Do Your Customers Know Where You're Going With That Agenda?

06/09/2017 09:33 am ET

You’ve interacted with your prospect a couple of times—either on the phone or by email. You’ve researched the organization. You’ve teased them with some industry data that you think they’ll find valuable. Then finally you get that all-important invitation: “Why don’t you come out and talk with us in more detail.”

You don’t want to blow it at this stage by showing up with an agenda that results in just another meeting that only prolongs the sales process.

You Need a Written Agenda

So let’s start with the idea that you need an agenda––and not simply the topics in your head or in the email your customer sent. Sure, you’ll definitely address any questions, concerns, or topics your customer or prospect sent. But that doesn’t mean you need to list them as topics—a sure-fire way to waste time and settle little or nothing.

The typical agenda for a customer meeting sounds as appealing as a bottle of lukewarm water to sunbathers on a hot day at the beach. While the topics may be telling, they’re rarely engaging or energizing—or even functional for that matter.

NOT This

For example, a typical agenda for a second or third customer meeting (after you as primary contact have talked with your customer a time or two) might look like this:

Introduction of the Team

Results of Research

Project Objectives

Overview of Company Capabilities

Pricing Structure

Questions

Next Steps

This routine agenda rarely looks rousing, right? Why do such agendas not work as well as they should? They’re too broad to inform and too difficult to control. Topics can be “talked around” ad infinitum.

A Laser-Focused Agenda

For your meeting with a client or prospect to be productive (translation: for you to walk out with a decision or a signed contract), your discussion needs to be laser-focused on the real issues—not on vague topics.

Solution: Shape your agenda “topics” as questions. The above sales meeting agenda looks different prepared in a question format:

Sample Customer Agenda in Question Format

Introduction of the Team

  • What data on industry trends can we provide to shed light on performance analysis? (Jeff Savage, from IT)
  • What are the testing options going forward? (Melanie Duvall, Operations)

Results of Research

  • What are the implications of Finding #1?
  • What are the implications of Finding #2?
  • What’s the estimated cost of these two issues to your organization?

Project Objectives

  • What’s an acceptable metric for load time?
  • Should maintenance be done internally or externally?
  • What’s your ideal completion date?

Overview of Company Capabilities

  • What level of technical expertise does your team have?
  • Is local availability of vendor important to you?
  • What other criteria are important to your decision?

Pricing Structure

  • Have you considered kill-fees for upfront analysis?
  • Would you consider a fee, plus percentage-of-savings arrangement?

Next Steps

  • When does your current contract end?
  • Is there an early-out penalty? If so, what’s the break-even to opt-out early and enter a contract with us?

With this sharply focused agenda, all participants immediately know the exact points of the discussion—the input needed, the problems to be solved, and the decisions to be made. Hitting the target is far easier when everyone is aiming in the same direction.

You drive the discussion—and the sale—by the questions you ask. A strategically structured agenda is to a customer meeting what a foundation is to a skyscraper. Walk in to your next sales meeting with a functional agenda, prepared to lead a productive conversation.

Not only will your customers appreciate your product or service, they’ll learn they can trust you with their valuable time.

For more thoughts on leadership communication and determining the ROI of your meeting, grab a copy of Communicate Like A Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done. You can download an complimentary excerpt here: http://www.communicatelikealeaderbook.com/excerpt

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