There are many reasons to get together with your team for a sales meeting. Why, when and how you manage them is important for every retailer.
Most mattress and furniture retailers use sales meetings to get their sales associates ready to sell, but many fall short of using them to their full potential.
Sales success requires a combination of many skills and initiatives. It therefore stands to reason that sales meetings can be a forum for discussing scores of topics. The problem is, no sales meeting has the time to cover all of these subjects in one all-purpose meeting.
What Should be Covered?
How many different skills and areas of knowledge does it take to succeed in sales? It’s a question without a definitive answer. But I can say with certainty that for every one of these areas, there is a benefit to calling a sales meeting to review and reinforce skills in order to increase sales performance.
Although there are probably an infinite number of reasons to call a sales meeting, the top ten most important ones are:
- What’s on sale this week
- New products and promotions
- Competition and how to respond
- Current advertising
- Policy changes
- Problems to be resolved
- Sales contest announcements
- Recognition of achievement
In addition to these top ten, retailers often use general-purpose sales meetings as quick status and update meetings to give a brief account of what’s on sale, explain what’s being advertised, discuss what the competition is doing, and maybe introduce a new promotion that all salespeople should be aware of.
It’s worthwhile to schedule these meetings on a regular basis. The frequency should be dictated by the pace of changing events at your store. If you rarely change products, or rarely change advertising, there may be no need to have regularly scheduled general sales meetings.
With that said, let’s discuss each of the ten sales meeting agenda items listed above.
#1: What’s on Sale?
Stores with aggressive sales and promotional activities often hold weekly, Saturday morning sales meetings. Their purpose is to make all sales staff aware of all new sales, advertising and promotions. This ensures that sales personnel are prepared to meet the challenge of changes that may break on Saturday morning. Everyone must arrive early— before the store opens, so nobody is caught flat-footed if the first “up” of the day wants to see the ADV futon swing set for $149.99, the one that was only advertised in the “Thrifty Euro” circular dropped at a few select convenience stores.
For less critical information dispersal, emails, memos, Zoom and Webex conferences can be effective. No matter what the
meeting format employed, management must keep every link in the chain of stores educated
on ‘what’s on sale’ every week.
Agenda: Each ad featuring a sale or promotion in each medium should, in turn, be introduced and discussed. If time permits, offer ideas on how the competition is countering your ads with their own messaging.
Present all TV, radio, newspaper, social media, banner advertising, etc., live and in person. I can’t stress strongly enough how important this is. Uninformed salespeople are easily embarrassed when caught off-guard by informed consumers. It’s a major cause of lost sales. And it’s especially annoying if their ignorance is caused by management’s lack of communication and candor.
So, what about retail businesses that have 20 mattress or furniture stores scattered over a metropolitan area? How do they get everybody together? For very important meetings, such as a new product line introduction, it is important to gather the entire team in one place to see new products, meet with manufacturer’s reps and hear from store management. This may be inconvenient, but it’s necessary. Therefore, management should work to make this a rewarding experience. Read on for further details.
For less critical information dispersal, emails, memos, Zoom and WebEx conferences can be effective. No matter what the meeting format, management must keep every link in the chain of stores educated on “what’s on sale” every week.
#2: New Products & Promotions
When you introduce a new product line or make a significant change to an existing one, make sure that the manufacturer’s representative is in attendance. These sales meetings should be called in advance so that everyone involved can be prepared.
Presentations: Product specs, retail prices, selling points, comparisons to the competition and comparisons to existing products should be in writing and passed out to all attendees. The physical products should also be there, front and center, for everyone to inspect. Set a time limit on the meeting itself, but make sure the rep is able to stay on-site for follow-up questions after the formal part of the meeting is over.
Timing & Incentives: Some think it’s better to hold product intro meetings after the store has closed. Yes, it is an inconvenience to the sales staff, but it does allow for more time to see product demonstrations, answer in-depth questions and have discussions. Motivated, successful salespeople will want to stay and learn about new products. The early departures are not likely to be your top producers. Here’s a little bonus idea that will increase attendance, interest and attention. Try to arrange for the rep to have a prize giveaway (from a drawing) from the new product lineup to a lucky winner at the end of the meeting.
Another attraction for this kind of meeting is to offer free food and drinks. If you are considering this idea, please don’t repeat the debacle I witnessed many years ago at a now-defunct mattress chain. After our stores closed at 8:00 pm, 40 salespeople were summoned to a “motivation meeting,” featuring the acolytes of a famous motivational speaker. The meeting’s purpose was to promote an expensive audio sales and motivational program. And, they asked the salespeople to pay for it—at a discount, of course! Management brought in several hundred dollars worth of hot pizza and cold drinks. But, in an apparent lack of foresight, the meeting kicked off BEFORE the food was served. It droned on and on for two hours, and when it finally ended, our reward was cold pizza and warm soft drinks at 10:00 p.m.
#3: Response to the Competition
Your competitors are always trying to grab market share. That’s why sales teams should always be alert to and informed about the competition and its tactics. For a complete discussion of this topic visit www.furninfo.com/Series/Bedding/1 in the online archives of Furniture World magazine. Scroll down to the article titled, “Better Bedding & Mattress Sales: Sizing Up Your Competition.” In it, I outline what every store should do to stay up with the competition. So, what information should be included in a sales meeting about the competition?
Advertising – What is our competition advertising? What is your strategy for responding to their advertising? If the competition is advertising what seems like an extraordinarily good deal, what does our store do to compete with this offer? Customers will ask these questions. Make sure your salesperson is equipped to give a good answer.
Products – What new product lines does the competition have? Did they recently start purchasing from the same manufacturer that you thought you had an exclusive agreement with? Do you have comparable SKUs? Salespeople need to know this information as well.
Policies – There are a million of these. For example, if your competition starts offering free delivery don’t let your salespeople get caught off-guard.
When something new and important happens with your competition, don’t just send a memo, text or e-mail. Call a quick meeting. It carries more urgency and is impossible for salespeople to miss or ignore.
#4: Current Advertising
ill probably cover this subject. But, in some large metro areas, a store’s advertising may be far more extensive than any of their salespeople realize. If this describes your operation, get your ad department to occasionally call the sales staff together to remind everyone who you are targeting, where you are advertising and why.
It is especially important to distribute a complete advertising schedule to each salesperson. This schedule should include the target audience and frequency for each ad medium.
Training is, so to speak, a different animal from all the other reasons for holding sales meetings. All sales meetings should be considered training; however, formal sales training calls for longer, more intensive sessions where most of the information is presented by an instructor to students. Training for new hires is a primary example.
#6: Policy Changes
Major changes to policies such as comfort exchanges or delivery cost are infrequent in most mature stores. But, when a policy does change, every employee and especially every salesperson, must know about it. Send a memo out if you like, or post it on a bulletin board, but the right way to broadcast a policy change is to hold a sales meeting, with mandatory attendance by all staff members. This type of meeting should be brief, but thorough.
#7: Problems to be Resolved
Policy change meetings can be formatted in a way that describe a policy change as a solution or resolution to a sales or service problem or issue. Therefore, problems to be resolved meetings can be included within the format of policy changes meetings. For example; “here’s a problem, here’s the solution, which is a change of policy.”
There are whole libraries of motivational books and videos concerned with sales. Since this article is about sales meetings, I will merely mention that many sales managers have strong feelings about getting everyone together for periodic pep talks. My advice is to keep these pep talks vigorous, but brief. And, limit your expectations regarding their efficacy.
A lot of RSA veterans scorn the idea of any type of motivational bursts by sales management. Selling retail is a marathon, not a sprint. A rah-rah fiesta at 8:30 a.m. may lose a lot of its luster by closing time.
Nevertheless, motivation is important in any type of sales endeavor. Successful sales pros find ways to keep themselves motivated. Management should continually support this effort.
#9: Contest Announcements
Announcing a new sales contest should be a festive, happy event. Sales contests are motivational by design. Why should sales management call a sales meeting to announce a new sales contest? For some reason, sales contests tend to have complicated rules, subject to misinterpretation. This meeting should include hand-outs with all rules explained. The meeting moderator should explain the contest and then invite questions from the sales staff.
Offering refreshments at this meeting will probably be greeted with enthusiasm. Maybe add a door prize drawing to entice attendance.
#10: Recognition of Achievement
This meeting can be held annually, as part of a general company meeting or, at the end of a sales contest. It should be scheduled well in advance, with considerable organization and planning.
Refreshments and door prizes are a good idea to spread the joy around to those who are not recognized this time around.
Sales Meeting Structure
Subject: Each meeting should have a subject and an agenda. Everyone in attendance should know in advance what subject will be discussed because some RSAs might want to prepare for the meeting.
Agenda: This should be typed and distributed to each attendee to facilitate understanding and note-taking. The agenda helps keep the meeting organized and to the point. It can include:
• The reason for the meeting
• Detailed step-by-step discussion points
• Question and answer session
• The close of the meeting
Duration: There should always be a time-frame for the meeting that includes when it starts, how long it will last and when it will end. Allow time for questions, comments, and brief arguments/discussion.
Who will attend: Meeting moderators should send invitations to those whose attendance is necessary. When sales meetings include a manufacturer’s representative, the moderator should keep the rep’s comments to the point, and within the agenda of the meeting.
Who will present: Only one person should conduct the meeting and control its pace and content. Often, the one who calls the meeting will also act as moderator, but not always.
Organization: Meetings should proceed as quickly as possible. They should be held when the store is not open, or completely out of sight of customers. The moderator should promptly call the meeting to order when all attendees are present, then pass out relevant literature and the meeting agenda. All cell phones, laptops and other distracting electronic devices must be turned off.
The moderator should make every effort to keep the meeting interesting, if not actually fun and entertaining. If you are unsure how to do that, Google it. Finally, ask for honest feedback from your attendees. Don’t get discouraged. Good sales meeting moderators are rarely made in the experience of a single meeting.
Value of Informal Sessions
Peer meetings between RSAs without the presence or interference of a moderator or sales manager have proven to achieve excellent results.
The idea is to ask for volunteers from the sales staff to meet together and discuss sales ideas, such as how to handle certain difficult situations on the sales floor. Note that the third section of my book “How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bedseller’s Manual,“ is devoted to discussion of these subjects. This type of meeting does not necessarily need a leader or moderator. It should facilitate an open flow of ideas between RSAs. A good way to kick off such a meeting is to say, “I lost a sale this week that I think I should have made. How would you have handled this?” Then open the discussion. A lot of good (and bad) ideas can come from these meetings. Without the presence of a “boss,” the discussion is often much more open and freewheeling.
Sales meeting organizers should ask themselves two basic questions before any meeting:
- What are we trying to accomplish with this meeting?
- Will our sales staff be improved as a result of the meeting?
After the meeting has concluded, it’s important to ask:
- Did the sales meeting work?
- How can it be improved the next time?