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How to avoid "great" meetings that go nowhere
Dear Remora - my team often reports back on what a “great” meeting they just had. So many “great” partner meetings. Their excitement is contagious. And then … nothing. These “great” meetings go nowhere. What can I do? How can I validate which of these partner meetings are actually great? How can I help my team move their deals forward?
Dear Great?? - I’ve seen this same dynamic up-close and I have bad news to share: you are likely the problem.
Fortunately, every partner meeting is a new opportunity. But you need to be thoughtful about how you operate before, during and after meetings.
I recently outlined a framework for when and how to decline partner meetings respectfully. But you’re asking about the opposite - how to get more impact from the partner meetings you (and your team) agree to.
The steps below are for you - the team leader - but most of these steps apply to anyone leading a (partner) meeting.
Before the meeting
Know where you're going
Partner meetings have four stages. To move a deal forward, your team needs to first understand what stage the deal is in … and what is needed to get to the next stage.
The four basic stages of a deal are discovery, design, decisioning and implementation. The goal of (almost) any partner meeting is to move the deal to the next stage.
Your team should know what type of meeting they are holding. They should also be able to articulate their goal for the meeting. As the team leader you can build this muscle among your team by asking the right questions before the meeting. When someone on your team tells you they have an upcoming meeting, ask them “what kind of meeting is it?” or “what is your goal for the meeting?”
During the meeting
Say the goal out loud
Open the meeting by sharing what you aim to accomplish together during that meeting. This sounds obvious. But it is so often overlooked.
By opening with a simple phrase “our goal for today’s conversation is to …” you will focus the discussion. If the conversation veers off course, you’ve given yourself permission to bring the meeting back to the goal.
Even meetings that start off right with a clear goal end up going nowhere because the meeting leader did not close strong.
A productive meeting closes with specific deliverables assigned to named individuals on an agreed upon timeline.
Compare these two closing:
“Thank you all for getting together today, I’m glad we had a chance to connect. We will wait to hear from you on whether you’re able to launching next month. Thanks”
“Just to recap, our focus today was on whether we need to reschedule our joint launch date. And based on today’s discussion, Susan will confirm with Derek by end of day Wednesday. If Susan doesn’t have clarity by then we all agree to reconvene for this meeting at this same time again next Monday. Eric will send out a recap note to everyone. Thanks”
Which one do you think will move the deal forward?
If a meeting is closing without clarity and accountability, speak up. You can simply say “could we just review who will be owning what and by when so that we’re all on the same page?”
You are doing everyone a favor.
After the meeting
Ask pointed questions
As the team leader, you should be thoughtful about the questions you ask when your team reports back on a partner meeting. Your questions send a message to the team about what you value.
Ask pointed questions like these:
What were the next steps you agreed to?
What stood out to you from the discussion? What did you learn?
What could you have done differently?
Avoid questions like these:
How was the meeting?
Was it a good discussion?
How are you feeling about that meeting with X?
Praise what you value
Your team is listening closely to what you praise. If you heap praise on meetings that occurred, then you will hear from your team about many “great” partner meetings. But if you hold your praise for the tangible outcomes you want to see - deals closed or new revenue - then your team will focus on achieving those outcomes.
Save your strongest praise for when your team delivers outcomes that move your business forward, not “great” meetings.
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