"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Whether you're thinking of hiring an external appointment setting or telemarketing company, an in-house team, or are going to "pick up that phone" yourself, there are some things you need to know about "The Meetings Game".

You see, it all starts when you break sales down into a process and call it a pipeline.

A sales pipeline is a great way of understanding where your next customer is coming from, and what you need to do next to bring home the bacon. As a tool for measuring sales activity and its impact on your bottom line, I think it's essential to driving revenue growth.

The only problem with pipeline metrics is that they can develop a purely quantative approach to sales, at the expense of any qualitive information. We've all heard it's a "numbers game", right? Well, that's only partly true.

Remember this, what gets measured gets done.
So sales are down and the team are sitting round the office drinking coffee. You look at your sales pipeline and it's obvious that you need some more meetings. Of course, most sales people hate making cold calls, so you go out and hire a telemarketing company to set up appointments.

That's a common story.

I get calls quite often where I'm asked to set "5 appointments a day for my sales guy". Right away, I just know that it's not for me.

Once you un-couple the appointment setting process from the person who's attending the sales meeting, and you focus purely on the number of meetings, you automatically decrease the quality of the meeting. I should call that "Regler's Law".

Why? Because "what gets measured gets done", right?

How "the professionals" do it
I had the dubious pleasure of doing some training for a "pay-per-appointment" telemarketing company. These guys only get paid when they set appointments. Most sales managers love this; it keeps their team "busy".

During a break in the training I asked to sit and listen in on some of their top people make calls. I thought I could learn something, which I did. I sat down with this guy who was working on a campaign for a security software vendor, a major one, and he starts making some dials until he eventually gets a live one on the line.

His pitch was that he wanted to set a "high-level, 15 minute presentation" for the product. The chap on the other end of the phone resisted a little, but this guy was persistent and eventually, grudgingly, the prospect agreed to the meeting.

Lots of whooping & backslapping later, the meeting's marked on the board and the appointment setting company has another "sale" - remember, they only get paid when they get an appointment.

Now from my perspective listening in, I have a few problems with this:

1) The meeting wasn't really a meeting: a "high-level, 15 minute presentation"…c'mon, please! How much value is that really going to be for either party? The appointment setting company has aimed just high enough to scrape in. They're purely focused on the numbers.

2) The prospect really didn't agree to a meeting: remember, I was listening in to this conversation. This was someone who just wanted to get a cold-caller off the phone. I'd bet as soon as he'd hung up and turned back to his PC screen he'd had forgotten the conversation.

3) The poor salesman's been truly set up: some guy from this software vendor's got to travel all the way out to the back of beyond for 15 minutes with someone who can't even remember agreeing to see him. That's getting pretty close to toe-in-the-door territory, isn't it? And remember, this was a major software vendor not a double-glazing firm.

The other day I was at an evening event hosted by a client of mine. I was sat next to the CEO of an outsourcing company and we were discussing this whole business.

Does anyone want to sell anymore?
He told me a story where, a few weeks back, he was at his desk and he gets a call from a telemarketing company. He's half listening while they go through their script, that's the thing about us Brits, we'll wait until it's our turn and then slam the phone down. Anyway, the telemarketing person mentions something about insurance and they've suddenly got his attention as he's looking at get competitive quotes right now.

So, the CEO asks for a quote. "Oh, we can't give you a quote over the phone, we need to send the rep in."

This is a classic problem with un-bundling this process to an outside firm who's only interested in appointments. The logical thing would have been to get the sales guy to call to quote the CEO over the phone…but that's not what they're contracted to do.

Anyway, the CEO reluctantly agrees to a quick, 15 minute meeting (what's with this "15 minutes" thing?). A day later and he gets a call from the salesperson who's coming to the meeting. This guy calls up and starts telling the CEO that he needs an hour at least. The CEO says, "no, we agreed 15 minutes", the sales guy gets all angry and promptly cancels the meeting.

Hang about, what's just happened here?

The telemarketing company is measured on meetings. The salesman is measured on meetings (and maybe even the length of the meeting for all I know). Is anyone interested in actually doing business with the CEO?

Maybe I'm just a bit old-school, but when you cold call someone and they want what you're selling - you pretty much make it easy for them to give you their money.

"Send me an email"
Next time you get a cold call, ask them to send you some details by email. 90% of the time you'll not get anything. Why? It's either because:

a) They're an appointment setting company and have no interest in whether you actually buy something, or:
b) They've been taught that when a prospect asks for something it's an objection and you're really not interested, so they'll not bother.

Think about that - because it gets to the heart of what's happening here.

Many people in telemarketing and appointment setting are taught that when someone asks for some information they're not really saying they need more information. It's a stalling tactic or an objection. The telemarketing person needs to over-come the objection or move on.

This could be true. But, guess what, sometimes people just want more information.

Am I just being a bit simple here? You can either view a cold-call as just the next name on a list, and a "Yes/No" response. Or you could view it as the start of a longer-term conversation.

If you send them a PDF, most times they'll print it off. Read it. Think about it. They'll probably not call you back, let's be realistic here. But if you call them back, there's a good chance they'll be ready to set up that meeting.

I set up at least 50% of meeting for clients after 2 or 3 call-backs, and usually after sending further information. It's just common sense that some people want to find out a little about you, look at your website, etc before they agree to a meeting.

Then, when they do agree to meet you, it'll be because they're interested.

And it won't be just 15 minutes either.

David Regler
Appointment Setting Services

Rhino Telemarketing


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Cold Calling Is Still Very Effective!! Putting together an effective appointment setting lead generation and business telemarketing plan can be the difference between landing a large new account vs. turning blue waiting for your phone to ring. Most outside sales people cringe at the thought of making their own cold calls. They would prefer to spend the bulk of their time on the road closing accounts. Cold calling is our main focus. We can get the job done better because it's all we do! We will bring you extreme ROI and lower your sales and marketing budget. Your sales people may be strong at "closing the sale", but are they good at "prospecting"? We open the doors so you can close the deals! We partner with our clients from day one. Our agents are experienced in setting quality appointments with high level decision makers over the phone. We will present your business solution/value proposition to the decision maker and generate enough interest in your product to set up a face to face meeting, our agents(telemarketers)will then place the appointment into a our system and the lead/appointment is sent to you via email. We are a "Pay For Performance Company" we do not believe in long term contracts or set up fees. Please feel free to contact us anytime at the number below to discuss all your b2b telemarketing needs. Peter Kenney 888-744-6677 Ext. # 52 See link below B2B Appointment Setting Companies


David Capezza


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Very true David! One thing that you should keep in mind though is that not all appointment setting is done on a pay-for-performance model. Overall, a company that provides their services with an hourly charge and a service guarantee will generally do the same job but in a more cost effective manner. Best Wishes, Dave Capezza Operations Manager Home-Base USA http://www.homebase-usa.com Appointment Setting, Lead Generation & Sales Outsourcing


David Winch


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Hi David Like everyone else, I think it's a great article. I work as an independent business adviser, part of a reasonable size network. Many of our members buy appointments from a less than perfect (is there any other sort?) agency. I don't even send introductory letters! My own view is that it's never too early to start building relationships. I build them with the switchboard lady before I ever speak to the MD. I even get them saying "That's the third time you've tried this week. I'm going to make sure he takes your call". You can't buy that from an agency. I've got 12 first appointments in my diary for August from 3 or 4 hours phoning on Friday and Monday. And it's supposed to be the silly season? And yes, if they are genuine when they ask for info (you can tell if it's you making the call!) then of course you send it to them. Keep up the good work. David


Peter Mayhew


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Great article David I agree whole heartedly with your comments and having engaged different "Outsiders" for appointment setting, by far the best results have been achieved by someone familiar with my business and who does not rely on a script, but listens to the prospect and will send more information if required. I normally research my list before ousourcing and will send an information pack a couple of days ahead of the phone call so that it is likely on his desk when the call is made. I will normally follow up with a letter confirming the appointment once made. Peter Mayhew FInstSMM Cost Management Specialist


Ernest Bhatti


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Cannot agree more. I fully understand and appreciate what you are saying as we are a telesales company ourselves. When we see clients who want '5 leads per day', we tell them that we do not go for 'notches on the scoreboard' for the very reason that the appointment has to be fully qualified. Another point that you touched on is the 'send more info' line. As you said, this can be a genuine request. We have clients that we sent info out for and we find that a follow up call results in a better understanding by the prospect, which leads to a qualified appointment. One final point is the 'ring me back in 6 months' line. Most salesmen and business people view this as a polite way of saying 'no'. Have you ever thought that the customer might really mean this? We log and diarise all follow-up calls. By keeping to a routine of following people up, you will find that appointments will follow and your pipeline will build up. Remember, 'no' can always mean 'yes' Ernest Bhatti www.lhbconsulting.co.uk


Tim (Health Insurance) Chappell


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Well, isn't this just damn interesting ! I have agreed today to appoint a new company who will get fully qualified appointments for me. I am doing the physical door knocking cold calling bit but I enjoy helping more people ! These people will respect the prospective clients time and wishes and there is no problem if the reply is NO. Prospective clients are humans and will be treated as such. I will pay per appointment plus commission upon a sale . Because the payment is heavily weighed on the sale it is inherently reliant on the company obtaining an appointment that it is fully qualified - in other words they are genuinely interested. I do not feel that it is appropriate to give quotes over the telephone due to delicate nature of the insurance . I have to discover over an 30 minutes or more that what I would suggest is completely appropriate to the clients needs. The company will be passing over to me any clients who wish to discuss generally over the telephone in detail about my products and service. I will post a blog in a month with the results ! Tim Chappell - a professional provider of bespoke Medical Insurance for the discerning individual and business. 07739 643 569


Simon Clark


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Shouldn't you be on the phone? If you see a bandwagon, is it too late? CVL


Red Setter


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

David Thanks for your thought - provoking article. Having worked in telesales and telemarketiing for several years, I have come to realise that making appointments is "easy" - making worthwhile appointments however is much more difficult, time consuming and requires much skill on the part of the telemarketeer. This is because most decision-makers in business realise that time = money and the days of having unqualified meetings are over - they must be constructive. This can only be achieved if the right conditions are set by 'pre-qualifying' the parties involved. - Does the supplier have something of potential benefit / interest to my business ? - Is the customer one who can appreciate / benefit from this offer ? Sending a sales person to see a client without having first checked the above is in most cases a complete waste of time for both parties. I suppose you could view the telemarketeer as a matchmaker - someone with the ability to 'stroke' the egos of both parties and bring them together to see what can happen - quite a skill indeed ! Regards George Montgomery Good Business Solutions Provid Business Software - Sales, Service, Hire email: g.montgomery@gbsltd.biz skype: g.montgomery Do business online ? - then join the Doing Business Virtually Club


Andy Preston


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Great article David. What I find very interesting is when we run our Cold Calling courses, many of the attendees have been using a telemarketing company, or have used one in the past and not been happy with the results! Once they know the simple process we teach and get over the fear of picking up the phone in the first place, they realise how easy it can be to set their own appointments over the phone. I definitely agree it's far better for salespeople to set their own appointments or at least not be too far detached from the process as you mention above! And so many people get stuck in "process" - "I have to set the appointments because that's what I'm meant/paid to do" - with no thought as to what's actually best for the customer! I've certainly been on the wrong end of some "dodgy" appointments when I was a salesperson - which I then took responsibility for setting my own appointments - and then made twice as many as the "telemarketing" person made for me - and I knew the quality was far higher! Far too many times I'd turned up for an appointment set by someone else where the prospect didn't know who we were, couldn't now make the meeting, or kept me waiting for ages in reception. I can't believe Sales Managers still let this happen!! Ah well, I guess it means more work for the rest of us ;-) As regards people setting appointments for you, this can sometimes happen because the sales manager will "cave in" to repeated requests from the (usually under-performing) salesperson, coming out with "if I only had someone making appointments for me, I'd blast through my targets". Often there are more things going on than just lack of appointments! And I'm as amazed as you about the 15 minutes thing - how do they think that positions the call in the prospect's mind? And what sort of professional salesperson can truly understand a prospect and their needs (never mind even discuss potential solutions) in 15 minutes?!!!! I know a lot of my sales training clients would love it if that's how their competitors were operating - makes it a lot easier to differentiate themselves and provide better value doesn't it? Andy Preston Outstanding Results


Shamus Doherty


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Great article and a lot of it springs true. I do telemarketing but am happy to say that I prefer to build the relationship as such that sometimes I go beyond what a telemarketer would nromally do as I want the client to be happy and also his prospect so if it means calling back in 3 months when they requested I will do so. Yes it may have been a ploy to get rid of the call but in my experience it may well be that they were genuinely going to be in the market or at least in a better position to look at the benefits. Pay per appointments can work but as you say this method of incentivising can just lead to average meetings which have no real chance of gaining business and the guy who agreed to the meeting probably knows as much and is being the nice guy for wasting 15 minutes of his time. Shamus Doherty www.bandmemberonline.com


Steve Jones


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

David Great article. Perhaps its symtomatic of the culture of expecting a quick win irresepective of the appreciaiton of the length of any sales cycle and the prospect being ready to buy.... where is the value add? No wonder sales has such a bad reputation....... but businesses wouldn't exist without them. Cheers Steve www.elecfron.com Convergence at Work


Bob Edwards


"The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting

Appointment setting only is a waste of time in my view . We are currently working with clients who want to outsource the whole of the sales service. That means setting up the process from us having the information to send whilst the call is live, to equipping us and our team with the costs and limits on price, to ensuring that we can take payment over the phone and confirm orders. It takes more time than traditional telemarketing but achieves much better results- you capture and covert interest into an order on the spot. Ini my view, when you provide incentives to each part of the process you damage the whole as the team work is destroyed. Zest 0161 775 1669


David Regler


The whole team must be engaged

Thanks, James. I think business owners get this more than anyone. They understand the cost of their time more than many sales people who simple want to look good on a call report (which is often what sales management are concentrating on). David Regler Maine Associates Ltd Appointment Setting Services