A sales manager’s job is endlessly busy and with all the focus on sales and hitting goals, it’s easy to let the team dynamic slide unknowingly.

When employees feel like you aren’t tuned into their performance and needs, they are not going to be selling at their full potential. Reduced morale is the quickest way to sabotage your sales.

If you aren’t conducting regular one-on-one’s with your salespeople, you are missing a valuable opportunity to motivate, learn about potential office issues and rate the general success of your team.

With all this in mind, don’t feel bad if you are a bit anxious about starting. Many managers fear creating that “being-called-to-the-principal’s-office” feeling. Once you get into a regular routine, however, one-on-one’s no longer elicit that knee-jerk reaction.

In fact, your sales team will also be relieved that they have time set aside to speak with you and the opportunity to check in.

Everyone likes to know their voice will be heard.


Taking the time to prepare for each one-on-one will make your meeting much more productive.

If you forget to do your research ahead of time, you’ll likely fall back on those typical filler questions (i.e. how is life treating you? What’s new?) rather than asking pointed and meaningful ones. Your employees will also notice your lack of preparedness and feel that their needs aren’t important to you.

A one-on-one is different than other kinds of meetings. It’s not a performance review, it’s not a planning session for the weeks to follow. The focus should be more on the employee and seeing that their wants and needs are being met.

Don’t waste your time or theirs, first take a look at the performance history and goals set by your employee. How are they doing? If they are falling behind, is something in their work environment holding them back?

These are the type of things you need to focus on. Sure you may have concerns of your own, but the one-on-one should largely be run by the employee, so let THEM tell you how things are going.

A few things to review before each one-on-one:

  • Unplanned absences/lateness (if this is something you measure)
  • Notes from prior meetings with employee
  • Any performance issues/complaints if applicable
  • Customer or stakeholder feedback
  • Project milestones
  • Approaching deadlines

Finding the time to schedule the meetings can be hard. Simply plan ahead. Make sure you mark off a specific amount of time on the days you will be having meetings. Do not, I repeat do NOT frequently cancel on your team. This will only cause negative feelings and will make the situation even worse than it would be without the meetings scheduled in the first place.


Always show up (and on time) to your one-on-one’s. Not only are you a role model, but by being prepared and on time you will show your employees that you respect their time as well.


This is always an issue managers face – “how often should I be having one-on-one’s?”

Part of it plays into your own preference but many managers find that once a month is sufficient for keeping communication flowing. As far as timing goes, set aside an hour per employee.

I can see the panic striking you now.

Yes, you might have a large team but setting aside the time to touch base with each one is well worth the investment.

It may be tough in the beginning but once you get used to scheduling these meetings, you will fall into a normal routine. Some meetings may take longer and some may be shorter. It’s entirely dependent on the issues/questions/concerns voiced by each member of your sales team.

If you have only scheduled an hour and your time runs over, check your calendar and schedule a follow-up as soon as you can. Yes, you are busy but not too busy to listen to the needs of your employees. When possible, space an extra 15-30 minutes in case you run over your scheduled time.

Set Your Expectations


While the one-on-one is largely for the benefit of your employees you as a manager can gain a lot of insight.

Are there problems happening in the office that you haven’t noticed? Is your star salesperson frustrated with lack of recognition and getting ready to leave?

Fortunately, a good meeting can answer these questions and many more.

Understand that sometimes, in the beginning, these meeting might be awkward. If they are new to you and your team, neither of you likely know what to expect. It’s a bit like a first date…without the awkward half hug half kiss part at the end.

This is your chance to empower your employees, it shouldn’t be an ongoing source of stress for either of you.

Just go with the flow and ease into it, once you are having consistent meetings things will roll much more smoothly.

Be Consistent

As mentioned earlier, your employees won’t respect you if you are canceling on them. It shows a lack of regard for their time.

When you make a meeting, don’t cancel it. Also, give your employees adequate notice so they too can prepare what they would like to discuss. Make sure you are both making the most of the time by allowing plenty of time for preparation.

Take a Walk

Take the stiff business feel out of the meeting by getting out of the office. Taking a walk provides a great opportunity to get out of the office while giving you the privacy to discuss whatever your employee would like without the fear of being overheard.

Also, meeting in a neutral place can also help make your employee feel at ease.

If you meet in the conference room, for example, where other business takes place, it’s easy to fall into that type of business talk instead of focusing in the employee.

Example Questions

Depending on your particular company, you will likely have questions specific to your daily activities but here are a few sample questions to get you started. It’s helpful to bring a few pre-written questions with you so you can fall back on them if the conversation gets stuck.

  • Do you feel we are meeting your needs to advance your career at the pace you were hoping for?
  • Are there additional areas that you would like to be trained in?
  • If you had to change one aspect of our normal team meetings, what would it be?
  • Are you making progress toward reaching your big career goals?
  • What aren’t we doing today that you think would help improve our performance?
  • Do you feel challenged with your daily workload?
  • Do you feel like you are getting enough regular feedback on your performance?
  • Are you happy here? What would make you leave us to explore another job opportunity?

Step back and allow the employee to do the talking.

As managers, we naturally want to steer the pace and direction of the meetings we are in, but when conducting your one-on-one’s, it’s time to put your employee in the driver’s seat.

Embrace Silence


While you now have plenty of sample questions to ask, you also can accomplish even more through silence.

Naturally, it’s uncomfortable to sit in silence. Most of us find it awkward and will struggle to fill that silence. Think about it like a sales call or the moment you are about to close a deal, that silence can be the key to getting what you want and taking control of the situation.

As a manager, you need to embrace the power of silence.

This will provide your employee the chance to speak whatever is on his or her mind. Let the silence be uncomfortable, you don’t need to be the one to break it.

Check in with Professional Development

If your salespeople don’t feel they are being challenged, have a chance to grow or are furthering their skill set, they are likely going to leave you.

Don’t be afraid to ask how they feel about their own professional development. If you discover, for example, your all-star employee doesn’t feel the job is a challenge, you may be able to offer additional projects or higher level opportunities.

Most of us have management blinders on from time to time. Unless we ask our employees directly how they feel, we will never know.

Offer Feedback

While I have already said you should let your employee largely drive the conversation, it doesn’t mean you can’t offer feedback.

If you merely sit there and nod, your employees aren’t going to gain much from your meeting, in fact, they probably will assume you aren’t even listening. Don’t be afraid to give feedback.

One of your jobs is to be a coach and a mentor, never let an opportunity to inspire and educate pass you by.


Once you have received this great feedback from your employees, make sure you follow-up with them. If they specifically mentioned a concern or other issue, look into it and then let them know what you are doing to fix it.

We not only like to be heard by others but we like to feel that our input is valuable. Checking back and following up with employees will help inspire trust and respect since they will see that their concerns matter.

Other Benefits of One-on-Ones

  • Stay in touch with office happenings that you might be blind too
  • Catch and fix small issues before they turn into larger ones
  • Allows your staff to feel that they are being heard
  • Reduce the occurrence of surprise 2-week notices
  • Offers a safe space for grievances to be aired
  • Employees will appreciate having control over a meeting for once
  • Improves motivation and morale


Put aside those “I don’t have time,” excuses. If you want to build trust, loyalty and happiness in your office, you need to take the time to truly hear your employees. One-on-one’s offer a great chance to do all this and more. Work these meetings into your monthly schedule and your job as manager will get much easier.

Read more: 4 Steps To Improve Your Sales Reactions