We’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more important selling skill, especially in B2B selling, than being able to start sales calls with an effective agenda. It doesn’t matter if you sell face-to-face, over the phone or both … your ability to get sales interactions off in a positive way that sets the stage for a productive outcome has a lot to do with your agenda.
Remarkably, a lot of people in sales have difficulty doing this or approach the agenda in too casual a way by just winging and not thinking it through in advance. Even worse, from our research, 40% of all salespeople don’t even use an agenda to start their sales interactions.
The first few minutes of every sales interaction matter! Top performing sales professionals accomplish a number of things early in the interaction which include:
- Preliminary pleasantries that are friendly, appropriate and focused on getting the customer or prospect talking
- The salesperson projects professionalism by being on time, dressed appropriately for the event and prepared
- The salesperson makes a skillful transition from the preliminary pleasantries into the business conversation with a well-crafted agenda
- The agenda is well planned to ideally get the prospect or customer talking early in the interaction about the problems that matter and what an effective solution could do to help him/her get what he/she wants.
5 Tips to Better Agendas
- When you plan your agenda, think carefully about the flow or sequence of topics that would create the best possible results. In most (99%) cases, asking, listening and learning should be early in the interaction. Even on sales calls where you’re presenting a solution, it’s best to start with a summary of the previous meeting and ask some questions to see if anything has changed.
- Try to avoid using phrases like, “what I’d like to cover” … or … “what I’d like to talk about” … or … “what I’d love to present today.” Instead, talk in terms of the decision maker’s interests with phrasing more like: “one topic I think would be helpful for you for us to discuss would be…” Or, “a few areas that we could cover today that I think would be helpful for you would be…”
- When you’ve finished going over your suggested agenda, end with a question like, “but more importantly, it might be helpful if you could share with me what’s the most important outcome you’d like to get from our meeting today?” Get the decision maker talking about why he/she took the meeting and what he/she is hoping to get out of it and do this right up front.
- Avoid an agenda that starts with a lengthy overview of yourself and your company. It’s fine to give a 1-2 minute background value proposition type statement, but keep it short and use it to launch into a good question to get the decision maker(s) talking. Nothing kills the energy of a sales call like the long, powerpoint driven BORING overview right up front.
- Rehearse your agenda in advance. Write down in bullet-point form the agenda items you’d like to cover, sequence them properly so the decision maker(s) talk early in the meeting and then rehearse how you’re going to communicate it in a friendly, cooperation generating way.
The ideal reaction you’re going for is the decision maker hears your agenda and is instantly more excited and interested in the meeting because the agenda is relevant to what matters most to him or her. This doesn’t happen on accident. Professional athletes practice and rehearse because they need to perform at a high level, under extreme pressure, when it matters most. The best sales professionals practice the same way.
Our most recent book, “How to Influence“, is loaded with practical ideas to learn how to sell the way top performers do. It’s short, easy to read, and blends the best, most effective ways to use both consultative and challenger-style sales approaches on sales calls.
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