Setting Appointments, Part 1

Do you set face-to-face appointments by phone? Then you’ve heard a thousand times how it’s a numbers game…you’ve got to keep at it…memorize your script…don’t say “How are you”…give them two appointment times…and so on.

It’s time you learned a new approach. This approach will earn you more appointments with fewer calls, and you will feel much less stress and tension.

In this post we’ll address making rapid-fire cold calls from a list of contacts you don’t already have a relationship with, or you have never met. These are cold calls in the truest, purest sense, which, by the way, I don’t condone. But if it’s out of your control for whatever reason, read on.

First, The Numbers

Most sales professionals setting appointments by phone should be able to make 25 “dials” every hour. So after four hours you’ll finish with 100 dials. My first-hand experience and working side-by-side with dozens of sales professionals in business-to-business selling tells me that, of those 100 dials, you’ll average 40 live contacts with decision-makers. And of those 40 live contacts, you’ll set appointments with seven of them. So the ratio is 100-40-7.

In other words, for every 100 phone calls you make, you’ll get nowhere with 93 of them (or not very far, at least), including 33 that you actually speak with live! That’s a lot of wasted time. And what about the impact that has on you? It doesn’t bother some sales professionals—but most despise this part of their job for this very reason.

What if you were to try something different?

Rethinking Your Script

Again, if you must make these pure cold calls, a two-call, permission-based system will work better for you. It cuts the number of calls you make and increases the number of appointments you win. Period. It works like this:

1. Call your list using your personalized version of this script:

“Hi, Jim? This is __________ with __________ . We help companies __________ (insert short benefit statement) while also __________ (second short benefit statement). Have you met with us in the last year? We’ve helped companies like __________ and __________ . I wanted to call to introduce myself and get permission to follow-up in a couple weeks to set an appointment. Would that be okay?”

Out of 100 calls and 40 contacts, believe it or not you will still average seven appointments! I’ll explain why in a bit. Now, for step two.

2. Call the remaining contacts that gave you “permission” within two weeks (and half will do so), with your personalized version of this script:

“Hi, Jim? This is __________ over at __________ . You mentioned a couple weeks ago that you’d be open to getting together for a brief meeting. Are you free this Thursday morning?”

Seasoned sales pros will think I’ve committed blasphemy here. They say, “You’re calling someone twice? And on the second call you’re not using the alternative choice close, so they have to choose one?” That’s right. That’s what I’m doing. I’m working with my contacts, not plowing through them. I’m communicating with them, not throwing an age-old script at them.

The Results

Now, for the results you’ll see. For every 100 dials you’ll still get just 40 contacts (we’ll address this in a follow-up), and believe it or not you’ll still get your seven appointments. So the approach at least holds its own. The reason is that your call is a powerful departure from the most popular methods taught by sales trainers out there (plenty of whom I hold in the highest regard). But the tactics have become “noise” to busy prospects answering their phones.

And here’s the kicker: you should average an additional seven appointments from those 15 follow-up calls you received permission to make. Seven out of 15. This worked for me in a standard, business-to-business sales environment.

The Reasoning

People are tired of hearing from sales representatives who use the same tactics regardless of their industry. Everyone blends into one boring, uninspired stereotype of the aggressive sales rep trying to push, push, push. This approach still requires persistence and assertiveness, but skillfully hands over more control to the customer or prospect.

With this method, you demonstrate through your approach and your words that you are a collaborator. You’re someone to be trusted. You are easy to work with. And we all want our clients and customers to feel that way about us, right?

Give this a shot and let me know how it works for you.

Now go sell something!


A follow-up to this post has been added, titled, “Setting appointments, part 2.”

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