It happens to all of us. We finish a conversation with a client and feel, well, unaccomplished. Perhaps the next steps aren’t clearly agreed upon. Or important items are completely forgotten and another conversation needs to be booked.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
There’s a very simple way to keep all our conversations focused and efficient. It involves a wee bit of preparation but the benefits – to everyone – are immense.
What is this simple way of creating effective conversations? And what do you need to do to prepare?
Great conversations that move projects forward and result in firm decisions have one thing in common – an agenda.
The word agenda comes to us from 1650s Latin meaning “things to be done”. In 1882 it began to be used specifically to describe “items of business to be done at a meeting”.
When we treat our conversations with clients as meetings, we make things happen.
Take the time to be very clear about what needs to be accomplished during the conversation. What decisions need to be made? What next steps need to be discussed and agreed upon? What information do you require, ie. dates, locations, budget, etc.
On a piece of paper, quickly jot down the best possible outcome for the conversation. Then work backwards. In order to reach that outcome, what items must be discussed? Don’t be concerned about neatness. You can write, draw, cross out, use arrows. This is a creative process that will allow you to firmly establish what the conversation should include.
Convert your creative process into a logical agenda. Considering the time available for the conversation, what are the essential items that can be included? (A lengthy agenda for a quick call results in nothing getting done.) What order will create a flow from one topic to another and support decision-making along the way? Remember to leave time for discussion and input.
Share the agenda with everyone participating in the conversation. You can do this verbally at the beginning of the call, i.e. “There are three things we want to make sure we discuss today in order to complete your website.” Or you could share it prior to the call in an email, i.e. “We want to complete your website this week so here are the three things we need to discuss on our upcoming call.”. Or, if it’s a video call, share your screen with a slide or document that contains the agenda and the desired outcome.
Agendas have a special magic that we don’t tap into often enough. The numbers work like the bouncing ball in karaoke, moving everyone from item to item until the agreed-upon outcome is reached. Taking the time to create, share and follow an agenda eliminates hours of unfocused and unproductive conversations. The results are more decisions made and more projects completed. And completed projects are what excellent customer service is all about!
Customer Conversation Worksheet