“Dear Remora - I lead a small but mighty team that is signing partners to join our company’s online marketplace. We are seeing increasing demand from customers in the marketplace which means we are hearing from more and more partners who want to join. My team is overwhelmed with requests for partner meetings. Many of these inbound meeting requests are not from ideal partners. Can you offer some guidance for how my team can decline partner meetings so they can focus on the highest priority opportunities?”
- Drowning in Meetings
Dear Drowning in Meetings -
Life is short … you should decline more meetings. That starts with understanding the ingredients of a productive meeting.
Productive meetings have seven key ingredients:
purpose - why are we meeting? what’s the ideal outcome?
leader - who will drive the agenda towards a meaningful outcome?
agenda - what are the topics to cover? what is out of scope?
the right attendees - who is needed?
pre-work - what prior knowledge does everyone need?
note-taker - who will capture a record and next steps?
action items - do we all agree on what is going to happen next?
These same ingredients provide a framework or checklist for how you can (respectfully) decline a partner meeting.
Being direct with a partner is one of the highest forms of respect you can show them. By declining a meeting for the right reason you are giving others a valuable gift - time to focus on more immediate opportunities. That is why nearly any message you write declining a meeting should refer back to saving time - yours and theirs.
Here are five ways to (respectfully) decline a partner meeting and give them the gift of time:
1. Not a current priority
“Given our team’s current priorities we need to defer this meeting; we will come back to you when we our team can focus on making this a productive discussion together.”
Before you accept a meeting ask yourself whether the ideal outcome could have a material impact on your current priority(s). Scrutinize your time or you’ll find you have none left to do your most important work.
2. No clear agenda
“To make sure this is a productive use of time together, could you share an agenda for what you would like to cover in this meeting?”
If it’s not clear why you’re meeting, ask the meeting organizer. It’s that simple. If they send a response that is vague or doesn’t align with your priorities, just utilize one of the replies below.
3. Not the right stakeholders (your side):
“We want to make sure this is a productive discussion and right now the right participants on our team are not able to join.”
If they pushback on this and want to meet with you to “pick your brain” just return to the point that without the right stakeholders, it will not be a productive use of time.
4. Not the right stakeholders (their side):
“These partnership discussions are most impactful when we have the right group assembled. If your [key stakeholder] is not able to join then let’s hold off for now.”
Don't hesitate to ask who your partner is having join your meeting. And if your partner is unable to confirm that the right folks from their side will attend then you have a justification to defer the meeting.
5. No progress since last meeting:
“Since we have not yet completed the action items from our last meeting, let’s hold off on this discussion for now. I’ll get back in touch with you when we are ready to continue the discussion.”
If your team (or theirs) did not make it a priority to accomplish what was outlined at the end of the last meeting, then there is probably no need to meet again.
Each of these proposed responses above is based upon you ensuring that the meeting is “productive” or “impactful. No one will argue against you ensuring that the meeting is a good investment of time for everyone.
Pre-empt partner meetings … at scale
Here are a couple systems you can implement to get ahead of low-impact partner meetings:
Create an inbound partner form - Crossbeam offers an excellent checklist for a SaaS partner page with 50 examples. The partner page is where you can outline the kind of partners you’re seeking and post an inbound form. The form is a vehicle to collect information from partners that you can use to prioritize them.
Build your own email templates - when your inbox becomes full of requests from different partners that want to meet, craft a few email templates to save you time. In particular, draft a note that points inbound partners to your partner form and highlights your key partner criteria. If this feels cold, take comfort in all the time you will save yourself. And customize the template slightly after you paste it into your email.
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