I recently visited my daughter’s kindergarten class as a volunteer. There were many routines the children followed including putting book bags away, sitting crisscross applesauce in circle time, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. But one part of the daily morning routine really hit home. It was called “The Daily Itinerary.”
The teacher announced, “Ok children… time for our daily itinerary.” As the children sat in a circle, the teacher read through a list of the things they would accomplish that day at school.
“First,” the teacher said, “we will read a book in circle time. Second, we will break in groups for math. Then we will have library time, snack, language arts, music, lunch, recess, social studies and then dismissal.”
Giving the children their daily routine helped them understand what would be accomplished during that day and set expectations of how their time would be spent. It provided direction, helped with transitions, and was a way of contracting each step of the day with the children. It made them feel reassured and clear about the plan for the day.
Wouldn’t it be great if all our business meetings were that clear?! This process is much like setting the agenda at the beginning of each client meeting you go on. The value of setting the agenda is priceless. It does the same thing "The Daily Itinerary” did for the kindergarten class. It allows you to think about what you want to accomplish during the meeting, and then create a plan to make it happen. It gives the client clear expectations of what will happen in the meeting and a very good understanding of the end goal of the meeting. This has both you and your client on the same page from the get go.
For example, you may have a first call coming up with new client, and your goal for the meeting is to establish credibility and begin some solid needs analysis work. Your desired outcome would be to obtain a clear objective, and get an assignment from your client. I believe the best way to effectively set an agenda is by writing one out and sending it to the client prior to your meeting, and then going over it verbally at the start of the meeting in person. It could look something like this in written form:
- Share Capabilities Presentation
- Client Needs Analysis
- Narrow Down One Most Important Business Challenge
- Clarify and Uncover More About Business Challenge
- Discuss Next Steps
- Set Next Meeting
Verbally, you could start your meeting by setting the agenda the following way:
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Tallamy. To get us started, I thought I would go over the agenda for what I hope to accomplish during our time together today:
I thought I could start by giving you a brief overview of who I am, and the capabilities of my company, so you have a good starting point of some of the ways we help our clients with their marketing goals. Secondly, I would like to ask you some questions to get a good understanding of your current business goals and challenges. By understanding your needs and goals, I can determine what solutions may make the most sense for you. From there, I hope to narrow down your MOST important need so we can begin to discuss and brainstorm specific strategies and tactics to meet that goal. How does that sound? Is there anything you would like to make sure we cover during our time together?”
Too often as sellers, we know our agenda and we go right into the needs analysis without explaining why we are asking the questions or what the goal of all these questions might lead to. This can make the client less likely to open up, and result in much less fruitful answers. It can lead to more tangents and take longer to get to the desired goal of uncovering the client's business challenges.
Setting agendas in a written and verbal format is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make your meetings more efficient. If this is not part of your standard operating procedure, I encourage you to try it. As a coach, I have learned that this small change has earned sellers huge payoffs in terms of having solid, more effective meetings. It is an easy way to contract expectations for the precious time you spend with your clients. It will provide you and your client with a clear guideline to follow-up and help you and your client stay on track.
Setting agendas for meetings is something that should happen at the beginning of every meeting, not just your first call with the client. Whether you are presenting a proposal, giving a sales recap, or monitoring results... setting your agenda is always prudent.
So, next on the agenda... set your agenda and see how much better your meeting goes! Good luck!
Janie Worch is a senior coach and online trainer at The Center for Sales Strategy.