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How to run an effective 1-1

Your weekly 1-1s with your sales team should be an opportunity to build success, not a chore. Let’s find out how you can make the most of this time with your team.

Sales leaders are busy people. I know from first-hand experience. Your day is packed full of meetings. There is a myriad of people you have to keep happy. It’s tough. However, in my view, there is one type of meeting that is more important than any other. It’s your weekly 1-1s with your sales team.

I see so many leaders make all kinds of mistakes when it comes to 1-1s. I see them move them around on their schedule. I hear about them failing to prepare, just turning up and hoping for something to happen. I also hear about leaders who regard the 1-1 as something for their benefit, rather than the benefit of their direct reports.

Three areas of focus

The 1-1 should be an opportunity for both sides to communicate their goals, share best practices and develop their skills. 

So, next time you’re preparing for a 1-1 with a direct report (you do prepare, don’t you?), focus on these three areas. Try to achieve these three things from your 1-1 and you will leave the meeting happier; so will your team member.

Bear in mind, however, this is where leaders need to demonstrate amazing listening skills and immense patience. No one said it would be easy!

1 – Reinforce good behaviour

A critical part of making the 1-1 positive and productive is to reinforce your direct report’s good behaviour. It makes your team member feel valued. Plus, if you do need to tackle some obstacles later in the meeting, it becomes a lot easier. 

Too many managers want to focus on what’s not working immediately. When you start in this way, you run the risk of your reports losing confidence quickly.

Start with some questions that build their confidence and get them to open up about times when they did well. Something like:

  • What’s the best conversation you had this week?
  • Tell me one thing you’re looking forward to in the coming week?

Ask questions that get them to dig deep into their personal experiences and expand. Make them feel good about themselves.

2 – Address challenges

I’ve said ‘address challenges’, but really it should be ‘address areas of opportunity’. Your 1-1s aren’t times to reprimand your team members. It’s all about working together to find areas where you can improve.

This is the hardest part of the 1-1, but it’s part of the process of development. Your report will come to see it as a valuable part of their growth as a salesperson.

I like to ask questions such as:

  • What’s the biggest objection you faced this week?
  • What are the most time-consuming things you do each week?
  • What are we not doing that we should be?

When you address challenges in this way, you can help your report discover more effective ways to work.

3 – Game plan

Next, it’s time to plan for the week ahead. If you have any ideas you want to communicate, here is where you would do it. 

But, it is also the time where you want to get your report to open up about how they see the next week going. Do they have any concerns they need help with? Is there anything outside of the day-to-day workflow that needs addressing?

Ask questions that get them to look forward, including:

  • What are your priorities for the week?
  • What do you want to learn this week?
  • If you are going to better than the week before, what would it take?

Preparation is essential

1-1s needn’t be a chore, for you or the team member you meet. They shouldn’t be something you dread, or a box-ticking exercise. They are a valuable part of your week.

If you put a bit of thought into your 1-1s, considering what you want to get out of them, how you will structure them and the questions you will ask, you will soon see the rewards.

If something in your 1-1s doesn’t work, make changes until it does.