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