Do You Have an Agenda?

Today’s political environment has taken a perfectly good word—agenda—and made it a bad thing. I’d like to reclaim the word, and make it a positive part of our interactions with others. Ideally, a good agenda is something that clearly communicates needs and goals beforehand. It’s all about transparency.

For the record, I think the negative associations we have about the word come from the phrase “hidden agenda.” No one likes to find out that the real purpose of an interaction has been deliberately kept secret. We prefer openness and honesty. We also want to save time, and not go through an entire meeting only to discover we didn’t need to be there. I think that most of the bad associations we have about the word come from the failure to have a good or clear agenda.

(Just so we’re clear, my reason for this blog has it’s own agenda—the upcoming launch of Viddler Sales Gym. One of the Sales Gym “workouts,” led by veteran sales coach and Dycoco founder Michael St. Lawrence, is on the importance of a sound agenda in the sales process.)

Which brings me back to the word itself. A good agenda is a clear statement of what you intend to achieve. It’s also a major way to insure the meeting stays on track, and that everyone knows what’s happening and what’s going to happen next. Without an agenda, a meeting can rapidly become chaotic and important business may not be completed.

This is really important when it comes to sales calls. If a prospective customer senses that you are unprepared or disorganized, they may interrupt and take control of the meeting. Besides disrupting your progress in the sales cycle, this will also undermine your overall credibility.

A well-prepared, clear, and especially concise agenda will fix that. (Doing this well takes practice.)

Another thing to remember is that a good agenda is mutual. At times, an agenda item may surprise someone, but in general everyone should know what the meeting is about. This is especially true in sales situations, since a sales call or meeting is typically the result of a “next step” agreement.

Above all, an agenda should be all about transparency. It should make everyone’s purpose and goals clear. A meeting’s purpose is to reach some sort of agreement, so the agenda must honestly establish the context for everyone involved.

An agenda does not have to be partisan or divisive—or even boring. However, it does have to be clear and concise. This is especially true for sales meetings, where your audience is attending by choice. With practice, your agenda can make all the difference, both for the meetings themselves as well as how you are perceived as a business leader.