Updated January 2023
Relationships and communication are essential in sales. From the first pitch to the final sale, your sales team must communicate with their customers. What about you or your team? Do you find it frustrating that your sales team doesn't speak up during meetings? Here are some ideas for getting your team to engage in meetings.
Sales communication is defined as the processes and messaging that keep sales teams informed, engaged, and productive while encouraging feedback.
Sales communication is the backbone of a sales organization. You and your team understand the importance of communication when it comes to prospects and clients. It is not possible to close a deal without effective communication. But communication between yourself and your team is a little different. Here are some ideas for improving communication between your team and yourself.
On occasion, it may appear like you're holding meetings for meetings' sake. Meetings with your team should not be a chore or an exercise in going through the motions. If your team meeting feels this way, it's time to step back and restructure it. According to Better Meetings, "Professionals spend 2 hours a week in pointless meetings, which will add up to over $541B worth of resources in 2019." That is a lot of money!
On the flip side, that same study by Better Meetings stated, "The top reason people selected as the best way to get them excited about attending a meeting is for it to be well-planned (64%)." Maintaining a well-planned meeting with structure, valuable information, and an opportunity for your team to share will ensure that your meetings are effective.
If you want more information on running a meeting, check out our blog, "How to Run an Effective Team Meeting."
Just because you have a meeting agenda doesn't mean you'll get your team to speak up. There appear to be built-in defense mechanisms that cause people to tread carefully around authority figures. According to Psychology Today, "Being outspoken requires three things: the courage to speak up, the courage to listen, and the courage to stay in discovery." Most people are afraid that if they are outspoken, they will be rejected for their thoughts and views. Luckily, there are ways to support your team to make them feel more comfortable.
Most people dislike being caught off guard when they're asked to speak about something without a chance to prepare. Make sure to send an email the day before the meeting outlining what will be covered and what "homework" they must bring to the meeting. For example, encourage them to speak about a challenge they faced, something they are proud of, or something they learned. Give them a few minutes to speak to it and share with the group.
It is possible for a sales leader to talk too much, but it's rarely possible to listen too much. Sales leaders can avoid these everyday bad habits that undermine a conversation:
You can't listen while talking. Allow your team to discuss a specific topic among themselves and only speak when necessary. Take the time to listen for comprehension so your team knows you're hearing them correctly. People are more likely to share their opinions and ideas when they feel heard and valued.
If you get a stony silence when you ask your sales team what they think of a new product or a change in a sales process, it's time to ask specific questions. People can't respond well, and in many cases will not respond at all, if they do not understand what you're looking for when you ask a question. Try narrowing your questions by asking things like:
The precise questions help your team know exactly what you are asking and what information you are seeking.
If you want people to speak up more, show them that speaking up will be rewarding. If you make a consistent effort to give people credit for their ideas, this will go a long way toward encouraging people to share more ideas. A simple "thank you" for sharing during or after the meeting can go a long way with your sales team. It's even more encouraging when their idea actually gets implemented. Share it broadly, giving them credit. Being specific about why you liked what they said will also help them feel rewarded for sharing. It also provides the rest of the team with examples of what you are looking for.
A follow-up email is an excellent way to encourage additional sales communication. Just like in a meeting, you should have a goal in mind, and in this case, it's to encourage your salespeople to communicate more effectively.
Start with thanking them specifically for what they brought to the meeting. Rather than just saying, "Thanks for your time," thank them for their input. Reference a specific conversation or detail they contributed to the meeting.
Keep it short, and then let them know what prep they need to do for the next meeting.
To improve your team's communication during a meeting, you need to make sure the meeting is relevant and well-structured. Then you need to give your team a heads-up about what will be discussed in the meeting. Be sure to let them know if they have any "homework" so they can feel prepared. Don't dominate the conversation. Get your team's input, reward them for participation, and be sure to follow-up with your sales team with positive reinforcement.