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Management Reviews: More Discussing, Less Reporting

by David Brock on July 14th, 2011

Fred Wilson’s Bored Of Directors post struck a chord with me.  It reminded me of the majority of management reviews I’ve seen.

I participate in 100’s of reviews every year—pipeline, deal, call, account, territory–all of them.  Somehow, they are all the same–someone’s standing up front, they have their PowerPoint’s–all in 10 point font, and they go through page after page of data, reporting on what has happened.  There are a couple of questions, a few sharp criticisms, then time has run out, the next victim is on deck.

These reviews to strike dread in each participant–sales people steeling themselves for management’s interrogation, hoping to finish it as soon as possible and get back to doing their jobs.  Management steeling themselves for the tedium.

All of them are the same.  Most are consumed with the sales person reporting.  For opportunities, it’s always, here’s what we’ve been doing, here’s who’s involved, this is the competition, this is our strategy, here’s the forecast, and we think this will close on this date—the manager asks a few obligatory questions, then they move to the next opportunity.  Same thing with pipeline reviews, what’s changed, are you going to make your forecast……

These meetings are such an enormous waste of time.  We can accomplish much more than simply reporting and reviewing what has happened.  The real value of the management review–for all participants is the discussion.  Focusing conversation less on what has happened, but drilling down and understanding why, figuring out what to do next, exploring options and alternatives, leveraging the time to coach and develop new skills.  The discussion is the real value of the management review, but we miss much of this opportunity because our time is consumed with reporting and talking about what has happened.

Part of the problem with this is we aren’t leveraging the tools that enable us to shift our focus from reporting to discussing.  A strong sales process is a cornerstone to structuring value based discussions.  Without a strong sales process that people are using–we have to spend a lot of time understanding what has happened–reporting.  Since there is no consistency, we don’t know what has happened.  With the process, we can quickly assess where we are, then focus on understanding what has really happened, exploring what we do about it.

Likewise, sales tools like CRM systems enable us to minimize reporting–if the system is used and kept updated, the fundamentals of the reporting we need are already done–we don’t have to spend the time regurgitating information that’s already in the system, instead focusing on the discussion of what it means and what actions need to be taken to achieve the goals we want.

Too often, the information is available, but we don’t use it.  The first time we look at the pipeline reports or the deal strategies until we are in the review meeting–so we waste our time and everyone else’s reviewing what we should have known at the start of the meeting.  Our lack of preparation means we waste a tremendous opportunity to focus on performance, winning, learning, and growth.  A client of mine changed this.  All materials were circulated before the meeting, participants were expected to have reviewed the materials before the meeting.  In the meeting, there was one chart–it was the discussion points for the meeting.  They shifted all the conversations from reporting to discussion.  People who were unprepared were invited to come back when they were prepared.  Productivity and results soared.  Meetings all of a sudden became valuable–and shorter.

Our time is too precious to waste on reporting.  Managers, sales people, team members get so much more value, we’re able to accomplish so much more in assuring we meet our goals.  We need to leverage our time in meetings for greater advantage.  Here some ideas for changing the reviews:

  • Have a sales process in place, and make sure everyone is using it.
  • Leverage the CRM and related tools that are in place, keep them updated, use the rich reporting capabilities each has.
  • Review the reports and materials before the meeting, walk into the meeting prepared, make sure everyone in the meeting is prepared.  For those who aren’t invite them to return to the meeting when they are prepared.
  • Monitor how you use the time in the meeting.  What percent of the time is spent in review, what percent is spent in discussion.  Some review is always necessary, it provides good context, but shoot for 25% review and 75% discussion.

Watch how results soar.  Watch how productivity increases.  Watch how the value of the review process skyrockets for everyone.

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