Professionals use an agenda

Three years ago my colleague and I attended a meeting with a high level CEO.  He was the kind of person who probably gets a lot of sales calls. A person who likely is very picky about whom he agrees to meet with. When we arrived in the lobby, he greeted us with a friendly smile on his face. Everything seemed to go as planned. We had been preparing for the meeting even more than usually: If we could catch this big fish, we would be swimming in good waters for a while.

After some casual small talk the more official part of the meeting started, and we instantly got a bucket of cold water thrown over us.

You seem like nice people, but I am not really sure why I agreed to meet with you. I usually don’t meet with anyone who is trying to sell me something. So before we go any further, could you tell me very briefly why we are here?
— CEO

The CEO's comments forced us to take multiple steps backwards. Possibly limiting the favorable outcomes, we could achieve in the meeting. Sending the CEO an agenda before the meeting would have gotten us a long step forward, not backward. In this case the hard part was to convince the person to continue the meeting with us. I remember I was thinking; Just don’t panic!

So we pitched the reason for the meeting. The same things we had talked about on the phone earlier. However, the part we couldn’t fix was that our potential customer came to the meeting unprepared, which made our job much harder. Maybe expecting the CEO to actually prepare for a meeting with two sales guys the person had never met before, is thinking too much of ourselves. Whatever the case might be, initially there was a real reason why the CEO wanted to talk with us. A real problem in the company that needed to be solved. And our meeting would have been more productive and brought more value to both sides, if all attendants would have been more prepared when it comes to expectations and the topics of the meeting.

Sending an agenda would have gotten us a long way.

There are more reasons than just preparation for sending an agenda before the meeting. Below you can find some viewpoints that might help you improve the way you sell more professionally by using agendas.

Being well prepared

By using an agenda, you have a pre-qualified structured plan for what you want to talk about with the customer. You will both be more prepared and it will help and guide both of you to stay on topic. By sending an agenda, you remind the person about an upcoming meeting, which results in less no-shows and “unnecessary” meetings that waste your and your customer’s time.

Focusing on the essentials

When you are focusing on the essential things, you more likely get your message through better. Besides you won’t create as much frustration, if the customer isn’t interested at all. This means, that your sales work creates more value to the customer. And by doing so, she will be happier about meeting you, even though you wouldn’t make the sale the first time.

The best part is that you are likely to get further already in the first meeting. This will help both you and the customer evaluate the possibilities faster. This will help you make more sales faster by helping you focus your time on the actually potential customers and by shortening your sales cycles.

Improving memory trace

By sending an agenda, the email acts as a one additional way for the customer to remember you. After the meeting you can send a memo that is structured in the same way as the agenda: A structure that is already familiar to the customer and therefore easy to read. Once again you strengthen the memory trace. Good sales work is great marketing in B2B.

Acting like a professional

When you use agendas, you focus more on what is essential and therefore deliver more value to the customer. You are not only talking with them because they serve good coffee. You are not there to talk about their cat. You genuinely have the interest and capability to deliver them something that they need and that helps them. If you act as a professional, they will start to see you as someone who is talking to them not only to fill the sales quota. You will feel more like a respected professional, and less like a door-to-door seller. Professionals use agendas. And you will very likely even increase your sales at the same time.

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So what happened with us and the CEO? We didn’t get very far in the first meeting, but we managed to spark enough interest to get a follow-up meeting. After the second meeting we made an offer, but didn’t succeed to close the sale. The value of what we were selling was still too abstract for the CEO. We didn’t focus enough on what was essential. Sending an agenda would have helped us to get more out of the time we had together with the potential customer.

Thank you for reading.