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Recently, Paul Swiencicki visited Forum Ventures’s accelerator in San Francisco to discuss “The Ins and Outs of Conducting Effective Meetings.” At first, that might seem simple — there are dozens of solid structures for running meetings, from getting buy-in for the meeting’s agenda to making time for personal connection, even if for a single minute.
But his main idea was more specific than that.
Paul — Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at Swiftly, former CRO of Remix, and a top rated Forum Ventures mentor — has helped dozens of early-stage technology companies scale over the last twenty years. He says there’s one stand-out thing that all top performers do when selling to multiple stakeholders, which he calls “the call before the call.”
The call before the call is simply a conversation you have with your champion before a stakeholder meeting to understand what their expectations are for the upcoming meeting, he explained in an article he wrote on LinkedIn. “This call will allow you to ask questions so you will clearly know what they are thinking and give you time to be prepared to meet their needs.”
Before the big meeting, connect with the main folks in the meeting to get clear on expectations and ask a few key questions.
He suggest asking questions like:
- What is the most important topic we should focus on in the meeting?
- What would you consider a successful outcome from this meeting?
- What have you seen the most successful people do in these meetings?
- What would lead to a negative outcome?
- What objections do you expect from people?
“It is critical to understand what a successful outcome means to the other person. You find this out by asking questions prior to the interaction,” Paul said.
When you already have the answers to many of these crucial questions, you are setting your meeting up for success. You know where to steer the conversation, what concerns will likely come up, and what to make sure to cover. You can prep yourself for objections ahead of time, and ensure you have the best answers for them when they come up — or cut them off by addressing them before they are brought up.
Even people who have incredibly busy schedules can usually take 5-10 minutes for a phone call a day or two before a big meeting. Paul suggests keeping it very short, recording the call so you don’t have to write notes, and then review it thoroughly to address each concern before the interaction. This will set you up for success.
The “call before the call” — or the CBTC, as he shorthands — has been a game-changer for many companies he’s advised over his 20+ year career as a sales leader, and, he believes, will immediately help founders and early sales leaders run meetings with more efficiency, and better outcomes.