Business executives often report that they look back on the initial conversations they have with sales people and regard them as a frustrating waste of their time. Given this experience, it’s no wonder that it has become increasingly hard to persuade a potential prospect to invest time in talking with us.
“In particular our respective goals are to [briefly summarise goals of the customer participants] and [briefly summarise our goals] – have I missed anything?”
“Can I confirm that we will need to finish our discussion by [agreed end time] and that our key agenda items should include [agreed high-level agenda items]?”
“If we achieve those objectives by the end of our [meeting/call], can we agree that it would be reasonable for our next step to be [suggested next step that involves the customer making some sort of investment of time or some other resource]?”
“But if for any reason either us believes that we haven’t made the progress we hoped for, can we both agree that it will be OK to just leave it there. How does that sound?”
The great benefit of establishing this sort of mutual agreement early on in the conversation, rather than leaving a discussion about potential next steps until the end, is that both parties have a clear sense about what they want to get out of the meeting.
And by confirming the available time and how we plan to allocate it to the agreed agenda items, we can help to ensure that we cover what we need to and don’t end up missing an important aspect or having to rush our summary of conclusions or negotiate a next step while under time pressure.
In fact, I can’t think of a single good reason why sales people should not establish an up-front agreement as part of the preamble to any significant customer meeting – can you?