Imagine you’ve finally gotten the appointment with your dream prospect.
Finally, after lots of follow up calls and emails, and even social media touches.
It sure is a big deal. Because in a sense it is a micro-win. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking of the final sale or deal closed as the only success.
But the small commitments we get from prospects are as important as the final sale. Because without the appointment, there will be no sale.
A wrong metric for sales appointment success
The worst metric of b2b sales appointment success is the sale. Managers will ask their sales rep: “Did you close the deal?”
Not every appointment will lead to a sale.
In fact, around 25 percent of all appointments from cold prospecting will be sales qualified. Sales qualified in plain English will mean a few things:
- They have a problem your service or product can solve
- They are willing to change now and acknowledge you can make that happen
- They have the financial muscle to make the change happen
- Their key decision makers are willing to embrace the change
Business owners who are used to referrals and word of mouth assume that outbound prospecting works the same way. That they will close 80 to 90 percent of every appointment.
This is a trap for desperation.
Weak metrics for sales appointment success
Successful appointments don’t happen by chance. We have to envision what that would look like before the meeting.
Without that, a lot of appointments that could have been successful would pile up in the bottomless pit of “call me later”.
In fact, when you ask around, here are some of the most common answers you’d get for what a successful appointment looks like:
- “They are qualified”
- “They are interested, we’ll touch base later”
- “They seem really excited about our services. They’ve asked us to call back”
As you might tell, these are weak qualifiers for determining appointment success.
Two important B2B Appointment Setting Success Outcomes
For purposes of driving a sale forward, let’s define success in two outcomes: Yes and No.
Why No is Success
Like we have discussed, our goal in b2b appointment setting is not to close every appointment we have. If it happens, that’s great.
But it’s healthy to know that only about 25 percent of people you meet with will be qualified enough to even take them seriously.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, “No” is a good outcome because it shows that we have a healthy outbound appointment setting system working.
It also helps to avoid the assumption trap is mainly fueled by the lack of knowledge of the prospect’s decision.
When we embrace ‘No’s’ as part of an effective system, we become bolder and get to a No as quickly as possible.
Most of all, our time in prospecting is best spent with interested and qualified prospects. ‘Maybe’ is the worst response we can ever get in prospecting.
If we’re able to get a definitive Yes or No, we can move on quickly to the next prospect (part of the 10 – 40 percent) who will actually be interested. We don’t waste time and effort beating a dead horse.
The right kind of “Yes”
We’re not interested in any kind of “Yes”, the right kind is what we are after.
Regardless of how the meeting went, there is one important way to know if we have the right kind of Yes.
An advance is an initial commitment to the next step with a clear date and time.
It is a commitment because the advance requires the prospect to take action on something before that time.
Without the advance, that vital next step, the conversation was just a feel-good moment. The prospect doesn’t have a clear intent of buying or using your services.
It doesn’t matter how good they sounded or enthusiastic they were; when there is no advance, there is not intent.
I’ve heard people say “ooh it was a good meeting, I didn’t want to appear pushy or aggressive.”
But have an advance after a good meeting is not being pushy if you’ve done a good job building the conversation with thoughtful questions.
How to know if you have the right kind of “Yes”
1) It is time bound
Any prospect who doesn’t want to commit to a clear timeline doesn’t have the buying intent. This is generally a good rule of thumb.
This is where “maybe” goes to die.
As a business owner or leader, time is your valuable asset. And we need to spend that time on the right prospects, the qualified ones.
So if a prospect is not willing to commit to a timeline, in any way possible, it is a sign that they might be looking around or just not committed to change. Let her go.
This typically happens when the prospect says “You know send me more information, a brochure or something, and we will get back to you.” This is a death trap for any deal.
Instead of following the prospect’s order blindly, you can ask:
• “On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most convinced), how convinced are you that we can help you get the results you’re looking for?” Always follow this up with “What will make it a 10?”
• If they are high on the convinced scale and still requests for more information, say something like:
“John, like you mentioned this is a problem that you’re keen on solving this quarter. I’m looking at my calendar right now – when are you open next week to review the proposal I’ll be sending you so we can agree on the key details?”
• Even better, before you start the meeting ask something like:
“Can you promise me one thing? If after this conversation, you feel that this is not a good fit for you, can you let me know right away? I’d really appreciate it”
Remember the goal of this is to weed out “maybe”, non-buyers and add clear timelines as the next step.
2) It requires a commitment from the prospect
A good advance also requires that the prospect “does” something, no matter how small it is. You’re looking for a micro-commitment here.
It could be as simple a commitment as accepting the calendar invitation for your proposal review meeting.
Or as intense as sending your team five bullet point list of specs for their team wants to change within the next five days.
Without a commitment, the prospect may become disengaged in the process.
One of the biggest threat to closing sales deals is having no concrete next steps to the conversation. You don’t have to leave progress to chance.
Asking and arranging a follow-up event (e.g. call, meeting) with the particular prospect not only enables you to funnel the prospect through the sales process but also it enables you to be less annoying when you eventually (have to follow up at some point).
Why? Because they will be expecting your follow up – whether consciously or subconsciously.
If you leave the conversation open-ended, what ends up happening is that you now become annoying when you follow up and they weren’t expecting it.
But if you able to set a specific date, it’s on the prospect’s calendar and they know exactly when you’re going to follow up.
Also if they don’t want you to follow up, they would say it up front, and everyone knows exactly what’s going on. Always schedule a follow up even though it might be awkward doing that.
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