How to turn an interesting meeting into a productive one

Sales meeting; Interesting meeting;
This looks interesting. But beware of interesting meetings!

Photo credit: James Merhebi

Imagine this. You just walked out of a meeting with a prospect in a nice office in Central London. The conversation flew very well. Half way through the meeting, your prospect arranged for one colleague to join. She also arranged for some tea and biscuits to be brought in. A nice caring touch she didn’t have to do. And the meeting finished by the prospect saying one of these encouraging sentences:

“That was interesting. Can you send me some more information?” or “That was an interesting meeting. I will relay this internally and we need to catch-up on this.” and to finish “Very interesting. Glad we had this meeting. Let me reflect and we will synch-up shortly”.

Then the days pass by, follow-up after follow-up, the prospect is gone very quiet. What happened? Didn’t the prospect said that the meeting and what was discussed was interesting?

Ever heard and experience this? I have. In my experience, the encouraging words about how interesting the meeting was are a rather established way to finish a meeting. And they can be read in two different ways. An enthusiastic way. And a more realistic way.

Enthusiastic way: The prospect said it was interesting which, let’s face it, is a positive word. So a positive signal too. Plus she took the trouble to arrange tea and biscuits, she didn’t have to? And a colleague joined in during the meeting, possibly signalling wider interest. So, if it was interesting, she should come back to me once she discussed this internally.

A more realistic way:  A more realistic reading is one when happy ears are turned off. If a colleague joined in during the meeting, maybe a possibility is that this person is in charge of developing in-house something similar? Or that person is managing the relationship with the existing supplier and need more information to drive price down with this competitor? These are not for certain, but they are a fair possibilities. So happy ears are ears that are, well, too enthusiastic and trigger some overdue optimism when we hear what sounds like a positive signal (such as one of those above). Consequently, we take these messages “as is” rather than trying to understand or dig more about what was meant. Of course, it may very well be that the prospect means they are interested. Though, albeit not a native English speaker, I realised that “interesting” can mean so many things in English.

How to get clarity on what is (possibly) interesting?

So a more realistic way to handle these statement is better (you got it), ask questions. And in these situations, it’s about probing gently the prospect in a way to garner more information. So, based on the questions I had at the start of this post, it could go along the lines of:

Glad you found this interesting. On what we discussed, could you clarify what you found interesting just so we are on the same page?” or “I can certainly send you some information. But what area of what we discussed is something we should focus on going forward?“.

In my world, interesting meetings aren’t the best meetings. They could be the worst as it could be followed by a long list of chasing emails (“Hi, keen to catch-up on our conversation” or “Have you had the time to think it through“). So, it is usually best to find ways to bring in certainty on what is (possibly) interesting.

Was this an “interesting” post? Really? You probably don’t have the time but can you comment on what specifically was interesting ?


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2 thoughts on “How to turn an interesting meeting into a productive one”

  1. I recall an instructor in my economics class commenting how some student responses were “interesting” and that got coded to “not even close to accurate” by my ears.

    “Interesting” is like the vanity metrics mentioned in the Lean Startup. Unless they are constructing things with the information you have shared in the meeting, I don’t know that they are truly engaged.

    1. Spot on. When they start to construct, as you rightly put it, with the information shared it demonstrate they are starting to build, in their mind, a solution to their problems. A powerful indicator of engagement indeed and a step in the path to changing the selling process into a buying process.


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