Steve Jobs had a great approach to meetings: he established a DRI - a directly responsible individual - For each line-item on the meeting’s agenda. This person was tied to the delivery and/or follow-up necessary to bring each task to completion.
As a salesperson, you are always the DRI. Don’t leave your meeting without knowing what’s next.
While you can’t control every aspect of client relationships, controlling what you can is important. Organizing a productive meeting is one of those controllable factors.
Most complaints about meetings can be grouped into one of five categories:
- technical issues with meetings,
- unnecessary meetings,
- disorganized/poorly run meetings,
- lack of etiquette,
- and meetings that don’t turn a result.
Technical Issues in Meetings
When you conduct meetings in an unfamiliar location, technical issues are often inevitable. They can range from searching for the proper cords for hooking up a laptop to the conference room screen, to fumbling with incompatible presentation formats, to connecting remote workers conferencing in.
While technical issues are rarely the only factor in a failed deal, they certainly do not serve you when it comes to getting your customer to see you as competent. Plan ahead as best as you can.
Sales meetings typically have a clear goal: make the sale. But let me ask you this: Do you go into every sales meeting with an agenda?
Agendas do a few things: 1) they help keep the meeting from veering off path, 2) they ensure that you and your customer are aligned before, during, and after the meeting, 3) they prevent things from slipping through the cracks.
A good sales meeting agenda should include:
- A clear goal, purpose, or objective.
- Key points you plan to cover
- Key questions that you have for the customer
- Buffer time for customer questions/customer-led tangents
- A notes section that includes a place for you to summarize the meeting and note any follow-up items
Side note: If possible, designate a note-taker for each meeting. The idea is not about having a detailed transcript. Rather, covering the meeting enough to where anyone absent from the meeting could understand what went on during the meeting. Print out meeting agenda ahead of time and have the note-taker write notes on the agenda so that they are easy to follow.
While meetings are critical to the maintenance of any customer relationship, you never want to waste your customer’s time. To prevent excessive, unnecessary meetings ask yourself:
- What is the goal of this meeting?
- Can the goal be accomplished through means other than a meeting? There are lots of different collaboration / project management tools out there that can help reduce the amount of status update meetings.
- Who actually needs to attend this meeting? Each line-item on the meeting agenda should be relevant to everyone in the room.
- If you’re dealing with an existing customer, do both parties have a mutual understanding of when to expect meetings? This not only signals that you respect their time, but it also allows proper planning on both sides of the equation.
No Etiquette in Meetings
Meeting etiquette is one of those things that SHOULD be taught in college/in your first job… but often times isn’t. While your customer can get a pass on meeting etiquette, you should know the ground rules:
- Respect your customer’s time - Arrive early. Stick to the agenda. Derailing the meeting, dominating the conversation in an unproductive way, and allowing the meeting to go over the planned time frame are all ways that you could disrespect your customer’s time.
- Be mindful of how you come off - Be polite! Greet everyone properly, study names and job functions prior to the meeting, and thank everyone for their time as you wrap the meeting up. Also, keep in mind that your body language, conversational style (ie. Balancing how much you’re talking with how much you’re listening), and how you treat lower-level employees can impact how you are perceived by your customer. So, no slumping in your seat, no excessive negativity.
- Pay attention - Repeating what someone already said, asking a question that’s already been answered, or being on a phone/laptop during the meeting shows indifference at the least… but some customers might take it as rudeness or self-superiority.
- Dress appropriately - … and err on the side of formality.
Meetings that Don’t Drive Action
So, let’s say you leave the meeting feeling pretty good about how it went… are you done? Absolutely not.
Even if you address all of the previous areas mentioned in this article, you can still fail to make meetings matter if you do not follow-up promptly, politely, and productively.
First and foremost, send your customer a handwritten thank you note. Mail it to them that day. I know many people think that tactic is outdated/excessive/unnecessary… and I’m here to tell you that’s exactly why you need to do it. It’s unique, it’s memorable, and it shows you care. Win-win-win.
Every note that follows a customer meeting should include:
- A thoughtfully written thank you
- A summary of the meeting
- Action items & next steps
This gesture helps create stickiness with your customer. It’s an informal commitment that lets both parties know what to expect next.
Salespeople: take note. When done right, meetings align and strengthen relationships with your customers.