Sales appointments – Guide to B2B appointment setting
Are you looking to get better at appointment setting and getting more and better sales meetings? By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to get sales appointments like a true pro. All you need to do is put the techniques and strategies outlined below into action and have a good prospect list and a telephone. In this guide you’ll find:
- What’s the 5 stages of a Sales Appointment call
- How to get the introduction right
- The Motivator
- Questioning – What you need to know
- Gaining the agreement for a sales appointment
- Learn more – Get a free e-book on Appointment Setting
But before we get started we have a brief comment to business directors considering outsourcing appointment setting or getting more sales through external sales channels.
Outsourcing your B2B Appointment setting
Sales Agents Ltd specialise in outsourcing of sales and finding external sales channels on behalf of our clients. B2B Appointment setting is certainly part of the sales process for many companies. It’s entirely possible to outsource the appointment setting but keep the rest of the sales process inhouse. However, many of the clients we work with prefer to find a sales partner that can handle the entire sales process from appointment setting to the closing of the sale. If you’re a company considering outsourcing your sales process you should check our service to find commission-based sales agents. We also offer a free e-book on that subject which you can grab here.
If you’re a business leader struggling with getting enough B2B Sales Appointments you should also be aware of other strategies to generate sales leads. In our sales efforts, we have worked closely with Sopro who offer an excellent service where you get loads of good B2B sales leads.
You can read more of our thoughts on outsourcing as part of your sales strategy in this article.
However, the focus of this article is for real-world strategies for salespeople wanting to get more sales appointments by telephone. This guide is written by our managing director, Stephen Craine, who has several decades of experience with appointment setting and helping sales reps get more and better sales appointments.
You can also get additional information about appointment setting in the full e-book titled “Making Sales Appointments by Telephone”. You’ll get immediate access to this e-book by subscribing to our newsletter.
Creating a Sales Appointment Call Script for B2B Appointment setting
You’re going to create a call script, but what exactly is a call script? Is it a word by word written script that you learn and use no matter what response you get from the prospect? Or is it a script of your opening lines just to get you started?
Whenever I use the word script in my training courses I get asked if every delegate will use the same prepared words, and won’t everyone sound scripted and robotic just like a call centre operative?
The answer is no to both questions. The script you are about to prepare can be as detailed as you want it to be. If you need a complete script for certain parts of the call, then you can create that using this article.
What I recommend is that we create a script that gives you markers to use as a guide throughout the 5 stages of the call. These markers will remind you of what your objective is at each stage, and what actions to take to achieve those objectives. You can have as much detail as you need at each marker to ensure you know what you are doing.
As you make more calls, you’ll find you use the markers less, but they are always there in case you need them.
By creating a script in this way you will talk naturally, using your own words and phrases, about the topic at each of the markers points throughout the call. Sounding unscripted and natural is a big part of making successful calls, it means you don’t sound like a sales person, or a robotic call centre operative.
To highlight how this training works; if I asked you to write a page on a favourite subject, and then read it out over the telephone word by word, you would sound like you were reading.
If instead I asked you to note down several topic headings and markers and use them as a guide while you spoke to me about your favourite subject, you would sound natural and use your normal words, phrases, and voice. When you sound natural people are more inclined to listen, you don’t sound scripted, and that’s a big positive when you’re making appointment calls.
Let’s start with the first set of markers, the 5 stages of sales appointments calls…
The 5 Stages of Sales Appointments call
Here’s an overview of the 5 stages of a sales appointment call for appointment setting.
You will introduce you and your company using brief information that helps the prospect to quickly build a picture of who you are, and what your business does. You’ll then add a reason for calling that has potential benefits for the prospect and that will give them a reason to keep listening.
After just a few lines of this very short introduction your prospect will know who you are, what you do, and why you’re calling.
The Motivator is a technique that I developed while working with sales people that made their own calls to make appointments with potential customers.
Using this one line you join together the Introduction stage and the Questioning Stage forming a seamless connection that keeps the conversation moving forward and prevents objections. This technique also works at other times in a call when a customer hesitates or takes the conversation off track. Once you understand how it works you can also use the Motivator in your sales meetings with prospects.
Here we create a structured questioning process that gives you all the information you need to qualify the prospect as a potential customer that is worth meeting. Early in the appointment setting call you will know whether the prospect can actually buy from you, and whether it is worthwhile continuing the call.
The information you gather here will be what you need to know to qualify the prospect, and what you want to know to be able to prepare for the meeting with them.
Because of all the work you have done in the early part of the call you will be able to gain agreement to a meeting with the prospect by making a simple proposal. The training shows you how to create a question that is specific to your prospects, and also makes meeting with you the logical next step in the process for them.
Most real objections arise as you try to gain agreement to a meeting in stage 4, but they can arise at any stage throughout the call. The techniques you will learn will equip you to deal with objections and concerns in a unique way.
Instead of arguing with the prospect and contradicting them, you’ll learn how to go around the objections and keep on course towards your objective of gaining agreement to a meeting. There are also some proven techniques at this stage on preventing objections and obstacles by pre-empting them.
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A Complete Appointment Setting Call in Small Steps
These 5 stages are your key markers that let you know where you are, and what you should be doing, at every point in the call. As we go through the book together, we’ll look at each stage individually and break it down into smaller markers, each with its own objectives and the actions you should take to achieve them.
The complete call may only take a few minutes, so every word used must add something to the call. If you already make calls to prospects, you’ll know that the key to success is getting the customer’s interest and keeping their attention.
At every stage the training shows you how to select the best benefits from what you supply or sell, and how to use them to keep the prospect listening and moving forward with you. The emphasis is on communication and conversation, not verbal trickery or bullying, which means you can enjoy making the calls.
Next we look at the most important stage of the call, the Introduction, and it contains the most important line, the Reason for the call… Was that a Motivator I just used?
Getting Sales Appointments: The Introduction
Get this stage right and you get the opportunity to qualify the prospect as a potential customer and gain agreement to a sales appointment.
Your objective at the Introduction Stage is to gain the interest of the prospect and keep their attention so that you can get to the Reason for the Call and explain what potential benefits you can offer.
The Introduction also sets the scene for the rest of the call, and it starts to build the relationship with the prospect. That’s why it’s the most important stage of the appointment setting call, if you lose your prospect here you will not get the opportunity to use the benefits of your sales offer to make an appointment with them.
Below are the markers that will guide you through the Introduction Stage. When you learn your objectives at each marker, and the actions you should take to achieve them, you’ll be able to give a confident, attention grabbing introduction on all your cold calls.
You’ve probably noticed that I talk a lot about using this sales training to make cold calls. That’s because cold calls are the most difficult to make.
The same script and techniques work just as effectively when you respond to incoming enquiries, make follow up calls, and make repeat business appointments with existing customers…
The Markers of the Introduction Stage
By breaking down the Introduction Stage into smaller markers we can look in detail at these smaller parts and build up a script, either a full script or reminders to give you hints on what to say.
Here are the 4 markers for the Introduction Stage with a brief description of what each one does.
You want to introduce yourself and give any supporting information about you that will help the prospect to understand who you are. This could include your job title, a specialisation, or a qualification. For many sales people making appointment calls, the key to a successful introduction is keeping this part brief.
Introducing the Company or the Product
The aim is to get the prospect to understand what you do, what your business does, or what your business sells, supplies, or offers as a service. When we look at this marker in detail you’ll see how to select the information to use.
About the Company or the Product
At this marker point you want to use some additional information about your company or your products, which will give the prospect points of reference as they begin to form a picture of who you are and what your business can offer. You should also include something about your company or product that could be beneficial to the prospect.
The Reason for the Call
This is the most important line of the call, and it’s worth spending time to get it as effective as it can be. It tells the prospect why you’re calling, and how they could potentially benefit by talking to you.
Those are the key markers so let’s now look at each one and start creating your script or reminders for each marker point of the Introduction Stage and get your call off to a confident start.
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You’ve been put through to the prospect, or you’ve dialed them directly. They’ve answered the phone, and now it’s your turn to speak, what do you say once you have confirmed it’s the person you want?
There are several ways to tell a prospect who you are and each one has a different impact on them. Here are 4 different examples of ways you can announce your name to the buyer. The comments next to each one are only my opinions.
Try out each one, and any others that you can think of, and find the one that projects the image that you want.
- My name is Stephen Craine…
Used by Telesales callers and can sound weak.
- It’s Stephen Craine…
Good, natural sounding, and can infer, wit the right tone, that you’ve previously spoken to the person.
- I am Stephen Craine…
Can sound pretentious. I only use it if I am certain I have a great sales offer. Can be softened by contracting I am to I’m.
- This is Stephen Craine…
Sounds strong and important, not the sort of opening that you expect from a telemarketer. This is my personal favourite.
There are 2 things you can do to adapt the line you select to introduce yourself:
- You can use the tone of your voice to change the level of strength of your words. A deeper more commanding tone to strengthen it, or a lighter tone to soften it. You can also use a downward inflexion to make it commanding, or an upward inflexion to make it sound like a question.
- How formal should you be? Take into account the telephone etiquette expected from you by the people you are phoning. You would talk to an end user at home differently than you would to a business prospect. On B2B calls the position of your prospect in the company hierarchy has to be considered when choosing how formal, friendly, or controlling, you want the words of your introduction to sound.
More about you
You may want to add something more about you after you have said your name. This could be your position in the company, or a qualification. It’s nice talking about ourselves, and some sales people have a tendency to say far too much on the subject at this stage.
Let me give you this guideline, only add something more about you if it adds something positive to the call. By positive I mean, it is of some benefit to the prospect or supports your message and adds credibility.
Here are some examples of what could be positive additions to the call:
- Your position or title could show your rank and authority within your organization.
- Your experience or specialisation could be seen as beneficial to the prospect.
- Something in common with the prospect could help to build rapport.
- Information that makes you stand out from other sales callers.
Remember we are only talking about one or two words that you might want to add about you, not your entire lifetime CV. You only have a limited attention time from the prospect, so every word has to add something positive to the call, if it doesn’t – take it out.
That’s the Introduction of You, just a few words to say who you are, convey the message and the image that you want your prospect to receive, and start your call in the best possible way.
Now here’s your first task, using what you’ve read so far choose the words you will use to tell the prospect who you are.
Note the words on paper or on screen. This is the first marker of your Introduction Stage and you may want to make full notes of your script to remind you of your opening lines…
Introducing the Company / Product
One of the reasons you follow your name with an introduction of the company or product is to give the prospect a frame of reference. Your objective is to build them a picture of who you and your business are with just a few words of introduction. You should decide if your company name, or your product name, or both, are the best way to do this.
If they will have heard of your product, then include it. If it says more about your business than your company name does, use it. If your company name will be familiar to them, but your products won’t, just use your company name.
I trained a team of telemarketers for a workwear service provider and prospects didn’t know or recognise the company name. Some of the successful callers started their Introduction of the Company by telling prospects they, You have probably never heard of the company, we are…
This pre-empted not being known and prevented any negative responses. This technique won’t be right for everyone, but it is worth consideration in some circumstances.
Your task at this marker is to decide what you want to say to introduce your company or product, or both, to build prospects a picture of who you are. Will you include the group name, company name, product name, or will you keep it all about you and the services you offer?
Appointment setting: More about the Company / Product
There are positive features about your company, which could deliver benefits to your prospects, that you can use in your introduction. The important point is that they must be positive from a buyer’s viewpoint, and you must state the benefits of the features to the buyer not just the features of your company.
Here are 3 ways a confidential waste shredding company could be introduced:
This is Stephen Craine, I’m the customer services manager for:
- Security Shredders ltd.
- Security Shredders Ltd, we supply on site secure paper shredding services.
- Security Shredders Ltd, we supply secure paper shredding services that give you certified proof that no confidential information will ever be seen by anyone outside of your offices.
Example 1 just gives the name of the company. Unless the prospect knows the company or can instantly connect the name with what they do, it tells them nothing about the business and adds nothing to the call.
Example 2 adds a feature of the company services to the name. At least now the prospect knows what the company do, but not what they can do for the prospect as there’s no benefit stated.
Example 3 includes the company name followed by a feature of the service, and then the potential benefit to the prospect of that feature. If secure paper shredding with proven confidentiality is of interest to the buyer then the introduction has given them a reason to carry on listening. This is still only the opening lines of the call and already a feature with a potential benefit for the prospect has been stated.
Your Objective at this Marker
The objective at this marker is to state a benefit that your company or product gives, which could be of interest to the prospect. It’s not your reason for calling, although you can use the same benefit later when we create the script for that marker point. It’s not a complete list of everything your company offers, it’s just one benefit that could catch the interest of a wide range of prospects and keep them listening for a few seconds longer.
Your task is to create your script at this marker point by selecting a benefit of your company or product, and the feature that supplies it, and adding it to your introduction script.
Remember that it’s your script, you can write your introduction script word by word or you can just use brief reminders. If you’re unsure about what features and benefits are, read the explanation below before moving on.
Features and Benefits Explained
In my years spent managing sales teams I’ve often come across sales people, some very experienced, who don’t understand what features and benefits are, so let me explain here.
A feature is something the product or service does or has.
A car has a seat belt, it’s a feature. My glasses come with a case to put them in, that’s a feature not a benefit.
A benefit is what that feature does for the user.
The benefit of the seat belt is the protection it gives to the user if the car is involved in a crash. The benefit of the glasses case is that it gives me somewhere safe to put my glasses when I’m not wearing them.
Features can give many benefits. Benefits are what features do for the user, but they are not necessarily wanted by all users.
A feature of my cable Internet service is the very high speed I can get. One of the benefits of that feature is that it’s great for playing games. But I’m not a gamer so I have no interest in this benefit. It’s still a benefit of the service, even though I don’t need or want it, but you wouldn’t get me interested on a cold call by using gaming as a benefit.
Many sales trainers make features and benefits very complicated. They add things they don’t need to add. For example, a world famous business directory I worked with uses features, benefits, and advantages, in its training. Advantages are benefits that the prospect wants. Benefits, to them, are just benefits that the individual prospect doesn’t want.
My advice is to ignore any such complications and focus on knowing the features and their benefits and presenting the ones you have reason to think your prospects want.
When you’ve completed the task for the marker on About the Company, and you understand features and benefits, let’s move on to the last line of your Introduction stage and the most important line of the whole call…
Learn more about Appointment Setting
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The Reason for Your Call
Why do you make sales appointment calls to prospects?
I expect your answers to that question included: To make an appointment to sell them something, it’s my job, to grow my business by demonstrating the service, to get my business known, and many other similar answers that all have one thing in common. They all include a benefit for you.
Or, you may have answered with something like: So I can help them, or make their life easier, or save them some money.
The first set of answers all include benefits for you, the sales person. If you used them to tell your prospects the reason for your call, I doubt the calls would last very long because the prospects would not see any benefit for them, only a benefit for you.
The second set of answers are all benefits for the prospect, but let’s be honest here, there will also be the benefit of a potential sale for you. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you only made calls and met with prospects for their benefit you would soon be out of business, prospects know this and most, but not all, accept this.
The ideal Reason for Calling is a win – win opportunity. There is obviously a potential benefit for you and your company, and there should also be a clear potential benefit for your prospect.
What makes it difficult to select a benefit to use as your Reason for Calling is that you can’t always be sure what your prospects want. Remember earlier I explained what features and benefits are and I said all benefits are not necessarily wanted by all prospects.
Imagine you sold a manufacturing machine that had many features and benefits. Some of your prospects would be grabbed by the safety benefits but not the benefits of low running costs. Others would like the production speeds and may not be too bothered about the health and safety features.
The objective is to select a benefit that is of interest to the greatest number of prospects, and to word it in a way that grabs their attention and makes them want to know more.
Select the Benefit and Feature for Your Reason for Calling
Let’s start your selection process with these thoughts:
- The more specific the feature and benefit are, the more effective they will be in grabbing attention, but the fewer prospects will be interested in them.
- The wider ranging the feature and benefit are, the weaker their attention attraction, but more prospects will be interested in them.
We used a seat belt on a car for an earlier example. Imagine you are cold calling prospects to book test drives for cars. Your main feature and benefit is a new seat belt that had proven safer than all the others in collision testing (feature), so it would offer the most protection to prospects and their passengers (benefit).
For those prospects that place safety near the top of their important car buying features and benefits list, the sea belt line will grab their attention. But, it’s a very specific benefit and would only grab the attention of a limited number of potential car buyers.
There would be a great number of other potential car buyers who were not grabbed by the seat belt benefit. It may be a factor for them when making a final decision, but it wouldn’t make them listen to your cold call. They’re more interested in other benefits such as, how fast a car accelerates, fuel consumption, green and ecological attributes, or how cool they think they look driving it.
So the benefit you select should be wide enough to grab attention from a wide range of prospects, but still be of enough interest to make them listen. It’s not as difficult as you think to find the right one. Here are some pointers.
Anything to do with money, making it or saving it, attracts interest. I’m not saying you have to be the cheapest on the market.
Going back to cars, not everyone wants to drive the cheapest of all the cars available. But most of us want to buy the cheapest option that offers the benefits we want and gives the most value. If two dealers are offering the same high class sports car at the same price, but one of them offers a customised interior at no extra cost, this option would be more popular because they offer more value.
The benefit has to be clearly understood during a very short, and unexpected, phone call. You either find a way to explain your best benefit simply, or select a different benefit that can be quickly and concisely presented.
From your experience, and you can ask others for their opinion, what is it about your products and services that your current customers like and your prospects ask for?
I’ve recently been writing an advert for a company that makes a cask beer keg stand that automatically tilts as the container empties. It has two benefits wide enough to be used on cold calls, or as the main headline in the advert I was writing for them.
One feature is that it automatically tilts as the beer keg is emptied and gets lighter, so every drop of beer is sold. The benefit is, it saves around 2 pints of beer per keg from being wasted so it pays for itself and continues to save money.
The second feature is that it’s made from galvanized steel and the related benefit is; even in damp beer cellars it last longer than stands made from cheaper materials.
Which one of the two features and benefits would you use as the benefit in your Reason for Calling, or as a headline in an advert, and why?
I used the money saving feature and benefit of it automatically tilting and every last pint of beer could be used, which meant there was an extra 2 pints per keg sold. The reasons I selected this benefit were because the money saving benefit would be of interest to everyone. The galvanized steel benefit would only grab the attention of prospects that admitted to having damp cellars.
Another reason was that it allowed me to use the benefit of the product paying for itself because of the savings, so in my advert it doesn’t actually cost the buyer any money.
I hope the above pointers have given you an insight into how to select the best feature and benefit to use as your Reason for Calling the prospect. This ability will prove very useful to get more and better sales appointments out of your appointment setting activity.
Your first task for this marker is to select the best benefit, and related feature, to use as your Reason for Calling. Then we’ll look at how to word it on your appointment calls…
Choosing Your Words for the Reason for the Call
Have you now selected a feature and benefit to use as your Reason for calling?
If not, you’re probably trying too hard, or you’re worried about not selecting the best one. Choose one, go on make a decision, you can always change it later. Once you have completed this book you can create a new call script or make changes to an existing one whenever you like. And that is a valuable skill.
Right, you have a feature and a benefit and now you are going to choose the words to use in your call script. I’ll now show you a simple process to put the feature and benefit into words. This sales technique also works well in sales pitches or when talking to customers.
It also works in conversations, both at work and in your personal life, when you want to influence someone to take an action. Give it a try on colleagues, your boss, partner, and children, and see how well it works…
Write down the benefit you have chosen. Remember, this does something for the user. Here’s an example of a benefit used by a stationery field sales woman: Increased discounts on goods bought. Now write yours down on your script of markers.
Next write the feature that will supply your benefit. Here’s the feature that will supply the benefit used by the stationery seller: A wide range of products, including some from partner suppliers, all on one invoice.
Put the two together to clearly explain the Reason for Calling and what you could potentially do for the prospect. The Reason for Calling that the stationery supplier uses:
The reason I’m calling is that we are a major supplier of services to companies like yours, and we have the capability to supply all of your requirements, which means you will get one invoice and all the benefits of our generous discount scheme.
Notice she dropped the part of the feature that mentioned the supply from partner businesses. It would have made the message longer and more complicated than it needs to be. Details like that can be explained later when you meet the prospect.
The task now is to take your benefit and feature, put them together, and create your script for your Reason for Calling. You can use the example for the stationery seller as a template…
Put Your New Introduction Script Together
You should now have in front of you the markers for your complete Introduction Stage. It could be a word by word script of the whole introduction. Or it could be just reminder notes for each of the 4 markers in the Introduction Stage: Introduction of You, About You, Introduction of the Company or Product, and the Reason for the Call.
In practice I usually see people writing a full script at certain marker points, for example the opening lines, and just reminders at other marker points, such as the company information. Whatever works for you, it’s your script.
The final task for this stage is to make sure that all the parts you’ve created as markers along the path fit together well, from the opening lines of the call to where we are now. Do a few test calls using your new Introduction for appointment setting, role play with colleagues, or record yourself and see how it sounds. Make any changes you think will improve it, remembering to change your reminder script.
Listen to where the markers meet. You want a smooth seamless flow from one marker to the next. Some parts can be merged if you think it sounds better, for example, the first two markers, the Introduction of You and the Introduction of the Company. This could be appropriate if you are a small business or a self-employed service provider where you are the company.
Your last task in the Introduction Stage, bring everything together and try it out, role play it, use it, make some calls, record listen and make improvements, and have some fun as your confidence grows…
Getting Sales Appointments: The Motivator
You’ve got through to the buyer, and you’ve completed the Introduction Stage of the appointment setting call, and they’re still listening.
Before you try to arrange a sales appointment, you want to make sure that the prospect could become a customer. This is known as Qualifying the Prospect, and you do this at Stage 3, the Questioning Stage. If you move straight from the last marker of Stage 1, the Reason for the Call, to the Questioning Stage you could lose the prospect.
There are many reasons for this.
They are not ready to move forward, or they see a sales process starting. It’s a big step from listening to what’s good about you and your products and why you have called them, to answering questions about their business, their staff, stationery needs, their home, or their savings, insurance, mortgage, or whatever else you need to know to decide if they qualify as a real prospect.
This point in the call is where a lot of objections arise. They can be real objections caused by a real concern, but mostly at this point they are smoke screens. Smoke screens are made-up reasons why they can’t, or won’t, continue the call.
Examples of smoke screen objections: I’m about to go into a meeting, I’m going out, there’s someone at the door, we already have one, we’re in a contract, we’re moving house, no budget, not interested, and can I call you back. We’ve all had them and because they are not real, they’re almost impossible to overcome.
What the Motivator Does
The Motivator is one brief line in a sales appointment call that gives the prospect a reason to move forward with you to the next stage and answer your qualifying questions. We place the Motivator between Stage 1, the Introduction, and Stage 3, Questioning to qualify. There’s only one marker in this Stage 2 so it’s easy to remember. The line you will create motivates the prospect to take that step from the Introduction to answering your questions.
What you are saying to the prospect is, in your own words, for you to establish if you can offer them the benefits of what you supply, you first need some information from them.
There are many benefits of a Motivator for both you and the prospect.
In return for their time answering a few questions you can quickly tell them if they could gain some benefits from you and what you sell. This means they don’t have to listen to all the call to find out if they could potentially gain some benefits.
The potential benefits are what will motivate the prospect to answer your questions, so the better you are at stating the benefits in your introduction and reason for the call the more motivation there is for the buyer to keep listening and move with you to the next stage.
After a few questions you will decide, notice I said you and not they, you decide if they could possibly benefit from what you sell. If they won’t benefit you will tell them and politely end the call, which means you’ve saved them some time and they can get on with what they were doing. You can sell the prospect the idea of answering a few questions, to see if there are benefits for them, as a benefit of your call.
Here is an example of the feature and benefit that we used earlier as a Reason for Calling now being used as a Motivator. In the example we are using the potential benefits the prospect could gain, and the features that deliver them, in a motivating statement that will help us to move smoothly to the Questioning Stage.
Benefit: Greater discounts on stationery orders.
Feature: Supplies all the buyer’s stationery needs.
Motivator: So I can see if we can supply everything you need, which will save you time and give you one invoice with the best discounts available, would you tell me…
The Motivator example above is short and simple and very effective. You are giving the prospect a reason why they should answer your questions.
You can add a line about how you are saving the prospect time, by asking them a few questions to see if they would benefit from what you sell, before you arrange to meet with them.
On a call to a direct sales customer at home, which had become very informal, I heard a caller use the Motivator: To save you listening to a sales pitch that may not have any benefits for you at all, let me ask you… It worked well, it was the right line, by the right caller, to a prospect that reacted well to the honesty of it.
Using the example above you can see that to create your Motivator you select a benefit, it usually works well when using the same benefit you used for your Reason for Calling. Then select a feature that provides that benefit and put the two together as a question, your Motivator.
Straight after your Motivator you go into the first question of the next stage of the call. No gap, no waiting for permission, the prospect will stop you if you haven’t motivated them to answer.
More Sales People Should Use Motivators
I don’t know why more corporate sales trainers don’t use this technique. It’s really effective at getting the buyer moving with you and it helps to prevent smoke screen objections of being too busy to talk, or not interested.
When I was making my own cold calls and I got those objections, before I developed these techniques, I would get really frustrated and blame the prospects. Now I realise that it wasn’t the prospect being illogical or awkward, it was me that wasn’t motivating them with potential benefits.
Motivators are usually used as you move from one stage of the sales appointment call to the next. They can also be used at any time when you feel the prospect may not be moving forwards towards agreeing to meet with you.
If the conversation has become stuck at one of the stages use a motivating statement to influence the buyer to move with you. You simply say, you need …insert whatever it is that you need from them at the next stage of the call… so you can give them …insert a benefit…
I said earlier that this technique works in conversations where you are trying to influence someone to take an action. As above, you start with a benefit the person you are influencing could gain. You then think of a feature or an action that will supply that benefit. You put the two together and add the action or change you want the person to take or make. For example:
If you know where all your clothes are you get the benefit of not having to get up so early in the morning, so could you tidy your room now.
Connecting lines and motivators work well at many stages of the selling process and they can contribute to you gaining more appointments and more sales.
Your next task, create your Motivator to connect the Introduction to the Questioning Stage using the information and example above…
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Getting Sales Appointments: Questions to Qualify the Prospect
Your objective at the Questioning Stage of the call is to discover if the prospect is someone that could buy your products or services. You are qualifying them as someone who it is worthwhile you investing your valuable selling time in by meeting with them.
The primary objective at this stage of the call is to question your prospect to gather information that you need for you to qualify them as a potential customer. This is Need to Know information.
A secondary objective is to discover Want to Know information about the prospect. This is information that could help you to prepare for the meeting with them, but only if they qualify as a potential customer. knowing this information before the meeting moves you further along the selling process and it can be very beneficial to a productive sales appointment with your prospect. This is not as important at this stage of the process as the Need to Know information, and if on the sales appointment setting call you think the secondary objectives is best left until another time, perhaps due to the length of your call, then that’s fine.
The two markers that highlight your pathway through the Questioning Stage are:
- Asking the Need to Know Questions to qualify your prospect as a potential customer.
- Asking the Want to Know questions that will help you to prepare for the meeting. (Optional)
At the end of the first marker you will make a decision on whether the prospect meets your criteria for a potential customer. If they don’t, you politely end the call leaving the door open should you have other services or products in the future that may be of benefit to them.
Need to Know Information
Let’s start by looking at the information you need to know to qualify the prospect as a potential customer, and then we’ll work out the best questions to ask to discover that information.
What is the minimum information that you need to know to make your decision on whether the prospect is a potential customer and therefore worth meeting?
I suggest you start with any restrictions and rules that you or your company have in place for new customers. Are there minimum size orders, do they have to be in certain geographical locations to receive orders or services? Does a customer need to be of a minimum size, or employ above a set number of staff? What about financial requirements such as turnover?
If you sell to the public what is the qualification criteria? Do they have to have been in employment for a minimum length of time so they can get credit approval, or own their home, or have lived there for a certain number of years? How about their age is that information necessary?
Some of the Need to Know information could be related to the services and products that you sell.
If you sell a service for company vehicles, then the prospect must have vehicles. If you sell solar panels the prospect’s house may need a roof and you could be wasting your time if they live in an apartment block. If you sell a service for shipping items abroad, the prospect must have a need for the service. There may be a minimum amount of times per year they use the service or an annual spend to make it worthwhile meeting with them.
Without me knowing what your sales offer is it’s left up to you to understand what the minimum criteria for having a possible need for your offer is. The only things to include in this Need to Know information are those that are a must-have.
Write a list of the information that you need to know about your prospects for you to qualify them as someone that can buy from you. I have highlighted the word can because we are not talking about whether they will buy from you, this is nothing to do with the chances of you closing the sale.
Your first task for the first marker of this stage is to write down what you need to know about your prospect to qualify them as a potential customer…
Want to Know Information
For those prospects that you have successfully qualified as potential customers, what else would you like to know before you meet with them?
The first sales appointment with a new prospect will often be a fact finding mission. In some industries you gather information from the customer at the first meeting and only then can you start to think about what the ideal sales proposal will be.
To get you all the information you want the customer may also need to take some time, and all this extends the time of the sales process. The benefits of getting the Want to Know information before the first meeting is that it can help you to prepare for the appointment and move you further along the sales process, which can save time and in some cases the need for additional meetings.
If the prospect already buys what you sell from another supplier, or they buy something similar that gives them similar benefits to your product, you will want as much information as possible about the supply, order size, contract terms, and what it does and doesn’t do for them.
If they are virgin business, they don’t currently have a version of what you are selling, then you want to know about their needs, wants, and desires, related to what you sell.
The more of this Want to Know information you can get, the easier the sales process will be when you meet with the prospect. But, if the prospect becomes reluctant to answer your questions, or either of you feels that you are getting too far into the actual sales pitch, you can back off and continue the questions when you meet.
Remember your objective is to gain agreement to a sales appointment. Want to know information is not imperative at this stage and you can meet your objective, to qualify the prospect, without it.
Your task now for this marker, is to prepare a list of Want to Know information that it would be ideal, but not crucial, to have before you meet with the prospect…
Asking the Questions to Gather the Information
You’ve probably noticed that while we were discussing the actions and objectives for the last two markers, which make up this stage of the call, we’ve talked about the information and not the questions that you should ask.
This is because if you have a script with your questions written down you will ask them in a scripted way, and that’s what we are trying to avoid. With scripted questions aimed at getting specific answers you will find you tend to use alternative or closed questions. These are short and require short answers. If this goes on for any length of time the prospect starts to feel like a suspect being interrogated.
A much better way to script your markers is to have a list of the information that you need and then gain the answers using a normal conversation.
When to Ask Want to Know Questions
I often get asked by salespeople that I’m training, why do you recommend asking the Want to Know questions straight after the Need to Know questions. If I don’t gain agreement to a sales appointment where I can use the additional information all that additional questioning time was for nothing.
I can see their point, and they are right, if they don’t get the agreement to a sales appointment they have wasted some time on the additional questions. I can see why they might want to ask the questions once an appointment is confirmed.
If you find that you want to change the order of things slightly and wait until you have got commitment to an appointment before asking the Want to Know questions, that’s fine. But there are several reasons that I think make it more beneficial to ask them straight after you have qualified the prospect, and before you gain agreement.
Once you’ve got the prospect answering questions it’s better to keep going and ask all your questions in one go rather than starting again if they agree to meet with you.
While you are asking the first set of questions some of the information that you will gain may be from your Want to Know list.
When you gain agreement to an appointment you don’t want to do anything that would cause the prospect to change their mind. By starting a second set of questions, after you’ve gained agreement, you could lose their commitment and the rapport you have built.
So my advice is to ask all your questions together. You may waste a little time if you don’t get the appointment, but I still think it’s the best option.
Preparing for the Questioning Stage
You now have 2 lists of information that you want to get from your customer, one for each of the markers in this stage of the call. On your script, alongside your markers I suggest you have some prepared examples of the questions you will use to start the questioning stage.
Remember where the last stage finished and this one begins. The Motivator Stage ends by you telling the prospect that in order to see if they can have the benefits you’ve mentioned you need to know… and from there you go straight into your first question of this stage. Now you want to prepare that first question.
Look at your list and choose the information you are going to elicit first to start qualifying your prospect, then create a question that will get you that information.
Your final task for this stage is to create just the opening questions to get the conversation started. You should ask the rest of the questions in a conversational style using your lists of information as reminders. If necessary, you can write a question for each piece of information you require but make sure you use open questions to start each new topic and group questions on similar topics together.
A Quick Recap of the Questioning Stage
The objectives of this stage are to gather enough information to qualify your prospect as a potential customer and, if they do qualify, obtain more information that you can use in preparation for a sales appointment with them.
The Questioning Stage has 2 markers on your appointment setting script: The Need to Know information and the Want to Know information.
You have written 2 lists of information that you need and want to know, and you have prepared conversation starters, or a list of the questions to ask.
You ask the first question, to gather Need to Know information as part of the Motivator line from the last stage and continue from there.
As the prospect responds to your questions you note the information and use it to decide if they qualify, and in preparation for a sales appointment should you gain agreement to one.
When you’ve asked questions and got all your Need to Know information you make a decision on whether they have met the criteria for becoming a customer. If they haven’t you politely end the call.
If the prospect has qualified as a potential customer, you move forward to the next marker and ask the Want to Know questions.
When you have all the Want to Know information you require, or you sense the attention time of the prospect is waning, you stop asking questions and move on to the Gaining Agreement Stage of the call.
Gaining Agreement to a Sales Appointment
You’ve now completed the Introduction of you and the company, and you’ve used benefits to gain the attention of the buyer in your Reason for Calling.
You kept the buyer’s interest and motivated them to answer your Need to Know questions so you could decide if they qualified as a prospect. If they did qualify, you’ve asked Want to Know questions to help you to prepare for the meeting. Now, in the Agreement Gaining Stage, the objective is to get the prospect to agree to meet with you.
How to Ask for Agreement to a Meeting
The best way to ask for agreement to a sales meeting, is to not ask for agreement to a meeting.
Many sales people and sales trainers approach this part of the call in the same way they close a sale. They try to gain agreement to a meeting with a closed question that requires a yes or no answer. They’re basically asking for an appointment.
I disagree with this approach, and I know from experience in real sales situations that there is a much better way to do it. You just need to change how you view this part of the call. If you view gaining agreement to an appointment as a decision that the buyer has to make, then it makes sense for them to make a decision and respond to you with a yes or no answer.
If you want to avoid getting a no answer, don’t ask the question.
That’s a good rule to be used at any stage of the sales process, if you don’t like the answers, change the questions. Don’t ask the prospect for a decision on, if they will meet with you. If there is no need to put yourself into a position where you could get a rejection, a no answer, then don’t put yourself there.
Change Your Viewpoint
You’ve asked questions that have qualified the prospect as someone that could buy from you. There is the possibility of a benefit for you and for the buyer, the win – win we spoke about earlier at the Reason for Calling marker.
If you have used benefits in your call so far then the buyer is already aware of how they may gain from meeting with you, but they may not yet have all the details of what you can do for them.
A good perspective to have on what should happen next is: You will propose to the buyer that you should meet, so that the buyer can then make a decision on whether to buy from you based on what you present to them at that meeting.
The important phrase is: At that meeting.
They can’t make a decision now on whether to buy from you because they don’t have enough information yet. This is one of the reasons we don’t go too far into the sales process when making the appointment calls. Even if you could sell your products and services over the phone you will want to keep something back as a reason to meet the prospect, otherwise it becomes a telesales call.
The viewpoint you want them to have is: By agreeing to meet with you they are only committing time to investigate further the potential benefits that they could gain. They are not committing to buy, or take any other action, only to meet with you.
You are proposing to move to the next logical step, a meeting where you can ask more questions, present a sales offer, and them they will be in a position to make a buying decision.
No need for linguistic tricks or bullying, and there’s no need to wear the buyer down until they hang up the phone or surrender to your request and then probably don’t turn up for the meeting. By taking this alternative viewpoint you have a logical reason as to why they should meet with you.
This is a simplistic model of what happens next as many sellers will have more than one meeting with potential customers as they go through their sales process, but you get the idea. The prospect is only committing to the next step in the process.
The Words to Use to Propose the Next Step
This is the first marker point of this stage of the call. I’m going to give you guidance, suggestions, and examples, to help you to choose the words you will use to propose that you and the buyer move forward to the next step in the sales process, the meeting.
Using what follows, you can then put the proposal to take that next step into your own words and note down on your call script whatever you need to remind you of what to say.
Proposing a meeting is done in 2 parts, two markers.
Marker 1: You explain to the prospect why you should meet using a feature and a benefit.
Marker 2: You gain agreement to a meeting without asking for an agreement to the meeting.
1. Explaining Why You Should Meet
You are going to use a Motivator again to give the prospect a reason why they should meet with you and the Motivator needs a feature and a benefit. I suggest you consider using the same feature and benefit that you used earlier as the Reason for Calling and the Motivator. Don’t worry, it won’t sound repetitive, we will use different wording. Here is the model we will use:
Feature: You can use one that you used earlier as the prospect will be familiar with it.
Benefit: To give the prospect a reason to move forward and meet with you.
Proposing the Meeting: Explain why they should meet you including a feature and a benefit.
Using the technique shown above I’m going to use our earlier example of a stationery supplier calling a prospect. I start by selecting the feature and benefit that was shown earlier.
The feature is: Supplying all the stationery products the prospect wants.
The benefit supplied by that feature is: Greater discounts on purchases.
The words I will use to say why we should meet include the benefit and the feature, and make reference to the information the prospect has just given me in the Questioning Stage:
Proposing the Meeting: From what you’ve told me, we can provide all the products that that you use, which means you’ll get our competitive discounts on everything you use. So it sounds like it’s worthwhile us meeting to discuss the products further, and to show you how much you will save compared to what you’re currently paying. Then you’ll have all the information you need to make a decision on whether to use us as a supplier.
Notice the wording of the above example. I have not asked a question, and I have only said that it is worthwhile us meeting. There is nothing for the prospect to answer yet, and unless they are strongly against the idea of a meeting it would be unusual for them to object at this point.
This is the first marker of the Agreement Gaining Stage. Now let’s look at the second half of how you propose a meeting and then I’ll task you to select the words you will use and write your own reminders on your script.
Gaining Agreement to a Sales Meeting
This is the second marker of this stage and it follows straight on from the previous one where you explained why you should meet. Here you’re going to ask for agreement to the meeting but without asking for commitment to a meeting. Don’t worry, it will become clear in a moment.
One way to gain agreement to a meeting is to ask when the buyer can meet with you. You have given good reasons why the prospect should meet with you, so it can be seen as the next logical step. If the prospect had any major objections they would have surfaced by now.
So you now choose the right words to gain agreement to a date and time to meet with the prospect.
In the example that follows you are asking when they will be able to meet with you. You are not asking if they will meet with you. You are only asking for commitment to a time and date because a meeting is the logical next step for you both to take.
Let’s take a look at some examples of how you could word your Agreement Gaining and discuss the merits and draw backs of each. Remember these are not the words you will use, they are examples for discussion and to aid understanding of the techniques.
Example 1: I can meet with you on Thursday morning, does that suit you?
It’s simple and straight to the point. It’s easily tagged straight onto the first part where you explained why you should meet.
The only negative is that you could get a no answer because the question is closed. Does that suit you? It calls for a yes or no answer. If the prospect does say No, they have only said no to the day, not the idea of meeting with you, and you can respond with a new date or ask the prospect to propose one.
Example 2: I’m free on Monday afternoon, is there a time that’s good for you then?
Again you could get a no answer because technically the question is closed.
But again this would be a rejection of the day not the idea of meeting. The important concept here is that you are asking for agreement to a time or day, not to the meeting. If you don’t ask if they will meet with you.they can’t say no to meeting with you.
Example 3: Which day is best for you Tuesday or Thursday?
This is a good old fashioned alternative question close that in most cases will get an agreement to one of the suggested days.
The only reservation I have about using this question is that everyone, including buyers, knows this technique.
20 years ago it was a sales secret, only us sellers knew about using alternative questions. But now it’s common knowledge and prospects can get annoyed if they feel you are using linguistic sales trickery on them. So choose words that make it sound like part of the conversation. You could use just the first part and ask which day is best.
This is a very popular way to ask for a meeting when cold calling prospects at home. They don’t come into contact with as many sales people as business prospects do so they are not as likely to spot the alternative close sales technique.
Example 4: I can meet with you on Tuesday or Friday, do you have an hour available on either of these days?
You probably know me well enough by now to guess I would have a personal favourite and this is it.
This example is similar to example 3, but I’ve found that the addition of the line asking if they have an hour free makes it a lot more effective.
Firstly, it tells the prospect how long you expect the meeting to last. Secondly, the additional line adds the effect of making the question not sound like an alternative close. This example is quite an advanced and subtle technique. Let me explain.
There are two questions in one. The first question is asking which day the prospect is available. The second is asking if they have an hour free on either of those days. This second line stops the prospect hearing it as the old alternative question sales technique.
If the prospect says no to the question, then to what exactly have they said no? The days, having an hour free on the suggested days, or the fact that the meeting will take an hour? Whichever it is, it isn’t a rejection of the meeting and you have an opportunity to try again.
Have another read of the examples and gain an understand of the techniques that they are based on. This is advanced sales training and it will benefit you for years to come.
You know your prospects better than anyone. If you feel the examples given in this stage are too salesy, you can mix and match the words and the ideas. You can use your own words to make what you say appropriate for your appointment setting calls.
For example, if your appointment calls are very informal conversations you could use a simple line to gain agreement. Here are some examples:
- Let’s meet, when are you free?
- From what you’ve said there is more to discuss, what’s your diary like for next week?
These examples use the same techniques, but the words are different. Once you understand the techniques you can adapt the way you use them to make them appropriate for any industry.
I’ve trained sales people to make appointment setting calls, using these same techniques, in a wide range of very different industries including: telecommunications, food wholesalers, workwear and laundry services, waste and recycling, advertising sales, pub and club entertainment, and many others. Understand the techniques and you can use them wherever your career or business takes you.
Remember when you are creating your reminder notes, or full script, this second marker, part 2, comes straight after part 1. There should be no gap it continues seamlessly.
Your task is to create the lines you will use to explain why the prospect should meet with you and to gain their agreement to a meeting, without trying to gain agreement to a meeting. You now know what that means now and you can use the same technique when closing sales if you so choose.
As always, write out the full script if you need it, or just some reminders, and make sure they are next to clear markers to let you know you’re at the Agreement Gaining stage of the call.
Make Your Sales Appointment Call Script Work
That’s the end of the 4 stages that form the words you will say on your calls to make sales appointments. As we have gone through the stages you should have written reminders or full scripts, or something in between, next to each marker along the path from where we started at the Introduction Stage.
So for example, in the Introduction Stage there are 4 markers:
- Introduction of You.
- Introduction of the Company or Product.
- Additional Information About the Company.
- Reason for Calling.
On the script you have made for the Introduction Stage you should have enough details next to each of the 4 markers to be able to go through this stage of the call.
Using your script as if you were on a call, see if you have enough detail at each marker to know what you should be saying. If you haven’t, go back to the relevant pages of this book and add more detail.
Once you are happy that your script gives you enough information to know what to say in the Introduction Stage, go through the other 3 stages and see if your script gives you enough detail to know what to say at each marker. If it doesn’t, go through the stage again and make more notes.
When you feel ready, you should complete a full call using your appointment setting script. It is really important that you make some calls and get started with making sales appointments. I know from my own experience making changes to what you are used to doing can feel uncomfortable. But that’s all it is, an uncomfortable feeling. Let me show you what I mean.
Fold your arms, go on fold them it will be worth it I promise. Now look at which arm is on top and which one is underneath. Now unfold them and then refold them but this time have the arm that was underneath on top and the arm that was on top goes underneath. If you managed it, which not everyone does first time, how does this new behaviour feel. Uncomfortable?
If you try it a few more times it becomes a learned behaviour and starts to feel natural. I’ve used this example in so many training courses that I no longer know which way round is new, they both feel the same now. As will your call script the more you use it.
Changing what you say on your telephone calls is just the same as folding your arms in a different way. It feels uncomfortable, it’s new, different, and it can take some getting used to. But, just like with folding your arms, the more you do it the more comfortable it feels.
Now, while you feel motivated, make some calls using your new script, but unfold your arms first.
Your only task now is an ongoing one that you should do regularly to improve your results. After making some appointment setting calls give yourself feedback and agree with yourself what went well and what could be improved, then update your call script.
Learn more about Appointment setting
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