If you’ve taken the Inbound Certification course, you’ve heard about smarketing — the idea that marketing and sales should work together as a single team. One of the key elements of smarketing is holding regular meetings between sales and marketing. But how do you make that meeting productive and worthwhile?
This summer, I interviewed leaders from 25 different fast-growing companies to see what sales and marketing relationships look like in the real world. As it turns out, many of these leaders have put a lot of thought into making smarketing meetings productive.
Below, I’ve outlined a three-step process for ensuring your smarketing meetings are as productive as possible, based on the advice of these leaders and empirical research on team effectiveness.
Step 1: Focus on solving problems
Far too many meetings are either reportative (“This slide shows what we did last month. This slide shows everything we’ve done year-to-date. This slide shows how it all compares to last year…”) or aspirational (“This year we’re going to knock last year out of the water! This month we’re going to do great things!”). That kind of information is better off being shared via email, video, or internal message board.
Smarketing meetings should be dedicated entirely to solving problems. They should be a place where people and teams can talk about what things aren’t working and brainstorm ideas for fixing them. The agenda might look something like this:
- Identify problems with current goals and initiatives
- Brainstorm solutions
- Make assignments to be completed before the next meeting
In the next meeting, the cycle starts over, with the previous meeting’s initiatives being discussed during point #1.
Step 2: Be thoughtful about your meeting invite
Most smarketing meetings have too many people in them. There have been a lot of studies on group productivity, and the general consensus is that groups are most effective when they have less than 10 people in them.
If your sales and marketing organization has more than 10 people in it, that means you need to put some thought into who attends. Here are suggestions:
- Cut from the top. Executives have a vested interest in what goes on in these meetings, but their presence can be stifling. Remember, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss problems, and that can be a scary thing to do with your CEO in the room. Limit the attendee list to people who can directly tackle the problems at hand. Everyone else can read the minutes afterward.
- Break into smaller groups. If you have a large sales and marketing organization, you might consider having separate smarketing meetings for different regions or product lines or however you divide your teams. Representatives from these meetings could then coordinate to make sure they’re all pulling in the same direction.
- Rotate people in. If your organization is too large to have everyone in the meeting but too small to divide into smaller groups, you can invite attendees on a rotating basis. If you do this, make sure there’s a system in place that allows for team members who have identified an issue to be able to attend even when it isn’t their “turn.”
Step 3: Make sure everyone in attendance speaks in roughly equal proportion
In all the research that’s been done on meeting productivity, this is the one factor that matters most in making meetings productive. If you’re running the meeting, make sure everyone speaks about the same amount.
How you do this is up to you. One simple solution is to bring a list of attendees to the meeting and quietly put checkmarks next to each name whenever someone speaks up. If someone isn’t participating as much as everyone else, call them out and say, “I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.”
If someone is resistant to participating, there are a few reasons why that may be. Here are five big ones:
- I have nothing to contribute to the topic at hand. If that’s the case, dis-invite the person. If they don’t have anything to contribute, being present is a waste of their time. In future meetings, replace them with someone who has something to contribute.
- I can’t get a word in edgewise. It’s okay if people jump into the conversation without taking turns, but you need to make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard. Identify the people who are dominating the conversation and find a polite way to reign them in.
- I’m happy just to watch. If that’s the case, tell them you’ll email them a recap afterward. In future meetings, replace them with someone who can actively contribute.
- I don’t like what’s being said and don’t want to be a downer. This is the most dangerous mindset of all, and depending on your company culture, it might be the default. Make it clear–remind people multiple times every meeting if necessary–that this is a time to bring up problems and make sure they get addressed.
- I know what I need to do, and it doesn’t require further discussion. The point of getting everyone in a room is to work together on a solution. People need to talk through what their action items are and how they fit with the action items of everyone else in attendance. Coming up with an idea quietly in your own head is only okay if you communicate that idea to the group and allow for discussion.
Taken together, these steps will ensure that every smarketing meeting will be productive and satisfactory for everyone in attendance.