My name is Jeff Jaworski. Over the last 20 years, I’ve sat at a lot of tables.
I’ve been the buyer, holding a nine-figure budget at the top agency holding companies, and I’ve been the seller and sales leader responsible for driving growth on a nine-figure book of business at Google.
I took those experiences to enablement over the past five years in an effort to help Google’s sales organization build the knowledge and skills needed to continue to grow in an increasingly complex and competitive environment.
My goal now is to bring the culmination of those experiences to more sellers, more sales teams, and more sales organizations to drive better outcomes for all sides of the table.
The problem at every table:
Over the past 20 years as a customer, seller, and enablement leader, I’ve experienced a pain point at every table, which has persisted in hindering higher performance from sales teams and better outcomes for both sellers and customers.
What’s the problem? Ineffective customer meetings.
Ok, so that’s the problem, but how big is it really? How many ineffective customer meetings do you think will happen today?
The answer? 15 million in the US alone - and it costs companies up to $283B!
Why should we care?
Why should we even care about this? Bad meetings are happening everywhere and we know this already, so why change?
The reality is bad meetings have been happening for a long time, but:
- The amount of meetings we’re having
- How we’re having them
- The environment we’re in
These factors make every meeting matter much more than ever before, and there’s a real business impact on the effectiveness of our meetings.
Which brings me to what this article is all about:
📈 Benefit: Inspire YOU and your teams to make these shifts and drive higher performance for your organization
❓ Check: How does that sound? If you’re onboard, read on. If not, I encourage you to use the rest of your time doing something you’d find more purposeful and beneficial.
Five key shifts
With that, there are five key shifts that really drove this change (from my experience as an enablement leader at Google) that you can take back to your organization.
Shift 1: Address the how, not just the what
When we think about meeting effectiveness, or frankly any outcome you’re hoping to drive, it comes down to ensuring that our sellers truly understand both what they need to know and do in order to drive a successful outcome.
In this case, driving more effective meetings means that:
- You truly understand customers’ objectives/challenges/pain points
- Are able to design effective solutions to meet those needs and are equipped with the right skills and behaviors that will improve the effectiveness of their meetings
From how you open and close, how you lean into discovery early on and throughout the process as needed, how you tell a clear and structured story to address the opportunity, and how you handle objections along the way.
With that in mind, many sellers feel their meetings are effective already, yet customers often disagree.
That being said, the problem was really in HOW we delivered the meetings, not necessarily what we were offering.
Let me give you an example:
When we first started to build our proof of concept for the sales coaching program at Google, I was running many of these sessions myself to get first-hand experience on running the session, what would come up, etc.
In one of our first sessions, the opportunity was (for better or worse) immediately validated. We had a seller come in to practice an upcoming pitch and here’s how the opening went:
“Hi, today I’d like to cover three things with you. First, I’d like to talk about X product, second I’d like to talk about Y product, and then if we have time, I’d like to hear what is top of mind for you.”
That is just one seller, now imagine if that is happening with hundreds or thousands of sellers and customer engagements.
With that one session, we were able to address the framing, coached the seller to flip the flow, and also dug further into what the meeting stage actually was at and what would be most important to address and get out of the time.
Remember, the meeting is to serve the customers’ goals, not our own (we solve ours once we solve theirs). The seller had an absolute aha moment through the session and saw the power of coaching, practice, and real-time feedback in a safe space.
That was just one example and the harsh reality is that sellers, no matter where they work, are often too focused on their products, using their language, and often not fully preparing for how to deliver the meeting in a way that would resonate with the customer’s objectives, opportunities, and goals.
So now you might ask - how do you deliver an effective meeting and know it was effective?
Here’s the key steps we focused on:
- You know what type of meeting you’re having (are we in discovery or pitch?)
- You have a clear purpose and mutual benefit to start the meeting and align on the goal upfront (you may have noticed I used a purpose benefit check to clarify the purpose of this article)
- You have a clear understanding of the objective and frame it in the customers’ language with clear rationale, recommendations, and business impact
- You can present in a compelling and memorable way through things like stories, humor, and analogies
- You handle objections with care & curiosity, seek to learn more, and deliver a response that is anchored in the additional information you’ve gained to provide a response that is thoughtful vs. defensive and directive
- You reserve time to effectively close the meeting with a clear summary, check if we accomplished our goals, assign action items, and next steps and say “thank you” (no meetings should end abruptly or where we keep saying - sorry we’re a few minutes over)
Shift 2: Stop checking boxes, start changing behavior
Great, so let’s fix ineffective meetings. Here’s the next challenge that enablement teams face and need to change for this to actually work - warning, you might just get triggered in this section. 🙂
Here’s a question: How often are you spending time addressing short-term or reactive requests?
"All sellers need to be trained on X", "we need to be better at Y", etc. without a clear problem to solve that will drive sustainable impact? Just taking the next training to check a box?
I’m willing to bet you’re nodding your head as you’re reading this right now…
In order to address ineffective meetings, it cannot be solved with one and done training. The goal is not to check a box, but rather to change behavior.
This requires a system to support and drive sustainable behavior change, not just a singular training or point in time solution.
Here’s an analogy for you:
A sustainable approach is like Taylor Swift. It is memorable, relatable, and has a repeatable formula that delivers impact. People know it, believe in it, and they come back for more.
A singular solution is like a one-hit wonder. Let’s compare it to an artist like Right Said Fred. Their hit song? I’m too sexy (1991).
Well, that one time it might have been true, but it certainly didn’t sustain itself.
Every one-hit wonder has different reasons for why it became popular, but they all have one thing in common - their popularity waned and they were forgotten.
The formula for their one-time success didn’t sustain itself. This is what happens with even the best training programs.
We invest heavily in them, a lot of fanfare, promotion, driving enrollment, and even with the “BEST TRAINING EVER” they tend to end up like Right Said Fred - gone and forgotten.
In fact, 90% of what our sellers learn is lost within one week. Don’t be like Right Said Fred. Be like Taylor.
This is where sales coaching comes in to provide specialism in the HOW to sell and a space for our sellers to learn, practice, and apply key skills to prepare for their upcoming customer meetings. It's not just another training.
Shift 3: Make it happen FOR them, not TO them
Your learners (sellers, sales managers) should immediately see and feel the benefit of the experience. It’s an investment, and they should be able to apply what they’ve learned in their next customer engagement.
They’re doing it because it benefits them, in service of a better outcome for their customers, not because there is a requirement and a deadline attached to it.
This should feel like something they want and get to do, as opposed to feeling like they have to do it.
What does this mean?
It means that the seller can bring their unique challenge and situation to the table, work through it in a psychologically safe environment, and know they’ll walk out with tangible ways to address it.
It is meant to truly help them, not just check the next training box - and if they see the impact (and they will), they’ll come back for more!
Shift 4: Meet them in THEIR Flow, not YOUR flow
To do this well, it is critical that we meet sellers at their time of need and in the flow of their work, not just when we’re ready for them to take training based on our own planning and dev cycles.
It must be always on and available when they need it most.
That means that your sellers should not experience this program based on the gantt chart that outlines the timing to build and launch programs. This is a program that is always on, and can evolve without needing to wait months for it.
Ultimately, this is not a campaign or a compliance exercise, this is about sustainable behavior change - which means it requires repetition, needs to be always on, and is available at their time of need.
Shift 5: Be in it with them, don’t throw it at them
This means embedding it in their system and riding alongside the sales teams, not just sitting in your silo throwing training over the fence.
We accomplished this with the sales coaching program by doing two things:
- Assigning each leader a business partner to align on the joint learning plan and priorities
- Assigning a dedicated sales coach to each VP with an aligned strategy, set of goals, manager cohort to involve so that there was mutual benefit and accountability
Without this, enablement is often seen as a “cost” or “compliance vehicle” by the sales teams rather than an invested partner who is in it with them
So, does it work?
After 5,000+ coaching sessions across the world, we were able to turn around what were consistently declining results on meeting effectiveness and partner CSAT by upwards of 3 to 9 points.
Further, the managers who were involved in the program also saw better results than those that did not. We also had multiple signature wins that were directly attributed to utilizing sales coaching.
Not too shabby, and the program is only two years old!
We sought out today to learn about the key shifts that drive higher performing teams in an effort to inspire you to take and make these changes in your organization.
Did we achieve what was promised?
If so, my ask of you is to take these five shifts back to your organization and include them in your enablement plans.
With that, I will leave you with my personal favorite result and say “thank you” for investing the time to read this. I hope you found it useful and are able to take advantage of these insights.
Remember, sellers are people too. Enablement can be a critical partner in driving the confidence, capability and even hope to achieve greater outcomes.