In every meeting we attend it is prefaced by the context of the presenter. Someone must take charge in order to build the agenda that will determine whether or not the meeting has measurable goals, accomplishes those goals, and has a clear future moving forward. In the context of sales this is paramount, and as managers, we understand that our role is to sell a deliberate course of action to our constituents in a manner that allows them to hear it and buy into it.
Below I’ve outlined a seven-step process that can be molded to fit your organization to build out a successful engagement with your constituents.
1. Appreciation Rule
We acknowledge and appreciate the time invested in attending the meeting. A simple statement that prefaces our initial agenda to get what we came with accomplished. A requisite to a successful meeting is planning and if you aren’t planning out your meetings, you won’t be able to accomplish a successful meeting because the meeting exists on a whim and because of a schedule; it does not exist because it is necessary.
Appreciation sounds like: Thanks everyone for meeting with me today.
If we don’t track the time of a meeting it is liable to go too long, especially if we have a laundry list of things to accomplish before the end of it, because of this we need to be very clear about the amount of time we have. And, if we typically go over, assign a timekeeper to keep people on track and minimize interruptions and consistent feedback. The timekeeper role is a very good role to give to someone who typically over-participates or interrupts. It gives them a specific duty that will keep them focused.
Time management sounds like: We’ve set aside an hour for this meeting. And, since sometimes we end up off track, I’m going to ask Carl to be the time keeper. He’ll make sure we are moving forward on what we need to accomplish and stop conversation if it gets unproductive.
3. Their Agenda
We come with our own plan, and maybe our constituents bring their own hopes. At first, they may not come with things to accomplish but the more productive a meeting is and the more consistent the framework is the more likely your constituents will buy into the meeting and bring important issues and concerns to the table there, as opposed to some random time that may or may not be an interruption.
Their agenda sounds like: Did you bring anything to cover during this meeting? Once this meeting is over, what would you like to have had accomplished?
4. Your Agenda
Your agenda is important. It should be a driving force in the objectives of the interview. It will encompass what needs to be accomplished and must be planned for, but also built out of collective buy-in. We can adapt to the circumstances of a situation. We can only adapt, though, if we have a comprehensive view of the objectively important issues facing our business.
Your agenda sounds like: Today we need to cover the X, Y, and Z issues and build out a plan to deal with clients A and B. We also need to focus on the next steps to E and F. We’ll commit around 15 minutes to each of these issues and have around 10 minutes for final thoughts at the end. Does that sound fair?
If you don’t enter a meeting with an outcome in mind, then you set yourself up for unrealistic and unmanaged expectations when it comes to your team. Often this leads to self-fulfilling prophecies. If I believe my meetings will be unproductive, and I go to my meetings unprepared, and my meetings are unproductive, then I validate a belief which I created because of my own inaction. A successful meeting requires at least one person to take ownership and drive change in the belief structure that can be collective if repeated enough.
The outcome sounds like: At the end of this meeting I’d like to know what’s going to happen about X, Y, and Z. I’d like to know who’s going to head up the issues clients A and B are facing, and I need to know if we’re all on the same page regarding E and F.
6. Biggest Fear
In any discussion, opening with vulnerability on a concern or fear is a great way to break down defensive gates that are programmed in as responses to situations. Just as your attitude toward meetings can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, your constituents can share that same mental concern. Or they may have worked at other organizations which forced repeated and unproductive meetings at regular intervals that has led them to dread any meetings they deal with now. Anything we do to acknowledge the elephant breaks the defensive gates that are programmed into our minds and reactions toward events. Vulnerability is a great way to confront the elephant.
Biggest fear sounds like: My concern is we hold this meeting and there are people here with great insight who don’t voice their opinions because of a fear of judgment. If I don’t hear from you, but I think you have something to add, I’m going to call on you to give us some insight. Is that fair?
Give ownership to the response and build out an organization that helps people feel confident about their role and their opinion and use your own concerns to show vulnerability and help your team develop a greater trust in you. If you have questions about how Sandler could help you and your business reach out at 208.429.9275 or Jim.Stephens@sandler.com
Have a great week!