If this blog started with the premise of how important appointment setting to strategic prospecting, your initial reaction would rightly be along the lines of “duh”. So, this blog cleverly avoided this supposition. However, the attempt will be made to bring new ideas, concepts, and reinforcements of how sales and marketing can work together to make appointment setting magic within your strategic prospecting initiatives.
First, let’s take a look at buzzkill facts:
• 85% of prospects and customers are dissatisfied with their on-the-phone experience. — Salesforce
• 37.44% of buyers feel that only 25% of their providers help them maximize their value. — Gartner
Methods of Prospect Contact:
• 4.43% of email recipients mark emails as spam based only on the email address. — Convince and Convert
• Using words like “report,” “learn,” and “book” in email subject lines makes the reader less likely to open them. — Adestra
• 68% of companies struggle with lead generation. — SalesStaff
Productivity (or lack thereof):
• The average sales rep makes 52 calls every day. — The Bridge Group
• Sales reps spend about 15% of their time leaving voicemails. — Ringlead
• On average, it takes 8 follow-up calls to reach a prospect. — Telenet and Ovation Sales Group
• 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. — The B2B Lead
• Only 33% of a sales rep’s time is spent actively selling. — CSO Insights
• Only 60% of sales reps meet quota. — CSO Insights
Don’t give up hope: there’s a silver lining. Knowing these statistics will give rock star sales professionals insight as to what landmines to avoid.
Once these sales stats are absorbed, take a few minutes to answer these questions, as it may help you intellectualize what is working and what isn’t. Sales should work with marketing to determine a strategy to address each issue and develop a plan to course-correct accordingly.
✓ Are B2B sales goals being met?
✓ Is there an issue with B2B lead quality?
✓ Is valuable time being wasted in the pursuit of dead-end B2B opportunities?
✓ Are sales professionals wasting time navigating gatekeepers instead of closing sales?
Appointment Setting 201
Provided below are B2B appointment setting tips that will increase your odds of actually securing an appointment with your target prospect:
There’s not enough that can be said about due diligence. It will save literally hundreds of man hours of time and prevent speaking to prospects who may not be interested in your products, services, or you.
Prospecting: The Good, Bad and Ugly
When starting the sales prospecting process, one of the following outcomes will occur:
1. A sales meeting is booked. OK, you can get off the floor laughing now. Yes, this probably won’t happen in the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth try.
2. Perhaps your products or services are a good fit, but the timing is wrong. However, never, never, never give up. Try one of the following strategies:
• Send information, i.e. research, articles, webinars, white papers, case studies.
• Send a LinkedIn request.
• Keep in touch, but don’t be a pest.
3. You may be referred to a subordinate of the prospect. Realize this may be a ploy to get you off the phone. Be gracious. Make the connection. But, don’t stop contacting the principle.
4. You may update your CRM system or inform your marketing department, so they may place the prospect in a nurturing stream. If this is the case, don’t forget to continue periodic outreach.
5. Whoa Nellie, is this the wrong prospect. Perhaps the sales professional made the determination that the prospect is simply not a good fit for your product or service and should not be pursued further. Use this as a learning experience to determine if insufficient information was gathered, which cost you valuable time and resources. Make sure your CRM is updated accordingly.
The main learning from this exercise is to understand the sales team’s process for reaching out to prospects (successfully or otherwise). Live, learn, apply. This should be your sales (and marketing) team’s mantra.
It’s human nature, especially with Type A personalities, to think of ourselves as possessing superhuman qualities. In other words, having the ability to ‘mind-meld’ with prospects into setting up that elusive sales appointment. If you do possess this ability, by all means, go for it. For us mere mortals, let’s be real. Sales prospecting has a lot to do with timing, consistency and opportunity.
It may have taken hours, weeks, and months (if it took years, sales may not be the right career) to get a prospect to actively engage with your sales razzle-dazzle and set up that meeting. It’s not uncommon to reach out to a new prospect only to be met with mind-numbing rejections for the first five tries. You may have sent articles, blogs, white papers, videos, webinar invites, gossip tidbits, research and even pictures of your kids. Nothing.
Suddenly, the skies open up, and you send a case study that smacks the prospect right where they live. Incredibly enough, they ask for the meeting. The hard and fast truth is that if you only sent the case study, there’s a very good chance the prospect wouldn’t have responded. Believe it or not, the fact is you built a relationship with your prospect. Like Hallmark, you showed you cared enough to send the very best (of their interest levels).
Sales and Marketing Synergy
When there is alignment between sales and marketing, the chances of prospecting success are exponentially increased. Marketing’s main objective in this process is to identify and qualify prospects for the company’s product or service. The sales organization will benefit from a marketing department which develops content that resonates with prospects, helps generate accurate prospecting lists, and creates value for the prospect in a myriad of ways.
One way marketing can add value is by developing spot-on buyer personas. Sales and marketing should work together to define the titles they typically target, as well as the companies they are pursuing. Once marketing has understood these basic facts, they will add value by providing information on buyer pain points, relevant solutions to address these pain points, and the ins and outs of winning deals. Another key element of the marketing partnership is their ability to build messaging that hits the prospect where it counts. Varying the messaging by title and their respective needs will help the sales professional make a greater impression on the target prospect. Knowing the prospect, how they prefer to communicate, and what their specific pain points are is critical information for the sales team that can mean the difference between prospecting success and banging heads against gatekeepers, the repetition of the word “no”, and not meeting sales objectives.
A most effective tactic for sales leadership is to get the entire sales and marketing teams together to start defining the various personas, messaging suggestions and communication tips. Getting input from both teams is invaluable and reinforces trust and partnership.
Always Add Value
Remember, sales success isn’t just about having a pretty face (or voice on the phone). The sales professional must demonstrate that they are an industry expert and fully understand the prospect’s pain points and the solutions to fix those challenges.
This is where the alliance between sales and marketing can really come to fruition. Marketing should match the sales team’s prospecting initiatives with relevant follow-up tools, i.e. send a blog with every email contact or an industry report for every phone outreach.
Remember these helpful hints:
• Like the proverbial boy or girlscout, be prepared. Set the agenda. Prepare the probing questions. Be ready for objections. Have an encyclopedia of content and assets at hand to match the situation with the relevant information that would be of most value to the prospect.
• Qualify your prospect. This is crucial when implementing appointment setting strategies. To save time in the long run, make sure the person you are contacting has purchase authority and is in-market for your product or service, now or in the future. If they do fit the criteria, they will be more inclined to accept your appointment invitation.
• Put your prospect at ease. Show respect for their time. Name drop if possible. Cite referrals or mutual acquaintances that you both have in common.
• Be a secret agent sales rep. As part of your listening strategy, find out if the prospect is dissatisfied with a certain product or service they are currently using. Perhaps they will be more amicable to listen to what you have to offer. Their dissatisfaction could be your greatest satisfaction.
• Never talk “at” the prospect. Listen.
• Build interest in your product or service.
• Use laser-focus techniques to focus on the right goal; don’t swerve from your objectives.
• Don’t “downshift” into sales speak. It’s okay to have a script, but don’t sound like you’re from Actor’s Equity.
• Be aware of the prospect’s schedule, but always have a back-up plan if they are unavailable to speak to you at that time. Offer more convenient times to speak; send relevant content in the meantime.
• If you do have a few minutes with the prospect, ask probing questions to get the most information possible so you will be able to formulate further action.
• Be prepared for the inevitable sales objections.
• Build enough interest to close for the appointment.
• Go in for the “kill”. Make the proper introductions, ask probing questions, deliver your value statement, and then go into setting the appointment. Your goal is to make the appointment.
• Follow through. This may turn out to be your greatest advantage in securing the eventual appointment.
Considering appointment setting is considered one of the most difficult, back-breaking, and often agonizing aspects of strategic prospecting, why not consider the significant advantages and benefits of outbound outsourcing?
Whether your company is looking to generate more revenue, redirect sales efforts to actually include, you know, sales, or to generate more effective lead generation outcomes, considering the idea of outbound appointment setting may be of tremendous value.
What are the benefits of this kind of program? Research from The Marketo Definitive Guide to Leads Qualification and Sales Development lists the following results:
o 5% increase in selling time = 20% revenue increase
o 1% increase in pipeline value = 25% revenue increase
o 15% decrease in sales cycle length = 30% revenue increase
One fact that Marketo didn’t list? Even the most intrepid sales professional will find any way to avoid prospecting and appointment setting, from basket weaving to interpretive dance. Sales prospecting and especially appointment setting can be brutal. Who can blame them when they enter procrastination junction?
Take away the activity of sales prospecting and appointment setting, and what do you have? Selling! By removing the prospecting function from your sales team, sales professionals have significantly more time to focus on referrals, qualified inbound leads, networks, cross-selling, and upselling to their customer base. This is good. Very good. Their focus on selling will have positive outcomes, such as meeting sales goals and increasing revenue.
Caveat Emptor. Make sure you outsource wisely. An experienced outbound outsource team must be comprised of highly skilled and focused professionals that can handle the prospecting and appointment setting function day in and day out.
When you look into possible vendors for outsourcing, ask:
• How “smart” is their market intelligence?
• How big is their B2B contact database?
• How much experience do they have in B2B demand generation?
Just these three questions can give you valuable insight into whether a given vendor is right for you. The result: sales gets appointments with the right prospects, at the right time.