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Sales Solutions
Getting the Appointment - Part 3 vol 4, issue #4
May, 2007

In our last issue, we discussed how to take the attention you got in the first part of your initial approach call - the "opening" - and build a powerful "body" consisting of smart questions that create both interest in and desire to learn more about your offering. In this issue - the third and last on the topic of "Getting the Appointment" - we dig into the final phase we introduced in that issue - the "conclusion", or how you close on your objective - a meeting.

Having asked a sufficient number of "pain" questions, and getting your prospect to think about - and voice - the consequences of doing nothing, you're ready to go for the goal: the meeting. So just how do we ask for that meeting? There are a couple of techniques you can use. Both use an "assumptive" close - you assume a meeting is desired, and it's just a matter of agreeing on a mutual workable date and time. The first method is to recommend a specific meeting date and time, and gain agreement on it. A better way - since your contact will likely want to invite some of his colleagues - is to offer a choice of days and times. That way, when the inevitable conflict comes up with one of his people's calendars, he'll have a couple of alternate dates from which to choose - all of which work for you. The decision, then, is not between "yes, that date and time work" and "no, they don't," but rather, "this one works best for me, but one of these others might work better for my boss/colleague/partner. Thanks for suggesting those, too."

Questions such as these keep you in control of the process, and reduce the likelihood of an "I'll get back to you," response. This response - which many of us hear all too often - is more likely if you choose the less effective questions, "When would you like to meet? or "When will you next be available?" These questions are weak, and inconsistent with the confident approach you've taken with the rest of your call. You started strongly, you took control of the call with great questions - now you're going to close strongly with one last great question. For example:

"So, Tom, let me suggest a few dates and times for us to get together - Friday at 1:00, next Tuesday at 10:30, or next Thursday at 2:00. Which of these would work best for you, and for anyone else you're thinking of bringing to the meeting?"

What are Tom's possible answers?

  • He picks one of your choices. "Great, Tom. We'll see you next Tuesday at 10:30. I'll send a confirming email as soon as I get back to the office. By the way, is there anyone else you need to check with before I send that email?"

  • None of those options works. "Craig, none of those dates and times works. I'm good on Friday and next Tuesday, but my CFO, whom I'd like to invite, is leaving for vacation Friday, and will be gone all next week." Is that an encouraging or discouraging reply? Well, discouraging in that he didn't accept any of our suggestions. But encouraging in that you just got a critical piece of information - he's wants the money man to be in on the meeting. Your reply could be, "Understood, Tom. You know, I picked Friday as the earliest date because I sensed you wanted to have a few days to consider what we'd discussed. But if you and your CFO are able to meet sooner - well, we're prepared to accommodate that availability. How about Wednesday? Or Thursday?"

  • "Craig, I'm not sure I'm ready for a meeting just yet." At this point, this response is unlikely, given that you've gotten him all worked up. Nevertheless, it's possible. There may be all sorts of reasons why he's reluctant to meet. Our job at this point, then, is to determine what that reason is, or those reasons, are. "Tom, you just shared with me the tremendous cost of doing nothing, and that you believed what we offer might be a workable solution. Can you share with me, then, why you're "not ready" to meet?" And then use your objection-handling skills to uncover, resolve, and help him move beyond his concerns.

As you can see, regardless of the response Tom gives, you have an answer that should get you the meeting you want.

Action Item

Take the "opening" and "body" of your initial approach call you created in the last two issues, and create and add to them a "closing." Try different closings, including one that requires you to deal with a response you didn't expect. Practice by yourself, and then with a colleague. When you feel you have it 80% down pat, start trying it out on real calls. I'm confident you'll begin to see a significant improvement in your call-to-initial meeting ratio, and, eventually, in your call-to-close ratio.

Good Selling!

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