Sales Skills & Tools – Use Agenda for Presentations

Learning new sales skills and tools, should be a lifelong part of being a professional salesperson. Adapting those new skills and tools to your unique style, and then using them to increase your effectiveness, is another skill all by itself.

There are many different kinds of salespeople, who sell many different kinds of products and or ideas, they all use different methods, and the really good salespeople let those methods evolve and morph into what will work for them.

The kind of selling I do involves calling on established accounts about once a month, and as many new prospects as I can qualify to fill the holes in my schedule. Most of my sales calls now begin with an agenda of what I want to cover during the meeting.

This was not always the procedure I used, the salespeople who broke me into my industry did not use an agenda, most of them just came in with a handful of promotions, asked a few questions, and made their presentations, most were not very professional. The businesses I called on at that time were being called on by 5-6 of my competitors each month, and they all seemed to use the same approach.

The problem I had was being the new kid on the block and how could I differentiate myself from the pack. We all sold the same products, at about the same price, and all with similar terms, it seemed as if you just had to spend a lot of time to form some relationships, and after you had been around a long time you would get the business, I needed to find a short cut.

I decided to use a more formal approach to the sales process, first I broke the dress code, which at that time in that industry was slacks and a polo shirt with your company logo, and began wearing a sport coat and tie. Industry lore had it that you would be kicked out of most shops if you showed up in a tie, well in over 25 years, that has not happened once, to the contrary the almost immediate result was that most of my customers began to relate to me on a higher level, than before I made the change.

Next I began using a simple one-page agenda that listed a few housekeeping items, customer name, account number, sales figures for month, and year to date, and what they spent the previous year. A few carefully crafted open-ended questions to gather information and guide them to what I wanted to discuss. A listing of any promotions or new products, they should be aware of. And finally contact information for the sales desk, credit, corporate office, and myself all on a separate page.

There are a few subtle cues in this document:

  • The sales numbers for last year are a subliminal reminder that they are expected to beat the previous years total, in fact if we get to the last quarter and some accounts are lagging a little, they will say they need to speed up without any prompting from me.
  • If I want the customer or prospect to ask specifically about an item, I will sometimes include it in the list of promotions, I will highlight it, but skip over it as we go through the list, almost without fail the customer will point to that item and ask “what about this”, any sales professional knows that if the customer asks first about something, they own it.
  • On the contact page, I include all possible way for the customer to get hold of me, business phone, cell phone, home phone, home fax, and email addresses. This implies that the customer is really important to me and gives them confidence that they can get me. In over 20 years of including my home phone, only 2 customers have ever called me at home, and they were true emergencies.
  • Has this worked? It has been a part of my overall sales strategy for more than 20 years, in that time I have firmly established myself among the top 5% of sales people in my field.

    Finding and implementing ways to differentiate yourself from the competition is a sales skill you must develop and use.