September 9, 2016

Your Most Overlooked Sales Tool: Your Meeting Agenda

By Tom Searcy

Sexy. Mysterious. Provocative. These are not the words that come to mind when you think of the word, “agenda.” An agenda is often thought of as just a list of meeting topics to be discussed in an organized fashion. Sounds simple enough, but – according to research compiled by Attentiv – 63 percent of meetings have no agenda.

If you are using agendas at all, you set yourself apart from the confused, fumbling masses who are trying to guide their meeting conversations on the fly. But, if you do use agendas, you may have realized that, while a list of topics is helpful, it doesn’t always get you where you need to go.

I look at an agenda as the way to ensure that a meeting’s objectives – up to and including closing a sale – have been achieved before I arrive. In other words, I don’t stop at telling them what we need to talk about; I tell them why.

Here is the approach I use and that we advocate.

First, decide the outcomes you want. These are the defined results you want to have achieved at the end of the meeting. Examples include:

  • Mutual agreement on topics and teams for the next meeting
  • Core points of proposal defined and approved
  • Preferred vendor approval process initiated
  • Contract signed, pending legal approval

By declaring the outcomes you want from the meeting, you can easily align the rest of the agenda. The next step is to write your purpose. If you think of the outcome as a thing, a noun, then the purpose is an action, a verb. The purpose is not “to discuss these talking points.” The purpose answers the larger question: “Why are we here?”

  • Purpose: Determine if our two companies will work together in the future
  • Outcome: Mutual agreement on topics and teams for the next meeting
  • Purpose: Define the proposal outline to be submitted May 1st
  • Outcome: Core points of the proposal are defined and approved
  • Purpose: Present capabilities to qualify as a preferred vendor
  • Outcome: Preferred vendor approval process initiated
  • Purpose: Complete negotiations for a final contract
  • Outcome: Contract signed pending legal approval

Now that you have clarified why you are meeting and what you want to accomplish, you write the talking points. They are driven by the outcomes you are looking to accomplish. Examples include:

  • Define upcoming marketplace challenges for next 18 months
  • Present the latest solution suite via case study
  • Discuss ways to collaborate

Agenda Reminders
DO make the outcomes specific and measurable.

DO highlight the purpose and outcome on your agenda.

DO send the agenda in advance to ensure your sponsor is aligned.

If the prospect disagrees, you want to know that before you meet.
DO review point by point with your sponsor and confirm the agenda.

DO encourage your sponsor to invite different or more senior people to the meeting based of the nature of the outcomes.

DON’T send the agenda the day before the meeting. You need to give several days for your sponsor to consider and discuss with you as well as internally.

DON’T let the client or prospect control the meeting. You can control the meeting by taking the conversation back to the agenda as it progresses. I am not suggesting that you should be rude. I am saying that the agenda is a great tool for keeping the conversational wandering to a minimum.

DON’T leave the meeting without reviewing and confirming the outcomes. The end of the meeting should sound like this, “We all agreed before the start of the meeting that the outcomes we all wanted from this meeting were the ones at the top. Let’s review them and see if we achieved them…” This give you a chance to confirm and also close with discussions if you did not.

The point of all of this is that you have to make certain that meetings are not left up to chance. A well-designed agenda with clear outcomes – that have been vetted and approved by your sponsor – acts as a compass to keep your meeting on track.

Tom Searcy is CEO and founder of Hunt Big Sales – a sales strategy company that helps CEOs double the size of their company – and author of Life After the Death of Selling: How to Thrive in the New Era of Sales. Follow @tomsearcy.