In the past few months, I’ve sat through a series of unbelievably boring sales meetings. Even though they were held in different organizations, they all followed a similar pattern:
- The president/sales leader stood in front of the room and yakked about numbers, internal policies, his latest ideas to improve sales, and ended with an exhortation to “go get ‘em.”
- The salespeople were either mute or asked some type of administrative question, such as “How can we get the shipping department to respond more quickly to our orders?”
- After the ordeal was over, salespeople muttered to each other about “useless meetings” and management complained about the lack of enthusiasm among the troops.
No wonder everyone was dissatisfied. Nobody had interacted during the meeting, and more to the point, no meaningful conversation had taken place.
Excuse me, was I snoring too loudly?
Whatever happened to engaging everyone in a little reflection about what we do and how we do it? In our hurry to produce, produce, produce, we seldom stop to reflect on what’s worked, what hasn’t and what we’ve learned.
How can we get smarter if we don’t build on our past experience?
I suggest incorporating time into each of your sales meetings for some dialogue and reflection. You just might stifle the yawns, engage your team in some worthwhile discussion and find ways to work smarter and faster. Here are some hints on how to get the juices flowing.
Shake up the brain links
Pose a typical sales question to the team. For example: How can we grow by 20% every year? How can we uncover new opportunities within our current account base?
Then, and this is the most important part, open up the discussion with a “whack on the side of the head” follow-up question — the kind that shakes your team out of their assumptions and clears the brain for new answers. I use two great resources for “whack” questions: The Creative Whack Pack by Roger von Oech (available in bookstores and on Amazon) and Michael Bungay Stanier’s Get Unstuck and Get Going (available at http://www.boxofcrayons.biz/books-products/get- unstuck-and-get-going/).
An example from Get Unstuck and Get Going: Read this short poem: “Barn’s burnt down. Now I can see the moon.” Then ask the group: “What’s the ‘barn’ or ‘big obstacle’ that’s in your way? What can you see behind it?”
Talk about the team’s hopes and nightmares
Alternatively, you could lead the team through a reflective thinking exercise. Ask about each individual’s best hope for solving a work situation, and what factors support this optimistic outcome. Then ask about their worst nightmare scenario around the situation and the factors that support pessimism. You’ll find that people’s insights are quite profound.
Start the meeting with silence
I’ve attended meetings that started with two minutes of silent contemplation, and observed how powerful silence can be. I’ve also seen facilitators ask people to stop talking and just be silent for a minute when a meeting gets heated. It’s amazing how a few moments for pause and reflection can set a thoughtful tone.
Pose a “take-away” reflection
At the end of the meeting, ask the participants to ponder a question and report their thoughts at the next meeting. Here are a few of my favorites:
What does the concept of “being powerful” mean to you?
How do you give your power away? To whom? When?
What does it mean to work collaboratively as a team?
What is present when we as a team are great?
Where do we take our foot “off the gas”?
When we add reflection into our daily work, we become more resilient, flexible and creative. Please stop hosting boring meetings. Or, if you are a captive in such a meeting, politely pose a reflective question and see what happens.