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By John Pojeta
Appointment-setting programs fail for one of two reasons. Either the appointments may be poorly qualified or the producer may not have a well-refined sales process built to capitalize on these unique opportunities.
As easy as it may be to blame failure on the quality of the appointments that you receive, turning your attention to the structure and organization of your sales pipeline can prepare you to increase your success in all sales scenarios, appointments included.
The most successful appointment-setting programs are a partnership between great appointment-setters and great producers. In this case study, we use a real-world example as a launch pad for evaluating your own sales process.
David is an experienced health producer who serves businesses with 25 to 500 employees. Before David incorporated appointment setting into his new business efforts, he had the usual reservations. He worried about how an appointment-setting firm would manage his reputation on calls. He was skeptical about the quality of appointments he would receive. Most of all, he was concerned about the return that he would see on his investment and how long it would take to see that return.
After hearing multiple colleagues speak positively about the way appointment setting was helping them to find new opportunities and grow their businesses, David decided to start a program for himself.
Since then, appointment setting has had a positive impact on his business, but it’s important to note that, for David, appointment setting is one piece of a highly structured sales pipeline. In his pipeline, there is no magic bullet. Each piece supports the success of the others.
David’s sales pipeline
Prior to incorporating an appointment-setting program, David’s sales pipeline included:
• Referrals from existing clients.
• Relationships with key centers of influence.
• A well-organized and consistent drip marketing system.
• Personal one-on-one follow-up.
• Quarterly seminars.
Like any good producer, David served his clients well and developed meaningful relationships with experts in related fields, creating a steady trickle of referrals from existing clients and from trusted centers of influence. Sometimes these referrals result in immediate sales, but in many cases the timing isn’t right. Rather than abandon an opportunity, David plugs these prospects into his drip system so that he can continue building rapport. He knows that some opportunities can take years to mature, and he is patient enough to wait.
David isn’t the only producer using a drip system to maintain regular contact with a prospect, but he does take a slightly different approach. Instead of relying solely on emails and follow-up calls from his staff to re-engage prospects, he makes an effort to call prospects personally. These calls give David a chance to continue building genuine relationships with prospects, and he uses these calls as opportunities to drive attendance for his quarterly seminars.
Like his calls, his seminars have a personal touch as well. Instead of rotating through a set list of topics, David tailors his seminars specifically to the needs of his clients and prospects, giving him an authentic and meaningful way to foster ongoing conversations. With this approach, he positions himself as a helpful resource. He mixes clients and prospects with like issues, fostering new relationships and strengthening existing ones. Although his ultimate goal is to get the sale, his follow-up efforts are grounded in information that is relevant and timely to his prospects.
In the conversations that David has with prospects, whether in one-on-one settings or in seminar settings, he isn’t afraid to challenge the way they think. He doesn’t overload them with facts, figures and features. He takes the time to understand a prospect’s needs and goals, and he offers astute insights based on his industry experience. Sometimes these insights run counter to what prospects may think they need or want, but David’s expert and assertive approach sets him apart from other producers. Whereas some producers will dance through demands and objections to get the sale, David stands his ground on what’s best for the prospect’s situation, earning him respect and trust while also helping him to set expectations for the relationship.
Prior to starting an appointment-setting program, David didn’t realize how well his sales pipeline management would fit this unique sales environment nor did he anticipate how appointment setting would bolster his already established sources of new business.
By incorporating appointment-setting, David saw his sales pipeline evolve in the following ways:
• An active appointment-setting program helped him to explore new markets and meet prospects he would not have met otherwise.
• His willingness to challenge his prospects’ way of thinking made those appointments memorable in the prospects’ minds, even if they did not result in an immediate return.
• His new appointments fed into his robust drip system, giving him more qualified prospects with whom to engage in one-on-one calls and seminars.
• His new clients, whether they converted soon after the initial appointment or as a result of long-term drip efforts, generated a new stream of revenue as well as referral opportunities.
After two years of running an appointment-setting program, David admitted that the first few months were rough. He wasn’t seeing an immediate return on his investment, but he was rating the prospects he received through the appointments as either qualified or highly qualified.
For many producers, the lack of an immediate return motivates them to reevaluate their investment. A quality program is not cheap. If it’s not generating sales right away, why continue? For David, the answer was clear: Even if he was not making sales in the short term, he knew that he was meeting with qualified prospects who needed the services he offers. Seeing the potential of opportunities that could come from his investment — even if they take months or years to come to fruition — was already an established part of his sales process, and it served his appointment setting program well.
After nine months of running an appointment setting program, David closed enough sales to justify his investment as well as turn a respectable profit. In one year and nine months, he has closed nine sales as a direct result of set appointments. Because his clients are sizeable businesses, these sales represent a significant return, and they already have become sources of new referrals.
And the nine new clients now pay for the ongoing costs of the program while also generating profit.
Now his appointment program is a key part of his sales pipeline.
The right perspective
One of the reasons that David found success with appointment-setting was his outlook. As much as he might want every appointment to result in a quick sale, he realized that he ultimately was meeting with normal business owners. He may have met them as a result of appointment setting, but these business owners — like his other clients and prospects — needed time to convert.
David built his pipeline around this understanding. That’s why he developed a drip system. That’s why he made personal follow-up calls. That’s why he custom-tailored his quarterly seminars.
If David had let himself get spooked early on, he would have missed out on big rewards later. Instead, he recognized that the prospects he met fit his target criteria. He had meaningful conversations with them about their businesses, about their needs and about their goals. He positioned himself as a resource and fostered genuine, personal relationships with his follow-up efforts. And he used his appointment setting program to hone his sales skills in cold appointment environments. When the timing was right, he got the sale.
This isn’t just a good way to leverage the true potential of appointment setting. It’s good sales.
John Pojeta is the vice president of business development at The PT Services Group. He previously owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years. John may be contacted at [email protected].