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How To Prevent Your Sales Encounter From Getting Hijacked

Have you ever attended a meeting where a party’s interests was not addressed and it created problems? I have seen firsthand, domineering stakeholders completely derail meetings by repeatedly inserting their personal agenda. This can be especially challenging when the domineering party is a high-ranking official.  Let me share with you how I learned this first hand.

Sales Encounter Nightmare

I was working with a state-wide community health network that included 18 loosely affiliated healthcare organizations considering a multi-million dollar joint project. Each of these organization had their own executive management and I had miraculously arranged for them all to meet at a central location to discuss the project.

Everything started very well. We had a punch-list of issues to address, but no agenda (big mistake). We worked through the first three issues just fine, but on the fourth issue an amazing thing happened.  The issue in question had a subjective component to it and the most influential executives boldly declared that the issue had to be handled a particular way (his way) or, he said, the others would be “breaking the law and putting their organizations at risk.”

It was obvious that this issue had come up before and this executive was using my sales meeting to further his own agenda.  Some debate took place as my team tried to accommodate all the perspectives being thrown around.  We were discussing technical issues while Big-Alpha-Executive was using my meeting push his ideas for policy changeit was a nightmare.  This one simple issue took over an hour to discuss and not only was no progress being made, a negative feeling permeated the air.

The rest of the executives eventually acquiesced to Big-Alpha-Bob and we were able to move on.  But the hijacking left our meeting short of time and we were unable to addressed all of the issues.  This forced another meeting which seriously extended our sales cycle because of how difficult it was to get all these executives together.

Interestingly, a couple of hours after the debate, Big-Alpha-Bob left the room to address a phone call.  Despite being on a completely different subject the moment the door closed, as if planned, the entire group immediately shifted back to the original issue and said “We DO NOT want to handle that issue that way.”  I marveled at how a single individual could alter the dynamic of a meeting so dramatically.

How To Avoid Sales Meeting Hijack

As my team and I were commiserating about how our deal was not going to come in this quarter I asked how we could have prevented this from happening and how we could prevent it from ever happening again.  Our mistake – and our answer – was simple.  Had we used a timed agenda rather than a punch-list we could have reigned in Big-Alpha-Bob. 

When you collaborate on the agenda in advance, everyone’s expectations regarding the meeting’s purpose and the topics to be addressed are clearly spelled out. It doesn’t guarantee that someone won’t try and hijack your meeting (though it does reduce the chances), but it does give you the ability to say something like, “Those are all good points. The purpose of this meeting is to X. We plan to cover that topic in an upcoming meeting.”

Since that fateful day I have used this many times to reel-in high ranking officials (sometimes even my own officials) who were not adequately briefed on the purpose of the meeting or hope to use the platform for their own purposes.  It works very well.  The agenda is the constitution of the meeting that was previously agreed upon and executives will honor that.


The Silver Lining – Meeting Agendas Help Everyone Prepare

Knowing the purpose and the outline of topics gives attendees a clear understanding of what to prepare for the meeting. Some meetings require specific information and will reach an impasse without that information.  Agendas eliminate excuses that participants aren’t ready to discuss a subject because they didn’t know it was going to be brought up. You can even go as far as including an “Information Required” section of your agenda so your invitees will clearly see what is needed in order to have a productive meeting.

Be sure to communicate any facts or figures that will be necessary for a productive discussion. If appropriate, you may consider (with the assistance of your prospect) specifically assigning the person responsible for providing the information. When specific individuals are made responsible for their participation, the meeting will take on new significance for those participants.

Most importantly, this agendas also prepares you and your level of preparedness will directly translate to the meeting’s success.

Closing Tip:  Avoid meeting hijack and extended sales cycles by collaborating with your prospect on your agenda.

Until next time!


PS – Download sample agendas for your next sales encounter at:

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