As co-owner of a successful teleprospecting company, I have the opportunity to interview many experienced salespeople and talk with them about their backgrounds and expertise. Through these interactions, I have had many conversations concerning the practice of appointment setting.
Appointment setting is a technique used by many sales teams, where the primary goal of the call is to convince the prospect to commit to a next step in the sales process – conference call, meeting, demo, etc. Depending on the offering, industry, and the goal of the sales team, in some cases this can be an effective approach.
Knowing that appointment setting is an accepted practice that can often be successful, it often begs the question – Is appointment setting the best approach for teleprospecting for complex, high ticket solutions, services or products?
The short answer – no.
In order to dig further into the reasons why, we must explore the mindset, goals, and motivation of the appointment setter versus the teleprospector.
Mindset and Goals
The mindset of a teleprospector vs. an appointment setter
I interview many tele-sales reps working in business development whose primary goal when cold calling is to set an appointment.
What I have found, is that when the mindset is focused on only setting up the next step, the goal cannot be to qualify the opportunity, but to obtain only enough information to create a situation where an appointment is set.
The mindset of an appointment setter is simple: find out if the person I’m talking to will commit to an appointment (whether or not they meet the lead qualifying criteria).
I refer to this as “lightly qualifying” someone – find out only enough information that allows you to set an appointment and then move on. The problem with the appointment setting mindset is that if you find out too much information, you may learn additional details that could disqualify the prospect from being an appointment.
True professional business development seeks to qualify the opportunity as much as possible to learn as much as possible about the potential for a fit between two organizations.
For the appointment setter, their job ends after the appointment has been made. Granted, this can lead to a sale, but many times it can lead to a follow-up appointment that goes nowhere. And in some cases, very badly.
I have personally heard a story of a prospect that was pushed so hard into making an appointment that he relented and set the appointment. However, his goal with the appointment was to let the sales person know that he would not be doing business with this company because of their pushy approach. This is an extreme example; however, it emphasizes the need for professionalism from first contact throughout the entire sales process.
The mindset of a teleprospector is vastly different. The goal is to have a meaningful interaction with a decision maker, and to discover key information about what is happening in their organization.
Typically, this means that the prospect is talking more than the teleprospector, who is simply guiding the conversation.
A good teleprospector will ask open-ended questions that enables the prospect to reveal their business pains and lead to a deep level of communication and commitment when there is true interest. Their mindset is to listen and learn in order to discover information that leads to a highly qualified sales lead that will benefit from a next step appointment, demo or conference call.
I have my own personal story that, I think, illustrates the difference in these two very different practices quite well:
Early on in my career, I was in the executive search business, working with an executive at a large company to try and fill an accounting position. I took a “job order” to find an accountant for them, learned the details, and was happy and excited to succeed at my new task. I spent time interviewing and sorting through candidates, and within a week, I faxed (dating myself) three resumes to the hiring director.
I followed up with a call to him stating that I had faxed over some resumes, and wanted to set up interviews. He replied, explaining that they were planning on hiring this position internally.
I said, “You didn’t tell me that” to which he replied, “You didn’t ask.”
This was a great lesson on qualifying the opportunity. It wasn’t his responsibility to divulge info to me; it was my responsibility to ask open-ended questions to get him to reveal exactly the situation and what he was looking for.
That was a great lesson in qualifying for a commissioned salesperson. I wasted a lot of my time and others’ that week, because I didn’t ask all the right questions.
Asking the right questions and listening to the answers will lead to a highly qualified lead.
Not asking questions may allow you to get to the next step, but it will not bring you a qualified lead.
The motivation behind appointment setting is generally bonuses or payouts. More appointments set for the salesperson means more rewards for the teleprospector.
The motivation for appointment setting is a reward for the teleprospect, not the prospect.
When the caller says, “This is my solution, would you like to meet and have a call to have a talk about it?” That is a yes or no conversation – a yes leads to a reward or bonus for the person setting the appointment, and a no means that they will quickly move on to the next call because there is no motivation to keep talking.
The motivation behind the call for a successful teleprospector should be quite the opposite.
The thought that drives the conversation should be, “My conversation with this prospect should determine if what I have to offer can be helpful to the prospect’s organization.”
This motivation changes the goal of the call for the teleprospector to having a meaningful interaction with the right person on the phone.
The teleprospector is not trying to determine the outcome of the call, not trying to push the prospect into something they are not interested in, but instead trying to help fill a potential need for that organization.
Interactions like these often lead to the prospect revealing a business pain or roadblock, and they might reveal something that can open a door to a future opportunity.
When the motivation behind a teleprospecting call is to listen and discover, then there is a synergy and a memorable event during that first call that translates to a better next step when a salesperson gets involved.
What’s Your Story?
What’s your take on appointment setting vs. teleprospecting? Have you had success growing your business utilizing outsourced inside sales, telemarketing or teleprospecting services? If you are using internal resources, are you driving them to get appointments or to have meaningful conversations with prospects?