There’s nothing more exciting or terrifying than a sales meeting. On one side, you’re happy someone has shown interest in your product. On the other, the pressure can manifest as anxiety and an uncomfortable sensation in your stomach.

Ultimately, the goal of every sales meeting is to close the deal or move it toward that result. To do so, it’s important to know how and when to talk about your solution and your company. Remember, you’re not selling to businesses, you’re selling to people.

Knowing when to unleash that sales pitch is what makes sales pros … well, pros. So, how do you know when it’s that perfect time? Fortunately, there’s something I like to call the “master tip” for closing more deals. It works under any circumstance -- regardless of your industry or product -- and it’s a personal sales meeting agenda.

Learn how to run more effective sales meetings using this playbook. 

What is a sales meeting agenda?

Within the context of this article, a sales meeting agenda is not something you’d share with a prospect. It’s a personal meeting outline helping you stay on message, organized, and perfectly timed. It should be flexible enough to move with the flow of conversation, and firm enough that it keeps you on track.

Here are my tips for building a personal sales meeting agenda:

1. Include time for rapport building

... but not too much time! Set aside the first five minutes of every phone call or meeting for building rapport. This could mean asking your prospect about their weekend or talking about the latest "Game of Thrones" episode -- just make sure it goes above the inevitably mundane small talk.

Need some help getting the creative small talk gears going? Use these conversation starters as a jumping off point.

2. Set a meeting goal

Identify what you want to get out of this meeting. Do you want to determine whether your solution will be a good fit for your prospect? Do you need to know their budget? Or do you simply hope to earn another meeting?

It doesn't matter what the goal is, it's just important you have one. This serves as an anchor for the rest of your meeting which keeps things on track and relevant.

In fact, a 2017 study, published in Harvard Business Review, suggests goals and agendas should be agreed upon before meetings. When appropriate, share the goal of the meeting with your prospect ahead of time, and ask for their feedback.

For example, you might say, "I'd like the goal of this meeting to be clearly outlining the value our solution can offer your team and determining the ROI you can look forward to."

3. Bullet your main points

Once you have a meeting goal, bullet a few ways you're going to achieve that goal. This serves as an outline for your meeting. It's a more natural alternative to the traditional sales scripts of old, and it protects you from wandering off course.

For example, if your meeting goal is to learn whether your prospect has the budget necessary to move forward, your main points might be:

  • Ask about team goals and priorities this quarter
  • Ask about budget allocated for achieving those goals and priorities
  • Share the ROI of investing in your product to achieve those goals and priorities

4. Set a (loose) timeline

Meetings are fluid and should remain flexible to adapt to your prospect's needs. But it's important to have guardrails that ensure you're respectful of their time as well as your own.

Run through your bulleted points and allot approximations of how much time you think it will take to discuss each one.

Keeping your meetings to 30 minutes or less is ideal, according to Concur. This ensures you make the most of your attendees' time and attention. After all, 92% of meeting attendees confess to multitasking during meetings, so consider going "laptops shut" for those 30 minutes -- and make your meeting worth their time.

5. Choreograph pauses and time for questions

Make sure you give your prospect plenty of time to contribute to the conversation. After you present each of your bullets, pause and ask if your prospect has any questions.

Now is also a good time to make sure this meeting is aligning with their expectations. A quick, "Am I answering your questions," or "Is this call matching your expectations," ensures everyone is on the same page.

A study of Japanese businesspeople found they were comfortable with mid-meeting silences up to 8.2 seconds long -- twice the length of silence American businesspeople were comfortable with. Why? "Belly talk" is a Japanese concept in which the best conversation is when you don't speak at all.

Make room for healthy silence in your presentations. You might be surprised at what that extra time to think yields from your prospects.

6. Identify your CTA

You should be closing for something in every call, email, or meeting you set. It might simply be closing for five more minutes of their time, but you should never go into a meeting without having an ask.

For example, if you're having a meeting to ascertain expectations around budget, your CTA might be: "I've shared a little more about how Product X can help you meet your department goals this quarter. Is this something you'd be willing to allocate budget towards?"

Having a CTA during each communication keeps the momentum going and ensures every touchpoint is actionable and valuable.

7. Schedule your next meeting

Don't end your meeting without scheduling your next touch base. Make the most of having your prospect actively engaged by comparing calendars in the moment.

7 Steps to a Successful Agenda

Create a master sales meeting agenda and tweak it for each meeting you attend. It will ensure you’re always prepared, organized, and moving the deal forward.

Step 1. Stop waiting for the “right time” to make your sales pitch

One of the biggest problems with sales reps today is they rely too much on rapport. Yes, it’s important you and your prospect understand each other, but that’s not enough to close the deal.

If you want to make friends as a salesperson, that’s fine. But if you want to start making more clients, you need to design a sales meeting agenda that takes the product presentation in the right direction.

This transforms your strategy’s focus from “timing” to “build up.”

Once you know when to make your pitch, you can craft the rest of your meeting agenda to support it.

Step 2. Make your prospect the right kind of uncomfortable

When the whole smarketing process focuses on the client’s needs and goals, the idea of deliberately making your prospect feel uncomfortable might sound counterintuitive -- but it makes perfect sense.

Buying is an emotional decision backed by logic. You make a purchase when you want and need something, right? Not necessarily.

Take exercise, for example. Scientists have been preaching the benefits of working out for decades. But most people don’t do it, even though they want to look good and be healthy.

Even though humans need exercise to lead healthy lives, many of us are fine with our current situation. In our heads, exercising is a waste of money or time -- until something breaks the status quo.

That break might be a medical issue or the desire to attract a partner. Whatever the reason, suddenly our outlook changes and we need to do something about it.

This presents the perfect time for a gym owner to discuss current membership discounts and the benefits of joining today.

As a sales rep, part of your job is making prospects realize they need to change -- and that your product is the best way to get started.

Step 3. Determine needs and pain points

If you did your homework, you’re going to have a lot of information about the people you’re meeting with and the company they represent.

So, in the first part of the meeting, your goal should be to determine their needs and pain points.

Maybe you’ve detected some during the research, but your prospect might have called you for other reasons.

Most of the times, you’ll meet managers and C-Level executives who are experts in putting pressure on salespeople. Don’t fall for it and start talking about you and your company immediately. First, probe for more information. Ask questions like:

  • What is the company’s goal with this project?
  • How would my service or product affect the company’s operations?
  • What are your personal and professional goals?
  • What’s the company’s situation in the market?
  • Where do they see their business in five years?

Avoid asking Yes” or “No” questions. You want them to talk in depth about their issues -- and asking them, “So, is this a priority for you right now?” might not be a great question to start your conversation with.

My favorite follow-up tactic is to put the idea of buying into the prospect’s mind. I’ll say, “Imagine you already bought the software. Now, tell me: What’s your ideal scenario from implementation to functionality?

That simple line usually gets them talking about how they want to interact with our technicians and what they expect from the product.

If you do this right, you’ll know exactly what their pain points and needs are. Now, it’s time to put the finger on the wound, so to speak.

Step 4. Don’t ignore the transitions

Don’t violently go from collecting data to creating the need in the prospect’s mind. It’s thoughtless and reminds the prospect you’re a salesperson. As a result, the barriers you overcame with rapport will go back up, which complicates things.

Instead, consolidate achievements from the previous stage of the process with a transition. For example, you might say:

“Mr. John, I understand you want to increase the profitability of your operation by reducing the costs, and that you want to optimize your manufacturing processes. Is that right?”

This shows the prospect you understand and care about their situation. It also gives them a chance to bring up anything they might not have recalled before.

Step 5. Help prospects realize their own need for your help

By this time, you must know which features of your product perfectly solve their problems -- but it’s still way too soon to talk about them. Instead, continue probing for information. Here are a few questions to ask at this stage of the meeting:

  • What are the obstacles you need to overcome to achieve your goals?
  • What’s the worst part of an average working day for you?
  • If you could magically change something in the operation, what would it be?
  • What feature would make you buy my product?
  • What would be nice to have?
  • When would you want to start working on this project?

These inquiries make the prospect realize how urgent and serious the need for change is. It also allows them to re-experience the personal and professional reasons they scheduled the sales presentation with you in the first place.

Step 6. Map out one final transition before your pitch

Now’s the moment they’re ready to hear how your product will solve their problems. So, you go and start talking about the wonderful benefits your solution provides, right? Well, not yet.

Instead, one more thoughtful transition provides the final push to make them want to know what you’re offering. Something like:

“What if I told you my software could help you solve [specific problem] allowing you to achieve [specific goal] in [estimated amount of time]? Would you be interested?”

Now you can blow your prospect’s mind with a superior, affordable, and practical product.

Step 7. Pitch

Because you’ve carefully planned each part of your meeting to build and support the last, your pitch should be a natural ending to the conversation and an easy “Yes” from your prospect.

As you can see, this simple method can be applied during any sales meeting to turn the odds in your favor.

Personalize and practice your own sales meeting agenda, crafting questions and transitions in your own words until they sound natural. This ensures every interaction is meaningful, productive, and forward-moving for your deal.

Sales meeting playbook

 Sales Meeting Playbook

Originally published Apr 22, 2019 8:32:00 PM, updated April 23 2019

Topics:

Sales Meetings