One of the best things resulting from our startup’s acquisition by EDS was formalized training on value of planning effective meetings. EDS folks were religious about effective meetings. They trained us to develop an Executive Dashboard to identify which VPs were Sponsors, Mentors, Detractors and Neutral about our company. As part of this disciplined approach, I now develop a one page document which I now use with every vendor call or meeting.
In this post, I will the elements of successful meeting which include:
Interaction Setup: This section of the document contains the basics of where and when the meeting will take place. Meeting/call participants along with their company affiliations are also identified in this section. There is no need to crowd this section with contact information at this point. It’s your choice if you wanted to list the contact number for the conference call or the location of the meeting.
Interaction Objectives: Vendor meetings could be like a high stake poker game. It’s important to keep your “tells” to yourself and not to tip your hand. The information in this section will certainly tip your hand. But you can use this section to communicate with your stakeholders, legal team and other principals about what you expect out of this meeting.
Often times I have been at internal staff meetings with clients where a stakeholder randomly suggests that we call a vendor over the phone. That’s when I remind them about the objective of the call and ask if we prepared to answer any questions that the vendor might ask us. The point is that without a well defined interaction objective, your stakeholders could get into trouble and volunteer un-necessary information that could hamper the negotiation.
Key Points: This section of the document would contain the strategic and tactical elements that you want to review during the vendor meeting. For instance, if you anticipate challenges on IP or other terms of the deal, it would be wise to identify the topics of contention and what you expect from the vendors reps o resolve these challenges. These key points become much more contentious if your clients are using vendor paper (contracts).
I also use this section of the document to inform the Legal team about stakeholder’s position on these challenging terms and our fall back position.
Interaction Plan: This section of the document identifies who will play the good guy and the bad guy. Needless to say, as a Strategic Sourcing Consultants, you will end up playing the bad guy since most stakeholders are reluctant to play such a role.
Call to Action: In this section, we were advised to document what actions we wanted to result from this meeting or call. This could be a plan for a demo or modification to the terms of the contract.
3×3 Networking: In this section of the document our trainers were recommending to pose open ended questions about who else needs to be aware of these negotiations. These types of questions will provide you with the opportunity to discover if you are negotiating with the right folks.
This becomes critical if you are negotiating with large companies such as Oracle, IBM, SAP, SalesForce where each vendor rep has their own silo of products and services. You want to make sure the right folks are engaged in your negotiatons.
What tools do you use to manage your meetings?