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Sales Solutions
Getting the Appointment - Part 1 vol 4, issue #2
February, 2007

Of all the challenges we as sales people and business owners face, getting that initial face-to-face appointment is one of the most vexing. We all know we have something valuable to share, if we could just get in to meet with the person were trying to reach. The fact is youll never get the opportunity to work your magic as frequently as youd like unless you figure out a way to get more first appointments. So what can we do to increase the likelihood that we will?

A decidedly unscientific study (my own calling experience over the last 15 years) reveals the following results of the typical initial approach call:

  • Gatekeeper answers - 45%
  • Straight to voice mail - 45%
  • Your target answers - 10%

In past issues of The Sales Solution, we discussed strategies and tactics for getting through the gatekeeper, and for dealing with voice mail. In this issue and the following two - were going to focus on that 10% of cases where you actually do get your target on the phone, and how to convince him or her to agree to an in-person meeting.

We can learn something about prospecting from public speakers

Crafting and rehearsing a powerful and effective introductory call script is a critical first step towards getting that appointment. To do so, emulate what good speakers do in preparing and delivering their speeches structure it so that it has an opening, a body, and a conclusion. A solid opening directly announces who you are and piques interest, but avoids making you come across as a pitch man. The body consists of a series of questions that both encourage your prospect to talk, and qualify him for your offerings. Lastly, your conclusion has you asking for closing on - what you called for in the first place: an appointment.

In this first of three parts, were going to dissect the first phase the opening that critical component that earns you the right to get to the next two phases. In the next two issues, well look at those second and third phases the questions that comprise the body of your call, and the conclusion, where we'll cover how to best close on the appointment.

After many years of playing with, tweaking, and completely rewriting initial approaches, Ive hit on one that's been particularly effective:

"Good morning. This is MY NAME. Im the TITLE for COMPANY here in CITY. We specialize in (delivering ABC benefits to our customers). Im calling you, PROSPECT NAME, because your company seems to fit the profile of those that benefit from what we do (have three capabilities available, in case they ask). That said, without knowing more about your business than I was able to glean from my research, I cant know for sure if what we do makes sense for you. If I haven't caught you at a bad time, I'd like to ask you (two or three) questions to determine if it does. May I?"

This opening has been effective for me for three reasons. It:

is direct, and to the point. No how are you?, or other irrelevant comments. Get right down to business. Truth is, at this point you really dont care how this stranger is, and he knows it. So dont pretend you are. Instead, be genuine. In doing so youll earn his grudging respect. Including your location is useful if you're located in your territory, as it forges a subtle geographic connection.

disarms The default opinion of most prospects towards a sales person is that he or she is a self-interested telemarketer working his or her way down a random list of names that you happened to be on. No one on this planet wants to speak with or be spoken to by - such a person! Would you? Coming across as if you are absolutely certain that what youre selling can help this person achieve his objectives - without knowing a thing about what those objectives are - reinforces his belief that youre just another intrusive sales person looking to make a buck at his expense. This elicits a reflexive, defensive reaction. Conversely, saying that you specifically called this person, and providing a rationale for why, often results in a more welcome, accepting reception.

incorporates uncertainty. Im not sure if what we do is right for you. Incorporating uncertainty works for the same reason the disarming technique does. Prospects are put off by the presumptiveness most sales people convey on an initial call. By suggesting there might not be a fit, youre effectively pre-empting the objection (whether spoken or unspoken) that greets most calls: I doubt this is for me. Furthermore, by acknowledging that you share the same doubt hes feeling, you quickly create a bond, as well as a degree of credibility, with your prospect. Lastly, your prospect will pick up on the subtle projection of confidence such a statement conveys, and be impressed by it.

Action Item

If youre not satisfied with the percentage of your initial conversations that result in appointments, try crafting an approach using the template presented here. Just fill in the blanks with your name, company, and the benefits your company provides. Be sure to have in your back pocket the answer to the questions, So just what is it about my company that leads you to believe Id find what youre selling to be valuable. Measure your success rate by comparing it to that of previous calling activity. Then, before the next issue comes out, let me know how its working out.

Good Selling!

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