My client in Cincinnati stopped me from turning on my laptop. I was preparing to share my company’s slide deck, but before I could start, he told me to put it away. He had a list of questions for me. He also mentioned that getting the questions right would end up with him signing my contract. With that, I was forced into the world of conversational sales.
The only vehicle you have for creating value and a preference to buy from you is a sales conversation. Without a first meeting and an effective sales meeting agenda, you will not create or win new deals, no matter how many logos you include in your pitch deck.
There are two primary sales approaches used in B2B sales. The first is a legacy sales approach. Many sales organizations and salespeople still use this sales model, even though it costs them deals. The second is a modern sales approach that creates greater value and wins deals.
The Legacy Sales Approach
The legacy sales approach begins with a sales meeting agenda that is essentially a sales pitch. It is all “why us,” starting with a history lesson about the sales organization’s company and its leadership. This is followed up with a conversation about their existing clients. Once these topics are exhausted, the salesperson shares information about their products and services.
Only after the sales rep finishes trying to establish their credibility do they ask their prospective client about their problem. By this point, the poor, bored, and suffering contact regrets having agreed to the meeting and is disappointed the salesperson isn’t more helpful. Buyers and decision-makers no longer find this approach adequate for their needs. Because our environment is complex and complicated, buyers need more and greater help from salespeople.
This approach is not how to structure a sales meeting agenda. The action items create no value greater than if the contact read the sales organization’s website. The traditional sales meeting agenda creates the outcome of positioning their company and their solutions. The problem is that this is the outcome the salesperson needs, not what their contacts need.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your contact’s feelings about you will be forged during your first meeting. A meeting agenda all about your company and your solutions will prevent you from getting a second meeting. Without a second meeting, there is no opportunity. You failed the audition. When your contact is not the subject of your conversation, your behavior is self-oriented, and you are harming your results. Your contact should not have to compete for time on the sales meeting agenda.
Here is an example: One salesperson I know presented 99 slides in 90 minutes in a first meeting with four stakeholders. When his presentation ended, the salesperson asked, “Do you have any questions?” The main contact said, "Yes, we have a lot of questions, but I am afraid you are out of time.” That company was trying to spend $5 million. His approach left that $5 million for his competitors.
Lack of Value for the Buyer
Too many salespeople are so focused on achieving their outcomes they don’t serve their contacts’ needs. Your contact didn’t agree to a first meeting so they could help you reach your quota. They agreed to the meeting so they could get help improving their results and their strategic outcomes.
A long line of decision-makers leave sales meetings without checking the box on any of their outcomes. There is nothing you can say about your company or product in a first meeting that creates value for your contacts. The legacy approach damages your relationship with your contact before it even starts.
Asking Questions You Should Already Know
Salespeople ask their contacts questions to which they should already know the answer. You called the contact and asked for a meeting. When you made that call, you did so because you believe they have a problem you can solve for them. Unless you are new in your role, you should also know the implications of your contact’s poor results. When you ask questions about these things, you ruin your positioning as an expert and an authority, something we call being One-Up. You can learn this approach in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative. You can also get more help here.
You discourage the buyer when you are not a source of insights and when you can’t help them pursue their outcomes. When this is true, your contact believes you and your approach are a waste of time.
Inability to Facilitate the Buyer’s Journey
More and more, selling is something closer to enabling decision-making and change management. Anything that prevents you from leading your contacts through their buyer’s journey will also end your opportunity before it starts.
Your contact is rarely called to buy what you sell. Because it is such a rare occurrence, buyers expect sellers to guide them through their customer journey. The salesperson who can’t lead the client will be replaced by a competitor with a more consultative approach. Instead of this company going into your B2B sales pipeline, you will find it in your competitors’.
Your Sales Meeting Agenda
The legacy has obstacles built into the approach, including an orientation, a lack of value creation. It also includes asking questions you should know the answer to and failing to help with the buyer’s journey.
Sales representatives need a sales meeting template that reverses obstacles and keeps them thinking strategically. Your template should ensure a successful sales meeting for you and a productive meeting for your contacts. Instead of worrying about starting and ending on time and staying on track, worry more about the sales experience. The most important part of the sales meeting is creating value for your prospective clients and leaving with an action plan.
Sales meeting agenda best practices require you to help your contacts pursue the better results they need. Your other-oriented approach will increase revenue in B2B sales. A better sales meeting agenda will improve your sales process and your sales results. Need more help, go here.