Make the most of Sales Development Rep One-On-One Meetings: Modern Performance Expert Roundup
There’s nothing like a one-on-one meeting to provide the best forum for you most important conversations. Whether the topics are praise and development, constructive criticism and conflict management, or mentoring and bonding, making face time with each individual that works for you builds their trust, skills, and dedication to your organization. One-on-one meetings show that Sales Reps are valued as individuals and are often the setting where people are at their most honest and responsive.
But, with limited time for every meeting in a busy workweek, how can you really utilize one-on-one meetings to both you and your employee’s benefit? Modern Performance sat down with managers at top firms to share their methods for effective one-on-ones. Their solutions include everything from agenda items, optimal locations to meet, and communication techniques to keep your staff candid and on-track through one-on-one meetings.
What’s the secret to an effective one-on-one, and what’s the agenda and tempo for yours?
I’m constantly making small adjustments as I learn more and more about what I think makes a good one-on-one.
For instance, I’ve come to believe that one-on-ones should not include metrics. We have metrics overviews and we do different kinds of team meetings and stand ups, so during one-on-ones we talk about issues that are better suited for that type of situation. We talk about what challenges they’re facing and I don’t mind digging in and bringing things up where we can work together to find a solution or remove a barrier.
A lot of things that come up during one-on-ones are less about people hitting their metrics. What ends up coming up is more around, “Where do I want to be in two years, three years, and how do I actually work now to make myself ready then?”
“The more interesting part of one-on-ones is talking about development. What we end up focusing on is how a can person can develop professionally or build qualitative skill sets they might need to work on.”
When you’re in sales someone can know the product pretty well and really thrive at KPIs and metrics, but it’s such a different job than being an account executive, which requires a very different kind of skill set. In one on ones, usually, we’ll talk about those skills and see if there’s any place where people feel that they have weaknesses and then talk about how they can improve in those areas.
“The secret to an effective one-on-one is that there always needs to be an agenda and the rep needs to own that agenda.”
When a rep starts there are three topics that should be covered in a one-on-one, but it’s up to the rep to come with his or her own thoughts, own questions, and own concerns. If the rep does not put thought into the conversation, then it can go dry or not happen at all.
First and foremost we cover metrics and quota tracking. How is the rep’s performance relative to the plan? Then we talk about making changes, areas to focus or improve on, et cetera.
Second, we check for conversational competencies. How are the conversations on the phones going? What’s working? What areas can be focused on? What can we do to fill the gaps?
Finally we cover career progression and general open questions. The last thing that we want is for a rep to lose sight of his or her ultimate goal. That doesn’t mean that in every conversation we talk about pay, a raise, or when they will potentially move up. Instead, we maintain that conversation because the career ambitions of SDRs or frontline sellers on their first job could change.
The agenda is key. For me, one-on-one meetings, you have to create an agenda that is valuable for that particular individual. In the first three weeks after their hire, I do hour-long one-on-ones once a week, which is more than what most people do, but I think it’s very important to have a strong connection to the new hire. We establish the agenda by asking, “What are they hoping to get out of this session?” Part of that might be day-to-day concerns, but also what are some articles or posts we can go through that can improve your development. I like to identify helpful content in the space that we’re selling into, constantly staying on top of new information that’s available and identifying takeaways. Usually, one meeting would be in the office on a monthly basis and the other 3 meetings would actually be walking meetings.
“I definitely prefer a walking meeting. From a scientific standpoint, your neural pathways are activated as you move so you’re going to have better conversations when you’re moving. It’s also just nice to be outside and usually your employees will open up a lot more as you take them for a walk.”
It extends the branch, “Yes, I know that you’re an important part of the team, I want to support you.” They’re probably more open to talk about sensitive issues outside of a four-walled office. And they create the agenda. Really if you’re a leader, you don’t manage people, you lead them. I try to remember that it’s their time with me, not my time with them. They should be able to talk to me about anything that’s on their mind, and tell me what I can do to help them learn and improve.
I do something that’s relatively unique in that I alternate the cadence and the process of my one-on-ones on a weekly basis.
Every SDR who works with me has some one-on-one time at least once a week, generally half an hour because they don’t need much that much time. For sales reps, depending on where they are on the maturity curve, it’s between forty five and sixty minutes.
Then, I alternate weeks where I own the agenda for the one-on-one and then they own the agenda for the one-on-one.
“I call one-on-ones ‘alignment conversations,’ because the one-on-ones that I run are intended to get us aligned on expectations and what it takes to meet those expectations.”
Generally, they focus on specific activities—whether that’s positive stage changes in their pipeline, the number of new meetings, or an increase in average opportunity or average deal size. All of that can vary depending on what stage they’re at and what the needs of the business and the individual are. But generally those are the types of leading indicators I’m looking for.
When it’s my week, we can talk about very specific business outcomes that need to happen that they may not even be aware of. For the alternating week, where I allow them to own the agenda, that’s where I have them come to me with specifically what they need help on. I ask them, “What are the things you’re struggling with? What are the things you need my support on?”
This allows them to feel a lot more heard, and it decreases wasted one-on-ones where, if I ran the agenda the whole time, I won’t get to the difficult things that they need that I may not have on my radar. It’s really good for morale.
In sales, most meetings are going to fall into one of a few categories: performance management, one-on-ones, in-line coaching, and professional development. In-line coaching falls into three buckets. In the first meeting I try to determine: what is the single biggest lever I can pull to improve an individual’s performance, and how can I align an appropriate coaching plan? In the second meeting, we execute that plan, for example, by using repetition to target a specific skill until the employee has attained at least a level of confidence, if not excellence. The third meeting is an in-line diagnosis in which we go through their role and responsibilities, and discuss opportunities to make incremental improvements.
Coaching one-on-ones are more oriented towards general improvement, rather than focusing on a specific skill.
“The key is to empower people to solve their own problems. We want them to identify their biggest challenge and determine how they can improve and what help they need.”
“I like to use one-on-ones to coach on broad areas for improvement.”
If somebody has a specific learning opportunity, I prefer to just pull them aside and let them know so the feedback’s actionable and they know exactly what they can do differently next time.
Learn more from our experts, and see full profiles, here:
Philip Galligan, Global Manager of Sales Development at Eventbrite
Daniel Barber, VP Sales of Datanyze
Chris Pollot, Director of Sales Development at UpGuard
Dhiraj Singh, Inside Sales and Operations Manager at MemSQL
Steven Broudy, Director, Inside Sales, Americas at MuleSoft
Brooke Lengsfelder, Director of Sales Development at mParticle
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