Are Most B2B Salespeople Allergic to Paperwork?

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After interviewing hundreds of corporate decision-makers for my books, Buyer-Approved Selling: Sales Secrets from the Decision-Maker's Side of the Desk ( V1 & V3), and Winning Sales Advice, it appears the answer is a resounding yes! Why? According to the research, a majority of salespeople don't employ basic practices that involve extra work steps (such as writing). A good example would be the Advance Meeting Agenda. Do you ever meet with salespeople? If so, when's the last time a salesperson provided you with a written agenda in advance of a meeting? And if you're a salesperson, when is the last time you a prepared a written agenda ahead of time for a meeting with a prospect or customer? The research revealed advance agendas are valued by the people on the buying side of the desk, yet are rarely used by salespeople. In fact, decision-makers from top companies like Canon USA, DuPont and U.S. Bank reported less than 11% of salespeople provided them with advance agendas. Ouch. Consider the following comments as published in Buyer-Approved Selling, V3: "I wish salespeople would use an agenda when they meet with me, but I can't recall it ever happening! There are several advantages to an advance agenda. First of all, I can better prepare for the meeting. Plus, without an agenda, you can end up spending time on the least important things and not having time to focus on the important items." — Ted W. Biggs, Senior Vice President & Western Region Sales Manager, U.S. Bank (Rates this approach 10 out of 10; NEVER sees it used by salespeople.) "If I’m invited to make changes to an agenda in advance of a meeting, I can outline our technical criteria so the salesperson doesn't have to ‘get back to us.’ They’d be able to address our criteria during the meeting, since they could consult with their technical people first. In the agenda, I suggest including links to relevant pages of their website, along with information that would be useful ahead of time." — Stephen Sharp, Director/AGM, Technical Support, IT Infrastructure, Canon U.S.A., Inc. (Rates it 9 out of 10; sees it used by only 5% of salespeople.) "An advance meeting agenda helps me prepare and add items so I get maximum value from the meeting. Otherwise, items can get left out or come up at the last minute (without time for the preparation needed for productive discussion). In addition, an agenda eliminates most surprises in a meeting resulting in increased focus and efficiency. " — Bryan Daggett, HR Manager, Enterprise Process Management Office, DuPont (Rates it 8 out of 10; sees it used by only 10% of salespeople.) Just for fun, let's check out some benefits that arise to savvy salespeople who prepare meeting agendas:
  • Since few salespeople use written agendas, it differentiates their approach
  • It positions them as proactive, professional and organized
  • It leads to a focused meeting with a predefined objective
  • It saves time by alerting the prospect to items required for the meeting
  • It allows the salesperson to prioritize agenda items in order of importance
So with all these great reasons as to why they should consistently prepare agendas, why don't most salespeople do so? Because they're allergic to paperwork... what else could it be!