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“How often do you have 1-on-1 meetings with your sales team members?” I ask a sales manager.
A typical reply is “I talk with my sales team all the time.”
Then I ask, “Do you sit down with each person regularly?” The answer is usually something along the lines of “I try to have these discussions monthly, but usually don’t have the time to talk with each team member.”
One more question: “What is the content of these meetings?”
Answer: “We usually talk about their recent numbers and what they expect to sell the next month.”
This is a formula that has to change if a sales manager is committed to sales team development and growing revenue. The goal I am championing includes re-purposing one-on-one reviews so they become a consistent, reliable component of a sales management system. When used this way, a monthly 1-on-1 turns into a developmental coaching conversation, where the rep and manager conclude each meeting with clearly defined strategies for improvement as well as a shared understanding of the current status of all deals in the works, not just the ones that are closing soon.
Here are three ways to get started down the path of great 1-on-1s with sales team members:
1. Schedule a talk with each team member at least monthly
Making a commitment to having monthly 1-on-1s is an important step towards creating an accountable sales team. Being consistent means the sales rep knows he or she will have to report back to you on whether and how they have followed up on action steps you both have recently agreed on. So schedule regular time with each rep, put it in your calendar, and treat those appointments as sacred.
2. Look to the future, not just the past
A common mistake many sales managers make is focusing a 1-on-1 conversation only on the opportunities being forecast to close that month. Sales managers often ignore discussing new opportunities the sales rep has recently created.
Salespeople are all too happy to go along with this approach because, without a doubt, putting new opportunities into the funnel is one of the most challenging parts of the sales profession. For most sellers, it’s the least desirable part of the job.
If you don’t discuss new opportunities, then many salespeople won’t put them into your CRM system until much later in the sales cycle, when they have some reason to anticipate a successful outcome. One reason they do this to avoid having to answer your questions about those opportunities.
However, your forecasts will be much more accurate if you know about all deals that a salesperson is working on. So for that reason alone, you need to pay attention to new opportunities. It also provides you with insight into how effective the salesperson is at creating new opportunities.
3. Focus the discussion on actions a customer is taking
When sales managers check in with team members about a deal, the usual question is “what steps have you gone through so far?” You’ll get much more useful information if you start asking, “what steps have each of your prospects taken in their buying process recently?”
Making this switch is quite simple. The basic format of a monthly 1-on-1 stays the same, and includes the usual topics such as “results to date” and “opportunities added since last review.”
The key tweak, however is asking the rep to describe the most recent actions that a customer or prospect has taken when describing the status of a deal. Has the customer, for instance, agreed to a meeting? Put the salesperson in contact with another decision maker? Worked with that decision-maker to develop buying criteria? Has the customer allocated money in their budget for making a purchase?
These customer-buying questions are critical because they give you a much more accurate view of where a deal stands and how likely it is to progress further at a reasonable pace.
Making this change serves two purposes: First, you’ll pick up much more quickly if a deal is slowing down, which gives you an opportunity to work with the rep and take action before the slow down becomes a full stop. Second, it will help improve sales forecast accuracy. Click here to download a copy of the review form I recommend. 1-on-1 Monthly Review Tool For Download
Little Changes, Big Impact
Taken together, these three changes in your approach to 1-on-1 reviews—making sure you meet with each sales team member regularly to increase accountability, looking towards the future not just the past, and focusing on customer actions in the buying process—can turn what could be a routine chore into a powerful tool for driving continuous improvement in your salespeople and their results. What more could a sales manager ask?