How to set a perfect sales appointment

by Nick Persico
set-appointments.jpgThis is a guest post by Alivia Kasumov at Badger Maps.

Every sale starts as a meeting. That’s where the magic happens. You show off your product, the prospect falls in love, and everyone lives happily ever after. But before your fairytale meeting you have to set the appointment. Scheduling appointments, with qualified (non-flaky) prospects, is one of the biggest hurdles in sales.

Depending on your leads, you could make a hundred calls and land one appointment. Frustrating? Absolutely. Worse, it eats up your time and shortchanges your productivity. Shifting your call-to-appointment ratio in your favor should be a priority if you enjoy time and money.

So how do top tier salespeople land consistent appointments? We broke down the entire process, from cold calls to warm meetings, and found the secrets to setting perfect appointments. Apply these tips to your sales process and see for yourself.

Know the lead

Knowledge is power. Never call a lead without doing your homework. Before you introduce yourself, learn some essential information:

  • Who you’re calling
  • Why you’re calling
  • What needs to happen

Cold calling works if you know who you’re calling and why they should listen. You aren’t ready for a conversation until you have a clear idea of how you can help your lead.

Know their name, or the name of a decision maker, in case you meet any operations professionals. Being polite and acting familiar opens doors in organizations.

Research your lead’s company website. How does your solution fit into their process? Personalize your prospecting as much as possible. Leaning on the same script each time is lazy, and leads can hear laziness from a mile away.

Check for common connections and experience on Linkedin. The right mutual connection can bridge the gap between uncertainty and familiarity.

As you research different industries you’ll start to notice patterns. Value A is a hit in industry D. Prospect type X is looking to solve Y.

Badger Maps, for instance, handles mapping and routing for outside salespeople. Reps who sell complex solutions (like medical devices to doctors) to a smaller market are more interested in Badger’s reporting functionality than reps who sell less expensive products to a broader market (they care more about finding leads with Badger). Make a mental note of any features industries care about more than others, they're great to introduce to prospects in similar industries who are less sure of what they're looking for.

You’ll develop a natural ability to position your pitch in any situation. All you have to do is learn how you can help.

Get your foot in the door

“Get your foot in the door” is some of the oldest advice in sales. Legend has it, door-to-door salespeople would block closing doors with their feet to get a few more seconds with a prospect.

It’s less applicable today (if it ever was then). Leads can hang up before you clear your throat, and they have less tolerance for pushy salespeople. Getting your foot into a modern sales door requires a great first impression and plenty of value presented upfront.

On a call (or in an email) there are 3 steps to setting a follow-up appointment. If you approach each step like a professional you’ll create a flood of qualified leads.

Step 1: Create trust

Your lead needs to trust you before they’ll listen to you. Do you really care about their problem, or are you some telemarketer?

Creating trust starts with your tone. Be friendly. Speak slowly so they can hear what you’re saying. Radiate confidence and warmth. No one wants to talk to a robot, so be human from the start.

Build rapport with warm leads through small talk. Make a personal and casual introduction. They’re already interested in your product, make sure they like you too. Keep your introduction short, sweet, and simple. “Hi, I’m ____ with ____. How are you doing today?”

Cold leads are a whole different beast. You have seconds to capture your lead’s attention and keep them from hanging up. Check out Steli’s advice on opening cold leads to learn more.

Listen for any emotion in your prospect’s voice. Are they happy, annoyed, interested? Adjust to their comfort level. Being friendly, confident, and considerate of their time warms them up and establishes trust.

Your goal is to have an introductory conversation, either today or on a set date in the future. Verify that they’re free to talk now. Don’t push for a conversation if they aren’t ready to listen. Empathize with their hectic schedule and find a better time to reach out.

When your prospect is ready to talk, then it’s time for you to listen.

Step 2: Qualify

Now you’ve got a chance to start asking questions. They trust you just enough to hear you out. Don’t mess it up by talking the whole time without letting them speak.

Ask problem-revealing questions. Learn about their daily responsibilities, what pain can you cure? Find their need for your solution early, otherwise you could be wasting time.

Establishing a need qualifies you as well. They suddenly feel a real reason for talking to you. Finally, someone who understands. Don’t we all want someone who’ll listen to our problems?

So what are their challenges? What are they doing to solve them? How can you help? These are details the deal depends on. Get them on the table so you can build your pitch around them.

Step 3: Position value

All your research is for this. It’s time to position your product for the prospect, why should they invest their time learning about your solution? Connect your sales pitch to their daily reality.

Positioning your pitch is an art and a science. It should feel like a natural conversation, but you should touch on all of the ways your product is a fit for your prospect—it should seem like it was personally made for them.

But “positioning” doesn’t mean lying about being able to help. Dragging out discussions with bad-fit customers hurts your sales cycle and your business. But if you can help, it’s your responsibility to educate them on how their life will improve.

And you know exactly how it’ll improve because you took the time to really understand their challenges. Introduce your product’s role as a potential pain-reliever in their life. What will change when they start using your solution?

Once they see the value, offer a follow-up discussion so they can learn more. This is the appointment. You’re setting up the meeting, demo, presentation, etc. that takes them to the next stage of the sales process.

Outline what that meeting requires from them. How fast will it be? What do they need to do to join? Remove as much friction as possible. If the meeting is for multiple people, have a conference line and the capacity for group meetings. If you make it easy to set the appointment, it will be.

Get confirmation (but follow-up anyway)

Once they agree to a follow-up meeting, you ask the big question: When are you free to learn more?

Get the meeting details settled, and then get confirmation. Schedule it over the phone if you can, or send them a link to your calendar. Don’t let your busy prospect slip away without a definite meeting time set.

Being slow to schedule is the worst mistake you can make. Every minute the appointment goes unscheduled increases the odds it won’t happen.

Stay on top of that appointment. Even when a time is set on both calendars, you’ll want to follow-up the day before the meeting. Remind them why you’re meeting and see if they have any questions beforehand.

Your goal is to prevent no-shows by any means possible. People become busy and forgetful. A friendly follow-up is a great way to refocus them on their upcoming appointment.

Hunting leads is tough. But at the end of the day, you’re a person trying to solve problems for other people. Start every conversation with the goal of helping the person on the other end. Everything else falls into place naturally.

Want to solve more problems and help more people? Download this easy-to-use sales strategy template right now:

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About the Author:
Alivia Kasumov is a Marketing Specialist at Badger Maps, a sales route planner that helps field salespeople be more successful. You can follow Alivia and her team on Facebook or Twitter @BadgerMaps.