More than just a skill; appointment setting has three components and three challenges.
A big blind spot for many companies is the belief that appointment setting is just a skill, like being able to deliver a presentation. When, in fact, setting appointments is a business process and skill is just one of the three components of the process.
Operationally, the business process of setting appointments is the same regardless of where the target comes from – cold list, marketing leads, referrals or networking. And, success requires that the three components of this business process – Art, Best Practice and Science – come together in the right way.
- Art – the skills to generate a conversation with a decision-market\r and then to convert that conversation into an appointment. Basically, these are the communication techniques that the caller must use when the target says ‘hello.’ These are professional techniques to handle the commonplace replies to a request for an appointment – not interested, happy now, too busy, send literature, etc. Put simply, the art of cold calling is just that – an art.
Management challenge: The techniques needed to ‘set an appointment’ are different than the techniques to ‘run an appointment;’ understanding the proper inside sales techniques for each situation is key. Field sales reps who are excellent at running appointments are typically bad at setting them. For instance, if the target says ‘exactly why is your widget better’ the appointment setter response is; ‘you know, that’s a good question and a good reason for us to get together. Do you have time to review that issue with me on Tuesday at 3?’ The sales rep will go to their comfort zone of selling skills: ‘let me ask you a couple of question’ looking for pain. They begin to sell over the phone, not ‘setting an appointment.’ At some point the target will hear something and say ‘You know, I don’t think you have exactly what I need, thanks anyway’ and hang up.
Solution: Specific skills training on how to set appointments.
- Best Practice – the pursuit process is where management defines exactly how they want a target to be pursued. This includes the list to call, the number of calls to make, the frequency of those calls and what to do if the caller doesn’t connect during those calls. Best Practices also require a decision about whether to leave voice mails and/or send emails after those voicemails. Every dial is valuable and Best Practice defines how they should be used.
Management challenge: Without precise instructions, callers will not use their dials to their best and highest value. In some cases, the pursuits are so random as to be akin to a drive by shooting.
Solution: Written plan that sets specific guidelines for how to use each dial.
- Science – the automation that enables callers to follow the Best Practice easily and perfectly, keeping them organized and disciplined for consistent activity. This also includes creating automatic performance reports which include the two core metrics of the prospecting process.
Management challenge: Traditional sales automation was built for something else. There are no specific metrics that guide the manager to monitor, measure, analyze and coach callers. Plus, if using CRMs, callers will tend to spend more time working the dialing software than working the phones.
Solution: Well, that’s what started us in this business, so we have some specific solutions that might be of interest. Commercial aside, the physical requirements of telephone prospecting is where the phrase ‘cold calling is painful’ comes from. CRMs are brutal as this chart demonstrates by counting the number of mouse clicks and the number of screens that have to be done to pursue 10 targets in a row.
Finally, arguably, you can win using bad Art; but you will always lose using bad Best Practice and Science. When used correctly, these three components, working together, will ensure your appointment setting practices are successful. At Contact Science, we know appointment setting. So give us a call today and we’ll help you get in front of new people day in and day out.