I’ve talked before about how to make your meetings more productive, and today I’d like to elaborate on one of the rituals I pointed out in my previous post.
Specifically the importance of having an agenda for every meeting.
To be honest I didn’t always feel this way. When I first started in sales I didn’t think an agenda was necessary. It just seemed like one more administrative task to do that didn’t involve selling.
As I’ve come to learn through experience I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Having an agenda serves many purposes but most importantly they should be used to make your meetings more awesome and productive.
Agendas Shouldn’t Be Too Complicated
When I think of family vacations from my youth I feel a knot forming in my stomach. I don’t know about you but when I am on vacation I like to relax.
Recently my wife and I took a trip for our one year wedding anniversary and we spent a majority of the time relaxing at the pool reading or enjoying the sun. We made plans to have a fancy dinner, visit Sea World, and workout every day with a walk or run.
That’s about all we did in terms of plans.
My parents have quite a different idea of vacation though. It seemed every summer my days were filled with event after event, scheduled by the hour or half hour at times. Our vacations were more work than school was.
It’s like they were trying to pack in everything which meant that I wasn’t able to focus on or enjoy anything. There was simply too much going on.
You don’t want to make this mistake with your meeting agendas.
If you try to pack in every topic you want to discuss you will overwhelm your attendees and distract them from the main points.
Avoid this at all costs.
Use your agenda to bring attention to your top discussion topics. Do not fill it will meaningless bullet points.
Only highlight items that will take 20% or more of the meeting. This is only a suggestion, but try not to have more than 5 topics in any one meeting.
The less the better.
The Agenda Should Fit The Meeting Needs
Depending on the purpose and subject of the meeting, your agenda may range from a simple one line statement to a full time-stamped plan of action.
For example when I first entered the field after my sales training a vast majority of my meetings were simple introductions.
My agenda items for these interactions involved [Introductions], [What’s New], and [Next Steps]. Three line items, that’s all.
On the flip side I recently provided an in-depth demonstration of our property management software to a new prospect in Los Angeles. Because of the complexity of the solution we are offering them a good amount of time was set aside for the demonstration, around 4 hours.
For those not familiar with selling or buying enterprise level software, that amount of time for a demonstration is not unheard of.
Unfortunately setting aside that amount of time was impossible for all planned attendees. So I had two choices, split up the demonstration to cover everything planned, or revise the plan.
What do you think I did? I revised the plan of course.
I knew that there is no way my team would be able to cover all that we normally do during a product demonstration of that complexity.
Believe it or not, this was a good thing. I got so wrapped up in adding a new logo to my account portfolio that I forgot who I was presenting too.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I made a mistake. My first plan was focused on users, not decision makers.
The change in plans allowed me to focus on the high level information the President, CFO, Dir. of IT, and Legal Counsel would be interested in.
I would have been mistaken to think that they cared about how a commercial property is added to the system. By taking a meeting with me they were only interested in knowing how my software solution would help their business be more efficient and productive.
There’s no doubt that there was a lot of information we needed to cover, but perhaps more importantly there was a lot of information we DIDN’T need to cover.
My agenda, for a meeting with high level decision makers, reflected that necessary information, and omitted the unnecessary.
Use An Agenda To Manage Expectations
It is not uncommon for a prospect or customer to take control of a meeting. And for the novice salesperson this will happen a lot.
Having an agenda helps you control the meeting and manage the expectations of everyone in attendance.
When you highlight the top five topics planned for that discussion you can easily reference the agenda to steer the conversation back on track.
During the recent product demonstration I mentioned there was ample opportunities for questions to take us off track from the topic at hand.
And not to say that you don’t want to answer every question a prospect or customer may have, but often times the questions they have are answered in the course of the conversation.
The agenda I prepared for that meeting allowed my team to stay on schedule and get through everything we needed too and planned on.
I can’t stress enough how integral the agenda was to keeping us on track.
~ Johnny Bravo
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