite those who can influence (or who are influenced by) the meeting objective.

Worried the rest of your team will miss out on the meeting? Follow your meetings with a company-wide email that keeps everyone who wasn’t present up-to-date.

Question #4: How much will this meeting cost?

Most people don’t realize every meeting has a hidden price tag. Those hour-long, company-wide meetings could be killing your budget.

Imagine you hold weekly one-hour meetings with your ten-person team. If every attendee makes $80,000/year, then one meeting will cost $360. In a year, you’ll spend over $4,000 on meetings, and that’s assuming you only meet once a week.

Do you really think you generate $360 of value in each hour-long meeting? Probably not.

Once you know how long your meeting will be and who will be attending, calculate how much it’ll cost you. (Need help? Scroll to the bottom of this post and check out our free meeting calculator.)

Then ask yourself …

Question #5: Do we really need to meet?

Not all meetings are meaningless, but the majority are unnecessary.

As 37signal’s Jason Fried and David Hansson said in their bestselling book Rework, “Every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done.”

Instead of interrupting everyone’s workflow with a meeting, send an email with your question or concern. In many cases, you can get the answers you need in half the time and half the effort.

If an email, IM, or phone call doesn’t cut it, it’s probably time to schedule a meeting.

Make your meetings meaningful

“Meetings get a bad rep, and deservedly so - most are disorganized and distracted. But they can be a critical tool for getting your team on the same page.” — Justin Rosenstein | Co-founder, Asana

As a general rule, in-person meetings should be a last resort.

They’re great for big decisions or conflict resolution but, otherwise, just send an email. Make a phone call. Write a letter if you have to. But don’t interrupt everyone’s day unless you’ve tried everything else.

You don't need MORE sales meeting ideas. You need BETTER sales meeting ideas.

When you do hold meetings, keep them focused and productive. Optimize each meeting for time, efficiency, and productivity.

The sooner you get to the point, the sooner your team can get back to crushing it.

Calculate the cost of each meeting with this free meeting calculator.

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