How to Encourage Discussion on Your Conference Call

November 19, 2008

Nov18encouragediscussion_3We have all been on a conference call where the leader asks “Are there any questions?”  The sounds of lonely tumble weeds rolling across the prairie are all you can hear after that.  Eventually, the leader will acquiesce and assume there is no feedback, then end the call.  This is not ideal.  The point of a conference call is collaboration and team work.  So, we’ve developed a few pointers on how you can get the conversation started on your next conference call!

Prepare before the meeting

  • In your meeting invitation, give people a heads up about the conversation.  If you let people know what to expect, they can be more prepared.
  • Be specific.  If you are asking for ideas on a new product launch, have each person bring 3 ideas on how to promote the product launch with existing customers.
  • Give a little bit of background.  If you are meeting to discuss possible changes to an existing process, outline the existing process.  This will answer a lot of questions and give people time to get questions answered before the call if they have them.

During the meeting

  • Give a brief introduction to the conference call.  This is the time to layout goals for the meeting. What do you want to get accomplished? Letting people know what you expect will help them stay on task.
  • If you have people on the call who have never worked for each other, introduce them.  If you were in a face to face meeting, you would do the same.  Either tell a bit about each person or have them give a brief description about what they do.  This will get people accustomed to speaking on the calls.
  • When it’s time to get the feedback, call on specific people.  Yes, this is a bit like grade school. But after a few meetings people will know that everyone gets a chance to speak and they will be prepared to comment.

After the meeting

  • Send out a quick email after your conference call thanking everyone for their input.  This will make them feel appreciated and encourage discussion in the future.
  • In your email, include a quick summary of what was said on the conference call. You can also record your meeting or use a tool like Meeting Sense to keep up with all of the interaction!
  • Most importantly, make sure everyone leaves the audio conference with a list of action items.  You want your calls to be more than just talk.  Your collaboration on conference calls should lead to action in the business plan!

Your conference calls should always be productive and allow for discussion.  These are just a few ways that we have found you can get your audience to open up.  If you have other ideas or would like to discuss these suggestions, please comment below!

Do you love being the boss?

September 23, 2008

Sept23likebeingtheboss_2 Being the boss is not always what it’s cracked up to be.  You have all of the responsibility, accountability and some times risk on your shoulders. Additionally, you have people, projects and profits depending on you.  No pressure, huh?  But there are ways that you can ease this burden and at the same time become a boss everyone loves. 

Delegation is a good thing.  If you have a very entrepreneurial spirit, this may be hard for you to believe.  But when you delegate to those people upon who your success depends, it makes them better team members, and shows you trust them and value their opinion.  But here on the blog, we like to put things into practical terms. So, let’s take a look at HOW you might start to delegate things in order to be more successful as a boss and a company.

A sales department always makes for a nice take away example since all companies have to sell something – either a product or service.  Let’s say you have 4 regional managers.  These managers are responsible for producing $300k in revenue every quarter. At their disposal, these managers each have 3 sales people. So, do you hand hold each new sales rep and explain how you did things “back when you were on the phones”?  No.  Here is a likely schedule that may work.

Owner meets with regional sales managers on a monthly basis.  Don’t take these managers out of the field in order to meet. Have them do a web conference with you so you can see their “poker” faces.  Clearly set out expectations and deadlines.  Empower them with bringing back a certain amount of closed revenue by the next monthly meeting, and then make yourself available for then to reach out to you as they work independently to achieve those goals. Sales people love contests…see who can bring back the most!  You’ll be able to see by the looks on their faces (via webcam) which managers are most excited.

Regional sales managers meet with local reps on a weekly basis.  If you’re motivation was contagious, the managers will pass it on to their reps.  The first meeting of the month should be done via web conference or a live meeting – to really get sales reps pumped up.  After that, the meeting should be done via conference call. You don’t want to pull your great sales reps out of the field too often.

Regional teams (sales managers and sales reps) all conduct one meeting a month together via video conferencing.  This will give the sales managers a real hands-on experience and allow the sales reps a chance to shine. 

By using communication tools at your disposal and instilling a sense of responsibility in your team, you can see great success.  If you’ve experienced success by using these (or other) delegation methods, please share them below.  Or, if you have questions for other SMB owners let’s hear them!