Everett could see they were getting restless. The buyers were beginning to look around the room and shifting uncomfortably in their chairs. Two of the four were starting to doodle, obviously no longer interested in the advertising program Everett was selling.
The meeting was going long, and it seemed to be all over the place. They just kept batting around the Company’s situation and the occasional feature of Everett’s product.
Even Everett was wondering how to bring this sales call to an positive end - though he was nervous because he had no clear indication of their level of commitment, understanding or even the next step to be taken.
Everett’s frustration began to rise -- not at the client, but at himself. He was confused because he thought he had come well prepared. He had researched the company, its market, its competitive positioning, and the people who were going to be in the meeting. He planned what he was going to say about himself, his company, his product.
When the client’s team sat down, however, it seemed to come unraveled, and 90 minutes later there was no clear direction.
Eventually, the group bumped up against a hard stop, and the meeting came to an end. The group came to a decision, though: “We’ll think about it.”
Everett returned to his office in the fog of reflection that follows a blown sale. Sitting at his desk and wondering what he could have done better, he was tapped on the shoulder by his sales manager.
“Remember, we’re meeting in the conference room in 10 minutes to develop cover strategy for the new products arriving next quarter.”
As Everett settled into his seat, his sales manager began the meeting.
“Hope everyone’s having a great day. We only have 30 minutes slated for this meeting, but by the time we’re finished, you all should have a clearer understanding of the new line. First, I’d like to hear about your experience with our current offering, then I’ll tell you about what’s coming out, then we’ll ...”
Everett sat up straight as if struck by lightning. He knew what had been missing from his sales call earlier that day.
No one in his earlier sales appointment had been clear on the objective of the meeting. Probably not even him. They were unsure of what was going to happen and in what order. As a result, they all tried to make the meeting productive from their own perspectives by taking the questioning and conversation in every direction possible and thereby achieving nothing -- least of all the sale.
When his sales manager’s meeting ended precisely 30 minutes later, Everett went to his desk and jotted down a simple outline - an agenda for his next sales call that he would employ immediately after the introductions and preliminary pleasantries:
- By the end of our meeting, you’ll understand more fully some of the new media options available to you to help drive the top line.
- Since we’re scheduled for 45 minutes, I thought an agenda would help us make the most of our time together.
- First, although I’ve studied your company before coming, I like to learn a little more by asking you some questions,
- Then, I’ll share with you about our firm - what we do and how we do it - so you can determine whether what we do fits in with your plan,
- After that, I’ll answer any questions you might have remaining. Most people have questions about production, financing and the like.
- From there, we can determine a next step.
- Is there anything you’d like to add to our agenda?
- Do you mind if I ask you a few questions and take some notes?
Later that week, Everett got his chance to try it out. His confidence surged when, looking around the room, he saw his buyers smiling, nodding and engaged.
“That sounds great,” came the response. “Sounds like a pretty good plan, and you’re definitely more organized than the last guy we had here.”
Yes, he was.