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Meeting Effectiveness


7 tips to Organize an Effective Meeting

Having every stakeholder in a meeting room and having a productive conversation can beat the tens of e-mails – hands down.

At the same time, each participant in the corporate world discreetly hates meetings because the same meetings could (and they many times do) stall potential decisions.

According to a recent blog, (Author: Scott Dockweiler),   25 million meetings are conducted across the US alone each day. If you are a middle manager, an average 1/3  of your time could likely be your meeting schedules. Whereas, for an executive or senior manager, this number could be as high as half his work hours. In summary,  over 15% of an average organisation’s collective time is burt down on meetings, and this number keeps spiralling each year.

In short, we are investing heavily in meetings. But most of these meetings are unproductive. Many times people leave a meeting room with a bitter feeling: oh no, I should’ve skipped this meeting and worked on something productive.

Meetings can be productive, provided you take care of some simple rules to keep them effective. Here are seven tips for you to remember:

  1. Invite only the right people


Just because Email is free, don’t invite everybody in the organization. Only invite those who can add value to the conversation by providing information, taking action items, making decisions, introducing other experts, etc. If you just want to inform somebody about a meeting happening, just put them in the “optional” list of attendees, or forward the meeting invite to them in a separate Email.

You have to be extra cautious about this when having meetings on the field, with your customer(s). Depending on the goal of the meeting invite only the right participants: technical people, business people, decision-makers, IT people, security experts, etc.

  1. Set clear roles for attendees


In addition to inviting the right people, you also need to make it clear why they are expected in this meeting, what role they are expected to play.

For example, for a specific meeting, you may want a manager to bring statistics from the previous year’s sales reports. In that case, spell it out in the meeting agenda itself as an action item. Also remind them about it in a separate Email, wherever possible.

Similarly, sometimes you may want people to come up with certain ideas to solve a specific problem. In such a case, mention it in advance so that they can think about it before walking into the room.

  1. Provide reading material


Send the context of the meeting in few short paragraphs. If there are any reports or documents they can read to get a bigger picture, mention it.

Among these documents, if there is any mandatory reading, highlight it explicitly. Copy pasting relevant text in the Email (instead of putting it as an attachment) works wonders!

  1. Respect time: especially the time of those who come to the meeting on time


Starting a meeting on time is the biggest challenge any meeting organizer faces. A few participants will come on time, while a few others will walk in late, there may be one or two participants who have forgotten all about the meeting, and they need reminders.

Usually, meeting organizers do all these to ensure everybody is in the room, which is good. At the same time, it shows no respect to those who came on time to the meeting. They are forced to sit idle or read Emails on the phone until everybody else arrives. They will make it a point that they don’t arrive early in any other meeting.

This doesn’t mean you should start the meeting without having the right participants; expect people to forget about this meeting and call them early to ensure they are on the way. This may not ensure the meeting starting on time, but at least saves the delay.

  1. Always keep the meeting objective in mind


During a meeting, it is possible that people will be attracted towards other discussions which may not be relevant to the topic at hand. In such cases, the organizer has to be vigilant in bringing the topic back on track. This can be done in a gentle manner with comments like, ‘Can we discuss it offline?’ or ‘As we are running out of time, can we focus on the meeting agenda please’?

For this to be effective, meeting organizer should have clear goals for the meeting. As the meeting progresses, he should track if these goals are being met. If not, find out which topics are lacking attention and focus the team towards that direction.

  1. Avoid unnecessary meetings


It may sound strange, but at least 50% of the meetings can be avoided by sending a detailed Email about the topic or by having few one to one telephone conversations with the stakeholders. However, this is possible only if the organizer is clear on the thought process. Else, he will be inviting hundreds of Emails with no clear closure items.

If an Email replaces a meeting, it should really be a solid replacement. It should provide context, it should provide questions on hand and ask for specific inputs from people, it should also list decisions/proposals and ask people to challenge them if they don’t like them.

Just like a meeting, streamline the conversations. All the participants spending 10 minutes (in their own desks) on this topic can really add value, against everyone sitting in a room and trying to debate, provided the organizer streamlines the discussion and brings the action items clearly.

  1. Discuss ROI


Whether it is a face to face meeting or an Email/telephone replacement, decisions made and actions agreed should be clear to everyone. They must be tracked electronically to ensure everyone knows how this meeting is helping in the resolution of the problem on hand.

Selling meeting ROI is a crucial tool. Only when people understand they were able to see value in their contribution to your meeting, they will do the required homework and provide valuable inputs to your next meeting.

Hence, wear your marketing hat and shamelessly talk about the significant progress your meeting did. Thank people for their individual contribution and truly make them feel happy about it. This will go a long way in establishing an effective-meeting-culture across the organization, bringing good results.

Five Tips Every Field Sales Professional Must Know While Meeting Customers

Five Tips Every Field Sales Professional Must Note

Sales profession is undergoing radical changes  while the buyer is in charge and technology is transforming the profession. The sales profession always changes, because sellers must constantly adapt to changes in economic, political, cultural and market forces. Here are  5 tips that every sales professional must pay attention to while meeting the prospects.

1. Understanding your prospect


Every sales meeting is unique. Whether you are meeting the same contacts for the second time or twentieth time, and every meeting is going to be different because the needs are different, goals are different, and interactions are different.

So, it is essential for the sales rep to spend time in preparing a new agenda for every meeting. This should be done after reviewing various details such as:

* Is there a definite purpose for this meeting? (For example, Am I meeting them about renewal of a contract or  meeting them to present a newly launched product)

* What are the open opportunities I have with this account? Which of those are going to be discussed in this meeting? Do I have all the people who can make a decision on these opportunities?

* Where are my notes from the previous two to three meetings with this customer? Where are the Emails I received from them recently? Do those give a clue on what do they expect in this meeting?

* (In case my organization that handles support) What are the recent service requests created by this account? How quickly are they addressed? What is the feedback score by the client on those service requests? Are some requests still pending? Can I get some details about them, or better, close it before meeting?

* Did the client visit my site recently? If yes, what brought them to the website? How much time they spend and on which page(s)? (A good marketing system should be able to tell you this).

* Who are the similar clients (example: in the same geography, working on the same vertical etc.) buying?

* What does the news items/ social media updates of the company indicate? Can they get me some trigger points for conversation/ new opportunities?

These are only sample questions. Every industry is different, and every customer is different. You may add more questions, edit these questions and create your own raw material for making the perfect agenda; and then, spend that time researching these things. It helps to have clear goals before you walk in to meet the customer.

2. Understanding my pitch


Of course, I am selling the same product for many years. I can sell it with my eyes closed.

But, today’s customers are not going to buy anything with their eyes closed. They are looking for personal interactions. They prefer speaking to someone who understands their business and then matches a product, not the other way.

So, there is no limit to the number of enhancements you can do to your sales pitch. Keep improving it. Add few slides, remove some bullet points, rewrite some. Make sure there is no sense of templatization in your pitch. That’s what makes you unique.

While you are at it, share the presentation with your colleagues in your in-house collaboration system. Someone else selling to a similar customer/vertical may benefit from it.

3. Notifications


Some people prefer an Email notification about a meeting. Some people prefer a text message or a Skype buzz.

Know your contacts. It makes sense even to capture this information in your CRM itself as “Preferred mode(s) of notification”.

On the day of the meeting, or a day before, depending on how good your contacts’ memory is, send a notification. Keep it short and sweet: 140 characters or less (Twitter style) is preferred.

Remember, you may have to send these notifications at different times to different people in different systems. See if you can automate these, there are many tools available which can do this for you.

Also, look out for responses to these notifications. If you want a decision-maker in an important meeting, and you didn’t hear anything back from her, no harm in sending a gentle reminder. But don’t be too pushy. Just make sure everyone walks to your meeting happily.

4. Reading materials


If you want your contacts to read something before the meeting, make sure you share it with them. It is not in your hands whether they will read it or not, but you must send it, and later give a brief about it before the meeting.

While sending marketing collaterals to contacts, follow these best practices:

* Attachments are easy, but you have zero control after the Email is sent. You can’t figure out who read them, when they read it, how long they read it, whom did they forward it to etc. which are important clues on the level of interest for your pitch from the customers’ side. So, instead of using attachments, use your organization’s content management system/document sharing platform which provides links to share, and every click is usually captured with detailed reports on the usage.

* Another reason to avoid attachments: They can be bulky. You don’t want your contacts to skip reading your content because it takes too much time to download. Do you?

* Also, make sure your Emails and documents are mobile friendly. Many of your contacts will read them on a mobile phone first.

* Don’t confuse marketing materials (background for the discussion) with your pitch (actual discussion). If you share everything before the meeting and expect them to understand, make a decision and walk-in to the meeting with a purchase order in hand, wake up!

5. Carry your presentation kit


It may be few simple slides or a brochure or a product sample or a piece of the handwritten document or a video on a tablet device. Make sure your presentation kit is ready. Test it thoroughly, preferably on a network outside your office (if your presentation kit needs internet connectivity)

Also, in the case of mobile phone/ tablet/ any other electronic device based demonstrations, make sure the devices have enough battery life. Alternatively, you can carry a power bank with you always.

If you are demonstrating the web or a mobile application, it also makes sense to open the important pages in advance, before you walk into the meeting so that you can quickly jump to those screens instead of clicking and waiting.

Depending on the importance of the meeting, it is always an excellent idea to practice it in advance. If it is possible to run through your presentation to a customer representative before the actual presentation to the CXO, you can get some valuable inputs on how to pitch right.

Your work before a sales meeting makes sure that you have the advantage even before the first word is spoken. Use it right, close more!

Be prepared… Trust wins deals

I was at a sales meeting, with a product manager at an agricultural organization that delivers a highly specialized, niche product. Things were progressing as planned and I seemed to have offered exactly what he was looking for.

And then the customer asked a question: “Who else had you worked with who has the similar requirement?”  Now, I’ve been working with 500 companies over the past couple of years, and I have worked in almost every industry and I doubted if there was a company that had the similar requirement. Keep Reading