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Setting Up The Sales Call To Set Yourself Apart: (Part 2) Reviewing The Agenda

by Mike on June 30, 2011

I recently shared why it’s so important to Plan Your Sales Calls. Today I’ll highlight one of the most powerful techniques to properly position yourself with a buyer and help set you apart from the crowd.

Friend and sales blogger/trainer extraordinaire Kelley Robertson and I have been feeding off each other’s posts. Last week he volleyed back with a great post entitled The Power of An Agenda. I want to pick up and expand on why reviewing your agenda is a critical step in executing a winning sales call.

Benefits of Sharing Your Agenda:

No one wants to be taken on a ride. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand not knowing where I’m going. Whether it’s a road trip or a meeting being run by someone else, I get real antsy when I don’t know where it’s headed. Give the buyer a road map of where you’re taking him/her. It’s a courtesy and in most cases, will make the person on whom you’re calling more comfortable.

Sharing your agenda is a big differentiator. Almost no one in sales does this. Certainly not well. Letting the prospect in on your plan helps position you as a professional. You look like you’ve been there and done that. Not your first rodeo. A method to your madness.

It also provides you an opportunity to demonstrate right up front that you get it – that this meeting isn’t about you. It’s a chance to ask a good question right after reviewing your plan: “That’s what I was looking to do in our time together. What would you like to get out of this meeting or what were you hoping to accomplish?” If you’re more bold, here’s an even better question I’ve used from time to time: “Why’d you invite us in?” Or “how come you agreed to visit with me?”  Try it. You’ll like it.

Sharing your agenda helps you control the call. If you don’t lay out a plan for the call, then the prospect usually jumps in the driver’s seat. How often have you heard “what do you got for me?” or “alright, you’ve got your 30 minutes, go!”  Even worse, how about the aggressive prospect who goes on the offensive and peppers you with questions. Before you even realize it, you’re back on your heels, being led down paths you didn’t intend to go. It’s 20 minutes into a meeting and you haven’t learned the first thing yet about your buyer or his situation.

Sharing your agenda shakes the buyer out of the I’m not listening because I just know you are about to present to (puke on) me for the next half hour. Your prospect fully expects you to pull the “show up and throw up” act he’s used to getting from the majority of salespeople. In many cases, as soon as the salesperson opens his mouth the buyer lapses into selective listening mode expecting you to launch into the typical monologue. You can actually shock a prospect by setting up the call properly. They are immediately surprised that you have a plan and are sharing it. And possibly even more surprised that you are expecting to have a dialogue.

How I Set Up The Call:

Instead of sounding preachy listing out a bunch of instructions, I think it’s best to simply illustrate how I like to share an agenda and set up the call. After the Rapport Building part of the call wraps up (which, by the way, I believe is completely dependent on how long the prospect wants it to last), here’s how I transition to business:

Ron, thanks for inviting me in. I believe we set this up for 30 minutes. How are you on time? Great. Here’s what I’d like to do: Let me kick us off and take two to three minutes to share just a bit about ABC Ozone Aggregators, the issues we solve for facility managers and why they bring us in…and I’ll touch briefly on why we’re different and keep gaining new clients. Then I’d like to turn the tables and ask you questions to find out more about your situation and what you’re doing in QRS or how you’re approaching XYZ opportunity. Depending on what I hear from you, I’ll share a couple of relevant case studies or show you a few options of how we provide ozone aggregation. After that we can discuss if it looks we might be a fit to help you, or if there is a logical next step (or if it makes sense to get our teams together, etc…).  That’s what I was hoping to do today, Ron. Tell me what what you were hoping for and what you’d like to walk away with today.”

Every phrase above is intentional. If this is a new concept for you, let me challenge you to dissect this example and then think about what you’ve been doing (or not doing) to set up your initial meetings with prospects.

Setting up the call and sharing your agenda is a huge opportunity to position yourself and your company. It’s worth the time energy to master a technique for doing it really well.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam June 30, 2011 at 3:46 am

WOW Mike, I feel like I need to take sales 101 again. I am definitely not utilizing this to my advantage. What a differentiator this technique WILL be. Your example is superb. Reading your post and coming up with my own agenda layout would seem very weak compared to the way you layed it out.

I need to put some serious time and effort into perfecting this technique and not just doing it for the sake of doing it.

Thanks for another excellent post! — Adam

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Mike June 30, 2011 at 4:05 am

Adam, thanks for jumping in so quickly. I appreciate your transparency. Here’s my encouragement: this is not a difficult thing to grasp or start using. It’s simply laying out a road map of where you are going, and pausing to seek input and get buy-in. Almost no one does this well. The key is to absolutely OWN your sales call structure. Then it’s easy to share your agenda early on in the call. Honestly, I think that “Setting Up The Call” is the single most important step of whole meeting because it radically changes the entire dynamic.
-weinberg

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Mark Walker June 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm

One of the basics for sales yet it is forgotten. It sets you apart from the non-professionals and is appreciated by customers. Thanks for sharing your verbatims too. Excellent stuff.

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S. Anthony Iannarino June 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I am not going to go all “great minds think alike” here. I wrote this post covering the same idea last year: http://thesalesblog.com/2010/04/how-to-open-a-sales-call/

Look at these two posts. The principles and ideas aren’t close . . . they are exactly the same!

Why? Because the principles that underlie how we do some things in sales are the hard won collected knowledge and wisdom of all the salespeople who have gone before and figured out what works.

Is it a script? Absolutely! Is this framework far more professional and effective than winging it? Every time, without fail.

Great post! Not only required reading–put it into practice now!

Anthony

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Mike June 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Thanks my friend. Great comments and I loved the post you linked to. I am with you. Why so many salespeople wing the sales call is a mystery to me.

On another note, thanks for your continued leadership in the world of sales blogs. Speaking for the many who follow your posts and share your content with others, thanks for the investment you make in our profession and community. I am appreciative of all you’ve done for me!
Mike

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Gary S. Hart June 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Mike,

Laying out your agenda = tell them what your going to say and say it.

You offered my favoite question for a first appointment, which I believe is the the most important question to ask, “Why am I here?” This was one of my focal points in a recent teleconference and forum.

It’s very easy to assume why you made into the grand court; product, price, presentation, timing, etc., but there are a myriad of underlying wants and needs unique to every customer. The answers to those unknowns are the basis for your agenda and becoming a trusted advisor; more than “another” sales rep – IMO.

Great post!

Gary

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Rich Ledbetter June 30, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Mike,

What a gift. For you to so specifically share the script…it’s priceless. I want to throw out my favorite starter, after the initial greeting, “Mike, our hope for today is to share our capabilities in XYZ area with you, and for you to see opportunity in your world where there would be benefits. Having said that, we’re here to work with you in any way possible. Are there other hot issues we could address today?”
I like providing AN answer, in case there’s a stumble from the prospective client.

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Mike June 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Rich, I love it! Thanks for sharing your approach. Good reminder that’s it perfectly fine to ask how we can help.

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Kelly McCormick June 30, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Mike this is terrific info.

If more people asked clients, “Tell me what what you were hoping for and what you’d like to walk away with today” , their sales would skyrocket.

In essence, the agenda would be to leave their ‘sales agenda’ at the door and focus on meeting the client’s needs.

Great post!

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Mike June 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Great play on words Kelly. I love it!

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Roy Warren June 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Mike

Do you think that the reason for reps not doing a “plan” is the old school factor? They continually say, “I have been selling like this for 25- 50 years!!” The so called milk run can no longer be.

As I do my sales you have to have a plan. You know ALL of my sales are phone generated, I have to have a quick plan to find the time that fits for them, make my products offer/sale and then listen. You have 2-3 minutes to make a hook or move to the next call. At the same time, you can not offer 273 items at one time on one call. Streamline the offering, leaving products for the follow up call.

Simply, it STARTS and ends with a PLAN!

Great work Mike! See you in September!!

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Troy Scott July 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Mike,

Great post as always!!! I like to refer to it as PPP – Purpose, Process, and Payoff.
If the salesperson is going to control the direction of the meeting they need to address the purpose of the meeting, the process they want to follow, and the payoff for the customer/prospect as well as the salesperson.

I love the question: “how come you agreed to visit with me?” The answer can be very revealing.
Thanks Mike!

Troy

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Mike July 1, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Always good to hear your thoughts Mr. Scott. Thanks for visiting and sharing on this nice Friday. Beyond that, don’t be surprised when you see your “PPP” formula used by me in some future post. We call that “sharing best practices.”
Great weekend and Happy Birthday America friends!
-weinberg

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