Too often, salespeople make the mistake of trying to make a sale on the first cold call. But the goal of a cold call shouldn’t be to make a sale—it should be to get an appointment with the key decision-maker (KDM) and deliver a detailed sales pitch. You shouldn’t be trying to sell on the first cold call, what you should be doing is performing B2B appointment setting activity.
In sales, B2B appointment setting activities are performed by a sales development representative (SDR) whose primary job is to set appointments for an account executive (AE). By prospecting, qualifying, nurturing, and engaging with leads at every stage of the buying cycle, SDRs are able to set qualified appointments for AEs who then deliver a sales pitch.
If your AEs are already seasoned pros at going through your sales pitch deck, the only thing left for you to do is fill their calendars with high-quality appointments. Here are five tips for securing more sales appointments—even the hard-to-get meetings.
According to a HubSpot survey, only 37% of prospects feel salespeople who’d made cold calls to them had delivered information relevant to their needs. Whoever you’re calling, their time is valuable—don’t waste it. Decision-makers are busy people just like you and me, and you shouldn’t waste a second of their time on something that isn’t relevant to them. Sound confident when you get a KDM on the phone and get straight to your reason for calling.
This is a great example of a brief pitch that will secure an appointment (or at least start the conversation) almost every time:
“Hi, my name is [NAME]. I’m the [CITY YOUR PROSPECT IS IN] sales development manager for [YOUR COMPANY], a company that specializes in [WHAT YOUR COMPANY DOES OR SELLS]. I’m calling today because I’m currently looking to speak with businesses in your area about a partnership. How does 2 p.m. next Tuesday or 11 a.m. next Thursday work for a meeting?”
This pitch is great because it doesn’t go into too much detail and gets straight to the point of the call (to schedule a meeting). Here are some additional tips for crafting your pitch:
- Remove what isn’t necessary. In school, did you ever get a writing assignment back that said, “eliminate wordiness,” or, “remove unnecessary sentences”? Sometimes, when you’re writing, you may start to ramble and your work becomes cluttered. The same thing can happen to a salesperson on the phone. If you’re talking about your company or yourself too much in your current pitch, omit the clutter and keep only what’s necessary to get the appointment.
- Craft an opener. Make sure the first 15-20 seconds of your pitch will grab the prospect’s attention. Most people will go into automatic rejection mode as soon as they realize you’re trying to sell them something, so craft an opener that is surprising and intriguing.
- Do your research. Getting to the point is important, but it also doesn’t hurt to know something about the company you’re calling. For example, if you’re a cleaning company calling commercial cleaning leads, you may go to a prospect’s website and realize they have a lot of testimonials from businesses. In your initial pitch, you could say, “I see you do a lot of work with businesses/office buildings. Is this primarily who you like to target?” Showing your prospect that you know something about them will pique their interest.
A great SDR assumes the appointment. When you call a prospect, make sure you have two dates and times ready that work for your AE. Experts find that these two methods work best:
- Give two dates and times. Say, “I have two times available—Monday at 11:30 a.m. or Wednesday at 3 p.m. Which works best for you?”
- Pick one specific time. Try something like, “I’m looking at my calendar, and it looks like I can meet on Monday at 11 a.m. Does that work for you?” If they say no, you can always say, “OK, let me look at additional availability on my calendar.”
Experiment with both and see what works best for your company. Rest assured, though, this strategy will help you secure more appointments than ever before.
A well-written, brief opener that asks for the appointment is important, but great SDRs are also great active listeners. If you’re not listening to what a prospect says on the call and responding appropriately, you’ll never earn their trust and get the appointment.
As a salesperson, you can show active listening by doing the following things:
- Tell them that you’re listening by using affirmations (“I completely understand” or “That’s good to know”)
- Give the prospect a chance to talk; don’t interrupt them and listen closely to what they have to say
- Have rebuttals prepared for the most common objections you hear (for example, if a prospect says “This isn’t in my budget right now,” respond with, “We completely understand why that’s a concern for you. We create a solution to fit every budget. Our analysis uncovers cost savings measures so we can craft the perfect solution for you.”)
When you’re conversational and you listen to your prospect, you gain their trust and have a better chance of securing an appointment. At the very least, conversational phone calls are a great lead nurturing tactic. They can help you learn more about your prospect’s business and help you further develop a relationship with them to potentially engage in a partnership later on.
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When calling a prospect, you should know something about their industry that pertains to the customers you already have. For example, let’s say you’re an HVAC company calling on HVAC leads. One of the prospects you’re currently working in your sales pipeline is a school district. If you recently worked with a school, share the story with your prospect and let them know how you helped a business similar to theirs. If you can follow up with any marketing collateral in an email, even better.
When scheduling an appointment, always urge the prospect to accept the calendar invite on the phone to prevent no-shows. If the prospect accepts the calendar invite, they’ll get notified the day of the appointment and you don’t have to worry about them forgetting the appointment. Also, having the event on their calendar gives them complete visibility.
If you can’t get them to accept the calendar invite on the phone, the next best thing is to follow up the day of the appointment to prevent no-shows. Any great SDR spends the first hour of their day calling all of their appointments for the day and confirming with the KDM that the time still works for them. This sets the AE up for success and the organization as a whole.
A sales pitch and a pitch to get an appointment are completely different. If you can master both, you’ll be well on your way to scheduling more appointments, closing more deals, and growing your business.