As a seller, one of your most difficult tasks will be breaking into new accounts and setting meetings. Most of us have some form of cold prospecting in our past, so we all know how lonely it can sometimes feel. But if you want to be successful in sales, you need to be able to build your own pipeline and drum up your own business.
You need to be able to prospect for new business with great success.
That starts with turning cold and warm outreach into meetings.
As difficult as appointment-setting might seem, the truth is that prospects want to hear from you. According to our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, 71% of buyers who accept meetings want to hear from sellers at the earliest part of their buying process: when they are forming ideas. Only, those prospects want much more than just an appointment—they want value. That very same research shows that 58% of sales meetings aren't valuable to buyers.
To increase your odds of landing initial meetings, follow these nine appointment-setting tips:
- Reach out during "off hours"
- Pick up the phone
- Use multiple media
- Try attraction campaigns
- Shore up your LinkedIn profile
- Follow marketing's lead
- Leverage referrals
- Ask for the meeting
- Share content that creates value for specific audiences
1. Reach out during "off hours"
Most business leaders get started before nine and close up shop well after five. The gatekeepers, however, are a different story. If you're trying to get through to an insulated executive, for instance, try calling early in the morning (before 8 AM), late in the evening (after 6 PM), or during lunch.
One of my colleagues has had great success reconnecting with prospects when he sends emails first thing in the morning. I’m talking pre-dawn at 4 AM! This strategy not only ensures he gets his all-important follow-up done before the day gets away from him, but also gives the prospect an opportunity to respond that day. Often, they do, putting my colleague one step closer to setting an appointment.
Contrary to popular belief, you can reach out “off hours.” For more, download 5 Sales Prospecting Myths Debunked.
2. Pick up the phone
There are so many ways to set appointments these days. Sometimes people tell me the phone is dead. Yet our own RAIN Group research shows that, out of 15 outreach methods studied (in terms of effectiveness in prospecting), three of the top five were the phone. Here’s the breakdown:
#1 Phone calls to existing customers
#3 Phone calls to prior customers
#5 Phone calls to new contacts
People argue whether the cold call is dead. Honestly, I don’t care one way or the other, as long as you secure those appointments! According to our data, the phone is alive and well, both for cold calling and warm.
3. Use multiple media
Appointment setting isn't just about cold calling. It can take more than a dozen touches to get a prospect to respond to you. For appointment-setting success, you’ll likely need to reach out a number of times across multiple media.
Prospects are busier than ever and inundated with marketing and sales messages and meeting requests. You can break through the noise, but it's unlikely you’ll do so on your first try. Leave voicemails, send emails, drop a package in the mail, write a hand-written note, or mark up an article to send. Get creative! And if you do get a "no" to your meeting request, read this post to overcome common cold-calling objections.
4. Try attraction campaigns
One way to get appointments is to get people to want to work with you and your brand. That means capturing their attention and setting yourself and your brand apart with customized, value-focused messaging.
We call these attraction campaigns—multi-touch, multi-modal campaigns via phone, mail, email, and social media that create attraction for the right buyers, at the right levels. Learn more about attraction campaigns by reading our article, How to Break Through the Noise and Create New Conversations with Prospects.
5. Shore up your LinkedIn profile
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know how important LinkedIn is. Typically, sellers focus on LinkedIn as a channel for sales outreach and networking. However, our research shows that 82% of buyers will review your LinkedIn profile before reaching back to you to accept a meeting or otherwise connect with you.
And why not? Don’t you do the very same thing before reaching out to make someone’s connection? Why wouldn’t a sales prospect evaluate the digital brand you create before taking a meeting with you?
Your work experience, skills, summary, education, endorsements, headline, shared connections, number of connections, group memberships, and profile picture are all at least somewhat important to buyers—but typically closer to very important—in their evaluation criteria. So go ahead and take some time now to optimize your LinkedIn profile.
6. Follow marketing's lead
You'll have much greater success setting appointments with prospects who have already interacted with your company's brand in one way or another. Marketing ought to be able to give you a list of prospects based on:
- Website downloads: If you offer intellectual capital such as white papers, webinars, or research on your website, the list of prospects viewing this content is prime for sales follow-up.
- Website visitors: There are many technologies that notify you when a prospect is visiting your website. This is especially useful if you’re trying to reconnect with prospects you've already spoken with. It lets you know 1) you're on their mind, and 2) they are likely at their desk or computer right now.
- Event attendees: Make sure you get the full attendee list of any events your company sponsors, or better yet, at events where your company executives speak.
7. Leverage referrals
When it comes to appointment-setting tips, remember that referrals are gold. When someone refers your name to a prospect, the trust your prospect has for the referrer transfers to you. This gives you a huge advantage as buyers will be more open to speaking with you.
If you’re having issues with appointment setting, make sure you exhaust all opportunities for referrals from your network, from your colleagues, and from past opportunities and customers before hopping back on the carousel of cold calling.
8. Ask for the meeting
This is appointment setting 101, but many sellers forget to do this simple thing. When asking for the meeting, be specific. For example, don't just say, "Would you like to meet about this?" Say, "I have time on August 7th at 10 AM. Can you do it then?" Asking to meet at a specific date and time changes the question from, "Do you want to meet?" to, "When do you want to meet?"
When asking for meetings, be persistent. Setting appointments with new accounts takes hard work. Our research shows that 43% of buyers who accept meetings “at least sometimes” say it’s okay for sellers to try to contact them five or more times before they get through. Be prepared to hear a lot more “no” than “yes,” but don’t stop at the first no unless you’re sure it’s a dead-end.
9. Share content that creates value for specific audiences
Most buyers will tell you that useful insights and capabilities capture their attention. While many sellers are told not to pitch their capabilities, buyers actually do want to know what you do.
The trick is how you go about it.
For example, if you sell to the executive suite, focus on content 100% customized to their specific situation and financial justifications, including strong return on investment (ROI) cases. No matter who you sell to, customize content whenever possible. Our research shows that 61% of buyers who accept meetings are “very/extremely” influenced to do so by content that is 100% customized to them.
Final Thought: Appointment-Setting Is the Beginning
It’s easy to get wrapped up in prospecting and prospecting alone. Gotta get those appointments set! Just make sure you’re prepared to get the job done when you do get the meeting. Be sure to read 7 Steps to a Successful Sales Meeting When the Seller Drives the Demand to increase your odds of success.