Attracting prospective clients isn't easy. Lead generation is tough. This needs to be part of your sales and marketing strategy that receives constant attention. Converting those leads to appointments is an art. Still, we all know that conversations with leads that come from a process of lead generation and conversion beat old-school cold calling any day of the week.
Example: "Hello, can I speak to...CLICK. Hello can I speak to Mr...CLICK Hello can I speak to Mr. Johnson, I'm... CLICK" (Sound familiar?)
Now, once we get the lead on the phone or get their attention with an email therein lies our opportunity to set a solid appointment. Prospects that are cold-called want to get off the phone as soon as possible. They have no idea who we are. A lead, however, is different. A lead has a need. After generating those leads, converting them to an appointment should be (even a little bit) easier. Making those appointments stick, is another matter entirely...
The Biggest Challenge
The single biggest challenge behind making sure that our prospect will be ready to talk at the time of our appointment is US! You and Me. Plain and simple. We often assume that the prospect meant that they were committed to meeting (or even available) when we heard positive words come from the person at the other end of the phone or email. That is not enough. When we make that follow up call and they no longer have time to talk, never wanted to talk, or worse yet, don't remember who we are - that's just a colossal (and expensive) waste of time.
Simple solution: We need to double check and triple check the commitment of our prospect to meet and talk before getting off the phone or closing the email loop. Once the phone is hung up or the final email is sent (or so we thought), it is very hard to remind a prospect what THEY meant (or what we thought they meant.) When we make an appointment, just because it is on our calendar does not mean it made it onto their calendar.
A good question to ask after the time seems to be confirmed: "Should I put this in my calendar in pen or pencil? Pen means you'll definitely be there, pencil means I need to confirm our time together prior to meeting." They'll tell you. You want to know. Confirming is not bad - it is not preferred because it takes time away from selling - but it is not bad.
Remember: An appointment sticks when the prospect is available AT the pre-designated time FOR the pre-designated amount of time. Problem is, when the prospect does not feel included in the decision to meet, then they will correct that decision as soon as the conversation is over. If they feel pressured, duped, or ignored, they’ll cancel the "appointment" and most often won’t tell us. We’ll call and well... see the example above.
The Simplest Solution
The magic behind getting sales appointments to stick is in the time spent collaborating prior to the commitment to meet as well as the gentle reminders that the time to meet is drawing near. Collaboration in a sales conversation means confirming what is to be discussed in the meeting, who will attend, what time slot works for all involved and homework before the meeting if there is any.
When there is collaboration between the salesperson and the prospect, there is ownership on both sides. The meeting time becomes important to both parties. The appointment actually happens the way it should happen - in a productive manner for all involved.
Once the appointment is made gentle reminders are also key so we don't waste gas or time preparing for a meeting that the prospective client flat out did not remember that day. It is best to have some kind of technology send that gentle reminder to the prospect. This leaves us free to try to book our next appointment.
Inbound marketing can bring us leads. Lots and lots of leads. But converting these leads to appointments is up to us. As the salesperson, we own every sniff of an appointment we can get. But, prospects don’t own sniffs, they own time. Time is very valuable to them. When they make an appointment with us, they are deciding to put off other things. The worst thing we can do is sell the prospect on the appointment. They should feel the need to invite us in, even if we were the first to suggest a possible time to get together. Prospects want to feel like they would have invited us in eventually, anyway.
And reminding them of the upcoming appointment doesn't hurt, everyone gets busy. So, in my next post, we'll cover great apps to make your sales appointments stick.