Top TEN #3 – NO Agenda, NO Meeting
Some see an agenda as too formal or old-fashion. Others want to be cool and wait until the meeting to frame the agenda or ignore it altogether. The science behind best sales practices recommends against these approaches. I’ll explain why.
At a practical level, the agenda confirms what will be covered in a meeting and who will be in attendance. Getting the right people together to focus on a single topic is never easy. A plan is needed; the agenda is our plan.
At a psychological level, the agenda is a signal to our prospect. It tells them that we have a goal in mind for the meeting and beyond it. Making this obvious is not trivial and increases our odds of making a sale.
Contrary to what many think, those who understand we want to sell them something are more (not less) likely to buy from us. Ambiguity loses to clarity every time.
An agenda gets the prospect involved in our sale and makes it their sale. Asking the prospect to send us their introduction in advance of the meeting is a tactic we use to secure that involvement. At a practical level, this allows us to better prepare for our meeting. At a psychological level, we’re getting the prospect to invest time while tapping into two biases: the Ikea-effect and effort justification. These small measures of learning, control, and involvement have a big impact on making a sale. They will also signal when something is wrong.
Using these tactics improves our closure rate. Naturally, we need to earn the prospect’s business by demonstrating value and connecting the dots between their needs and our solution. Having the prospective client involved in this process is our best way of fully understanding their needs and how we can best address those needs. Prospects reluctant to work along with us are often the wrong ones.
In short, our agenda-driven method not only helps us to close more effectively, but it also helps us to groom and prioritize our sales funnel by separating good leads from average ones.
Below is a sample first call agenda followed by a detailed explanation of it. Consider this a template from which to create your own agenda. Of course, as your sale advances so will the agenda. Hopefully, a final bullet in a future agenda will read “sign-off on project plan” or “approve order.”
Sample Agenda for First Meeting
Subject: Meeting – TrueTester Introduction
I’m looking forward to meeting you and your colleagues at XYZ AG next Wednesday at 10 AM CET. I have prepared the following agenda. Feel free to propose changes to it.
Sales Consultant, Kristi Kovacs, will accompany me. Can you kindly confirm which of your colleagues will be in attendance, please?
- Attendees for XYZ Inc: [name and title]
- Attendees for TrueTester: Kata Kiss – Sales Manager; Kristi Kovacs – Sales Consultant
- Meeting duration: 1 hour
- TrueTester – who we are; what we do (2 mins)
- XYZ AG – background, current status, challenges, expectations (15 mins)
– TrueTester Presentation (15 mins)
– Demo (15 mins)
– Q&A/Discussion (15 mins)
– Next Steps
Tomi, as noted under Introduction, it would be great if you (or a colleague) provided details on background, current status, challenges, and your expectations for TrueTester. I would like to run through this with you in advance of our meeting to assure we’re in sync. Also, will the 15 minutes allocated for your introduction be adequate or would you like more time?
+36 30 196 9000
Looked at in detail, here’s how I explain the agenda.
Our Intro – The introduction sets the stage for the rest of our call. Our short (2-minute) start explains who we are, what we do, and why we’re here. We want the prospect to open up; the short intro is our way of making them comfortable.
After Kata introduces herself, and her colleague Kristi, she flows into a (memorized) elevator pitch. Delivered slowly, clearly, and with conviction. This is followed by: “Our goal today is to understand your needs and to determine if TrueTester is a service that you can see yourselves using and benefiting from.“ The words “see yourselves using” are carefully chosen. We’re planting the seed for a future SPIN Need-Payoff question. The most powerful of SPIN questions.
Prospect’s Intro – This may be the most essential part of the meeting and not a time for putting our contact in an embarrassing position. To emphasize its importance, we add the last sentence of the sample email. If our contact doesn’t reply, we’ll follow-up via a reply email or (depending on time-to-meeting) a phone call.
Throughout the prospect’s introduction, we take notes and ask questions. We put aside any prepared questions and listen. At the end, we summarize our understanding of the prospect’s requirements. If there are any misunderstandings, we’ll clear them up first, before going forward with the presentation.
Presentation – This should flow directly from our initial elevator pitch. To keep minds focused, we’ll repeat our (above stated) goal again (particularly if the prospect’s intro was long) and then say: “Thanks for your introduction; it gives us a good understanding of your requirements. We will now present TrueTester and explain how our service can address the requirements you just outlined.” If our solution cannot meet parts of the prospect’s specifications, we will make this clear. “In all honesty, some of your needs – specifically bug tracking – are not resolved with TrueTester. However, let me go continue and tell you what TrueTester can do.”
We don’t want to spend time talking about what we can’t do, however, we gain a lot of credibility with the prospect but making a limitation known from the outset. In this way, what we say we can do is more likely to be believed. It’s a matter of business ethics; being believed is the reward.
Demo – Demos are about building desire and should never be used to identify needs. Demos validate our ability to address the prospect’s requirements and enable the prospect to envision how our solution can benefit them. For large and complex sales, the demo is often a separate meeting that comes only after the prospect’s needs have been thoroughly assessed. The time between our first meeting and the demo are needed to prepare a stellar show. Nothing is worse than rushing the demo or giving one that doesn’t impress the prospect. Finally, realizing that its effect diminishes quickly, we always try to give our demo near the expected close date. If a decision is many months off, we will start with a sort of solution overview demo for the purpose of collecting feedback in order to prepare for a future in-depth demo.
Next Steps – Whatever our opinion of the meeting, the only one that matters is the prospect’s. We try to put aside whatever biases you may have and ask the prospect how we should proceed. We wait patiently for their reply before jumping to any conclusions – good or bad. If the feedback is positive, we look for a path to closure – either a paid-for test or an outright sale. If the feedback is not positive, we summarize the prospect’s concerns and ask what can be done to remedy them.
The unexpected is guaranteed. Preparation and a plan in the form of an agenda can help prevent the unexpected from ruining a call and killing a sale.