Account Executive Team Meetings that Work: Modern Performance Expert Roundup
Sales meetings can be effective platforms for communications, brainstorming, and for implementing high leverage actionable items. They also can be a drag on time and a drain on staff energy. These meetings can take all forms, such as formal gatherings in an office, cross-functional team communications, peer subject matter expert presentations, and guided meditations or NFL film room style breakdowns of sales calls. Our experts, who run very different meetings themselves, note that different cultures run entirely different kinds of meetings. Variables such as size, cadence, and, agenda setting play a profound role in turning drains into gains, taking full advantage of the boosts meetings can give a company.
Modern Performance asked managers at top firms like Lever, Upgrade, Datanyze, Intercom and Affirm to weigh in with some of the methods they’ve found to be effective, and shortfalls to avoid, in running effective team meetings.
We do a stand-up once a week. With team meetings one must always evaluate, “Is this worth everyone’s time? Are we providing value to each other and to the company?
“A team meeting is an expensive meeting. If you’re taking all ten, twenty, or thirty people off of the sales floor for half an hour each week, then you want to make sure you’re getting value out of it.”
One of the ways I do that is by having the team help drive the agenda. Before the meeting I’ll give them a half-hour reminder. Team members start putting topics in a doc that we all have access to on Quip. They might want to talk about wins, losses, or anything they think the team could benefit from. Then, I’ll reserve a bullet or two at the very end for housekeeping. A lot of the tips for one-on-ones also are applicable with team meetings, like making them consistent and predictable.
The goals of these meetings are participation and engagement. Each week I think of something that the team might really learn from; that’s how I come prepared. A few of the team members have responsibilities for their portion of the agenda every week. One of my AEs, for example, updates the metrics so that they’re always available the morning of the meeting. We don’t just walk through the metrics. It’s not, “We are at 75% of the goal.” What he does is make all of the data accessible so we can read it, and he tells a story around it. Our account manager does something similar. He always has one good customer story from the previous week to share with the team. That way we all have great use cases on the top of our heads as we kick off the week.
Like most companies, we have a lot of meetings. If I can give some of that time back to people, I consider that an accomplishment. I like to focus team meetings around either an activity or brainstorm or a discussion for a high-leverage action that we want to implement. By having everyone in the room focused on a problem to solve, it creates a sense of accomplishment, that they’re getting something out of that meeting.
“We do this thing called office hours, where we gather our finance team, our legal team, our product team all in one room for thirty minutes each week. It allows us to solve some things very quickly that otherwise might involve a lot of back-and-forth over email.”
When we’re working on partnerships and we have issues to raise other cross-functional teams, we can go and talk to them about it. I tell my team, office hours is not mandatory. If you have an issue, go, and you’ve got everyone’s attention.
There are basic things that are in every team meeting, like updates on what’s going on at a leadership level, check-ins on progress toward our goals using certain metrics. But one addition that has been very helpful is using team members as subject matter experts in areas of expertise, whether it’s a new product or a way to interact with the client, and giving them the space to present to their peers. I encourage them to leave the team with a next step around adopting whatever was shared. My goal is to have one or two presentations per meeting and have them be ten to twenty minutes out of the hour. If we don’t have a great opportunity to present, we won’t present it, but that’s rare.
“I’ll typically identify something that is helping a particular team member in a one-on-one and say, ‘Hey, why don’t we put that on the agenda for a team meeting?’”
Ideally, we get an agenda out a couple of weeks ahead. Sometimes it went to the team and they’re like, “Okay, that’s reasonable. We’ll try that.” Sometimes they get really excited about it and there’s an aha moment. We typically take those presentations and expose them to the broader team. Sometimes they went out to the entire organization. There were a couple that actually even influenced our product road map.
“With team meetings, two things are crucial. Always have an agenda and always have a takeaway. Meetings tend to go wrong when they are missing one or both of these things.”
We’re all so busy and we’re all doing a million different things during the day that when we do dedicate, 30 minutes or an hour for a meeting, it’s up to whoever is leading the meeting to have an agenda. Other people can add to the agenda if they have other topics that they want to discuss. Everyone agrees on what we’re going to talk about. Then when we have the meeting, we try to get some actionable items and takeaways. People leave the room with ownership of a task and a deadline to complete it. If there’s a follow-up that needs to happen, that we we agree on a date by which we’re going to complete our portion of the task.
I haven’t found the optimal route for team meetings. I’ve tested so many things and tried different approaches. For instance, the team comes with an agenda, the team doesn’t come with an agenda, the team creates the agenda. But the group meeting is not something that I’ve really mastered to be honest. In fact, I’ve never really seen a successful 10-person meeting. I don’t know but if you put 10 people in a room, it’s like there’s too many people in the room. As far as what I can draw upon from my experiences in different cultures, I would love to say that I’ve seen an amazing format and I’m going to adopt it. But it’s not the case. The Japanese have a worse team meeting than we do. No one communicates so there are extended pauses for 2 minutes at a time. I can’t remember one successful team meeting in Japan. That’s not an area they’re really strong. Germans will run it very rigorously. They will have a very strict agenda and things will get covered, but it doesn’t open it up for communication and collaboration. Maybe more of an open forum is the answer. Otherwise, I’d say just send out a survey or an email. You don’t need to waste everyone’s time.
It’s important to come to team meetings prepared with a detailed agenda, and to get the team to contribute to the agenda. That way, engagement levels are significantly higher. It’s also useful to have team members teach subject matters where they have expertise to their colleagues. So not only are they learning on a deeper level, but they get the experience of explaining it to their peers.
“I like to show what greatness is with a sales call of the week, chosen by the leadership team or through rep submission. It recognizes that person that had a great call but more importantly, it shows the team, specifically younger sales reps, what greatness is and that even greatness still has areas for improvement.”
To spur development in team meetings, we’ll also review a great article or listen to an enlightening podcast, break it down and go over what we learned. Lewis Howes has a podcast called The School of Greatness or there’s a podcast called The Charged Life with Brendon Burton. We’ve done book clubs where we read a book every quarter, and review each chapter weekly for about 10 or 15 minutes as part of our team meeting. We’ve even done crazy stuff like meditation training in team meetings to talk about stress reduction, focus etcetera. We’ll bring different people in from all over the company once a month for 15 or 20 minutes to explain what their group does, how they ended up in their role, any advice they may have, and some open Q&A time. We also found individual call listening sessions to be very, very important. These are where we have all of our calls already recorded. We bring calls to a room and bring the entire sales team into the room and listen to the calls for an hour and break the call down, kind of like an NFL film room where you’re going over practices and those and rewinding and fast forwarding. We found that to be very successful and helpful for people. Reps always reported that they got a lot out of that exercise. It creates a transparency with team vision, goals, measurement of progress and a culture of people feeling really a part of the team, a problem solver, a business owner.
“We report team metrics in our weekly stand-ups. For each role we also have a couple of, what I call, ‘metrics that matter.’”
Whether you’re an inbound SDR, outbound SDR, AE, or account manager we agree at the beginning of the quarter on three metrics that we’re going to manage toward this quarter. Then we do a weekly check-in on how we’re doing, how team members are performing from week to week, and their performance compared to the rest of the team. It can be the same metrics from quarter to quarter, or we could change them once we feel like we’ve gotten to where we want to be with those particular measures.
Obviously, being a data analytics company, we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is. So we also use our own platform to manage toward these metrics. If the team is off track, then that’s on me. I need to go in and figure out if these are the right metrics. Are these goals attainable? Is there an outside factor that I didn’t take into account that’s created a hurdle to meeting goals?
For one-on-ones, the first thing to do is ask, “Is this a pattern for them, or just a one-off?” If it’s a one-off, then let’s just get back on track, pick up the speed, and make up some ground. If it’s a recurring thing, then that’s when we really have to dig in deeper with them and figure out what’s going on. Is this a mental block? Do they absolutely hate doing outbound prospect emails? Is it that they were stumbling with their demos? Were they were taking too long to prepare? Sometimes it’s something they can’t get over, and that’s a whole different story.
The crux of all this is communication with your team. If you have spent the time to build a great relationship with them and spent the time facilitating open conversations, then it’s going to be a lot easier and faster to identify why they’re not hitting their metrics or why they’re not engaged in their one-on-ones.
I use performance metrics to track progress in our one-on-ones. I get a really quick, one- or two-minute snapshot from reviewing their pipelines and we focus on any problem areas, any roadblocks I could help remove. Maybe it’s a hold-up with credit or billing, or there’s a problem with the contract we use. I could step in and help resolve that or escalate that. As a team, performance metrics help assess our progress towards our goals, measuring against quota, against past quarters, against other AM teams. There are secondary metrics that affect the primary ones, like, “Where is your pipeline and how many campaigns are you currently live on in one-on-ones every week?” To me, performance metrics measure the outcome of whatever actions you’re taking. If our focus for the quarter is leading with insights, then if my team was following through on that and delivering recommendations to clients using metrics is that influencing revenue for our team? Are we able to move revenue faster than other teams as a baseline? It’s serves as reinforcement to the story.
We make use of performance metrics, as everybody absolutely should, they are a key aspect of running an effective sales team. We have dashboards that we review during our one-on-ones and do a pipeline list.
“I think metrics are a great way to set goals and also uncover weaknesses or untapped opportunities. But I think it’s important not to hide behind the metrics as the only way to judge performance.”
To really get to the core of the things that folks are working on, I try to understand that whole partnership process from the very beginning. Whether we’re running an effective process, if we’re speaking with the right people, if we have a clear understanding of goals and return on investment.
“I try to stay away from the obvious, which for sales people, is bookings. They know how they’re doing against quota. I know how they’re doing against quota. I try to dig in to actual emails that they’re sending to prospects and customers.”
Same for the number of phone calls they are making or how many demos they’re doing per day or per week. I’d rather see them have 5 quality demos per week than 25 low-quality demos. We also have them create deal plans for some of the important deals that they’re developing. We’ll evaluate those deal plans for holes or gaps. I’ll challenge them on whatever I find, with a focus on quality of communication over volume of activity. It’s a little bit more difficult because you can’t just run metrics in Salesforce and show them. We do go over sales numbers so they know where they stand amongst the team, but I find it important to dive deeper into what they’re actually saying on phone calls and the content of emails that they’re sending, to make sure it’s bringing value to the prospect or customer.
I really try and come prepared to meetings, having looked at the latest metrics from my managers, team KPIs or their individual sales rep KPIs.
“I think metrics matter because ultimately, they’re a key indicator of current performance which ultimately drives career progression. In my one-on-ones, I want my direct reports to have a clear idea of exactly what they’re doing great at and maybe a few things that they need to improve upon, as well as how they can go about making that change.”
I also think it’s important not to just leave a one-on-one giving your direct report a list of things to do on his or her own. That’s part of it, but also, as a leader, you need to ask yourself, “Have I given them all the tools and resources they need in order to be successful?
Learn more from our experts, and see full profiles, here:
Justin Roberts, VP of Sales at Lever
Jeff Rothenberg, Director, Customer Service at Upgrade
Chris Schwass, Head of Relationship Management at Intercom
Alexis Zhu, Director of Revenue at Affirm
Daniel Barber, VP of Sales at Datanyze
Annelies Husmann, Director of Sales at Mode Analytics
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