What’s the most important metric you can track in sales to determine whether you’re going to hit your sales goal?
Most people think it’s sales numbers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In all my years of research, I’ve found that the most important metric to track in sales is the number of appointments you’re setting with prospects.
Let me put that another way. The most important metric to track in sales is the number of discovery meetings or appointments you set. Your ability to set the appointment is critical to your success in sales.
Simply put, if you consistently set the appointment with solid prospects, you will hit your sales goal—period.
Of course, what you do and say during those meetings has a tremendous impact on your sales efforts, and whether they are productive and effective. But the most important piece of the puzzle is just setting enough appointments in the first place.
It’s time to stop struggling to convert a conversation with a good prospect into a scheduled appointment. In this video, I’m going to show you the 7 keys to set the appointment with any prospect in sales. Check it out:
Key #1 to Set the Appointment: Don’t set an appointment with just anyone.
Great salespeople don’t try to set the appointment with just anyone. They only try to set the appointment with the right person.
I was just talking to a customer of mine in my online forum. He said, “I’m having a lot of success setting appointments with marketing people at various companies. But once I meet with them, they say, ‘Oh, well I need to get buy-in from the company owner before we can move forward.’ What could I be doing differently?”
This was my immediate response: “You’re setting the appointment with the wrong person.”
The key is to set the appointment with the right contact, the real decision maker, the person who has access to write a check—or at least has a budget to pay for what you do.
So, the goal isn’t to just set an appointment with anyone who has a pulse. Instead we want to be sure that we set the appointment with people who seem like they will be qualified to have a real conversation and ultimately make an effective decision to move forward or not.
Key #2 to Set the Appointment: Disqualify the rabble during discovery.
This is important. Sometimes, salespeople get so excited when they have a person in front of them who is willing to pick up the phone and talk. But we can’t know if someone is qualified just because they’re willing to get on the phone with us.
That’s why we want to do some partial discovery on the initial phone call to determine whether a prospect is qualified. Ask questions that will help you understand whether the prospect is the right person to do business with.
What types of answers is the prospect giving you? Is the prospect down in the weeds or taking a big-picture view? Does the prospect understand the cost of the challenges at hand? Does the prospect have the right kind of problems for you to solve? If the answers to these questions don’t paint the picture of your ideal prospect and decision maker, then you can know up front that the prospect is not a fit.
One of the key distinctions between top-performing salespeople and everyone else out there is the ability to disqualify the rabble during discovery—and thus spend the majority of their time in front of truly qualified prospects.
The other powerful effect of this is that you’re not going to come off as needy, because you’re not trying to set the appointment with just anyone. The prospect will notice this and think, “Wow, this person feels like a true professional because they’re not just trying to do anything to get into my office.”
Key #3 to Set the Appointment: Be a doctor.
Your prospects typically meet with salespeople who will do or say anything just to get the sale. This manifests with the salespeople putting lots of pressure of prospects and being salesy in a variety of ways. In order to set the appointment with your ideal prospects, you want to be the complete opposite of this. Give your prospects the opposite of their typical buying experience.
The best way to do this is to act not like a salesperson, but like a doctor.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you go to an orthopaedic surgeon because your back hurts. Do you think that doctor will immediately say, “Well, you’re in the right place! We have this incredible new procedure that has all the bells and whistles you’re looking for! We’re going to chip away at the bad stuff, get you back walking within a week, and within six weeks you’re jogging again! So, are you ready to do it? Here is the contract.”
No, of course not.
That’s not how a good doctor behaves—but that is how salespeople often behave. The prospect comes to him, mentions a challenge, and then the salesperson says, “Well, we’ve got the solution for you! We are the best at this and we can do it better, faster, and cheaper than anyone else. So, would you like to do it?” Eek. It’s pretty gross, right?
You almost need to take a mental shower of that. Instead what we want to do is behave like a doctor. Take the time to diagnose the challenges that our prospects bring to us. If a prospect says, “We are having some issues with our marketing,” instead of saying, “Well, we can solve that,” say, “So, tell me a little bit more. Help me understand what’s going on with your marketing right now.” Get them engaged. Be that doctor, and dig more deeply.
Key #4 to Set the Appointment: Understand the upside.
To successfully set the appointment, the prospect has to feel like there will be value in meeting with you. So, put yourself in the shoes of your prospects. They’ve got a million things going on and the last thing they want to do is spend 45 minutes with a salesperson who is wasting their time.
So, during your initial prospecting calls, you need to help your prospects see the value of potentially working with you. And one of the key ways to do this is to help them understand the upside of solving their problem.
A lot of salespeople get this wrong because they focus on the ROI their prospect will get by working with them. But what’s actually more important is getting the prospect to tell you the upside of fixing their problem. This is understanding the upside.
Here’s an example. I’m talking to a company’s CEO and she says, “Our sales team just isn’t firing on all cylinders.” I ask, “Well, if you were able to get your salespeople firing on all cylinders, what do you think that would mean in additional revenue to the organization?” And the CEO replies, “I think we could easily be doing an additional $5 million in sales.”
Time out. Do you see what just happened there? I asked what seemed like a pretty benign question and I got the prospect to actually start to do her own math, to talk about the value that my solution could potentially bring to the company.
Of course, this doesn’t draw a direct line from my solution to $5 million. But it does get the prospect to think, “If I could solve this problem with this person, it could mean an additional $5 million for my organization in revenue.” That is the upside value of working with me in that particular situation.
You can do this for every single selling situation. Upside doesn’t have to be increased revenues. It could be decreased costs or additional profitability. But every solution is going to have an upside. What you want to do is get your prospect to articulate what the upside is to solving those key challenges.
Once you do that, the obvious value of working with you—or at least of setting that appointment with you—becomes incredibly apparent.
Key #5 to Set the Appointment: “Can I make a recommendation?”
These five simple words are so powerful when it comes to being able to set the appointment with your ideal prospects. I’m giving you some real secret sauce here. The phrase, “Can I make a recommendation?” is really powerful when it comes time to transition into scheduling the appointment in sales.
And here’s why. Let’s say you’ve gone through the initial conversation, you’ve gotten them to articulate the upside, and you’ve determined that this is someone that you definitely want to be setting a meeting with. You then need to transition into setting the meeting by starting with this phrase. By asking, “Can I make a recommendation?” you naturally cause the prospect to say, “Of course.” At the same time, this exchange sets you up as the expert who makes recommendations. And now they’re completely open to your suggestion.
Next, you would say something like, “Why don’t we schedule an appointment? We can get together face-to-face for about 45 minutes, and we can dig into some of these issues much more deeply. I could also share some best practices on how we might go about solving those challenges. Does that make sense?” And naturally they’re going to say (assuming you’ve done a good job up until then) yes.
If they don’t say yes, how you would respond? We’ll dive into that in Key #7 to Set the Appointment, so keep reading.
Key #6 to Set the Appointment: Always schedule a clear next step.
This is so important for sales in general, and it’s critical for actually setting the appointment. I want you to make a commitment to yourself that you are never going to allow any selling situation to end with an unclear outcome.
Salespeople are doing this all the time. They’re on the phone with a prospect and it kind of ends in a wishy-washy place and the prospect gives them something like, “Hey, why don’t you call back in a month?” And the salesperson says, “Ok, sure.”
Instead, make sure that there is always a clear next step at any point in the sales process—but especially at the beginning. You want there to be a clear scheduled next step where a calendar invite goes out to the prospect—and they accept it. Even if they say, “Could you give me a call back in a month?” say something along the lines of, “I’d be happy to do that. Do you actually have your calendar in front of you so we can schedule something? That way we don’t have all that back-and-forth and miss each other.” If they say no to that then you know you’re in trouble.
But if they say yes, now you’ve at least got something in the books.
Key #7 to Set the Appointment: Have a contingency for when they push back.
Often we’re in a selling situation and the prospect gets a little bit squirrelly. And they say, “This was a great conversation but the timing just isn’t right. Could you call me back maybe in six months?” And a lot of salespeople go into something that sounds like: “Oh yeah sure, happy to call you back in six months. Would it make sense to call you on a Monday or Thursday?” or whatever weak response they have.
Instead, I want you to have a contingency in place for when they push back on setting the appointment. Let’s say the prospect says, “I’m really busy this month. Could we maybe get together next month? Shoot me an email in a month and we can set something up.” Reply with your contingency: “I really appreciate your saying this, but having done this for a long time, I know that usually people tell me this because it’s a nice way of saying they’re not really interested in ever getting together. Is that what you see happening here?”
Now, that takes guts.
But if you do that, you’re going to find that the prospect will say one of two things. Either, “Yes, this just doesn’t make sense for me,” or “No, I really am busy and would like to get together—this month just isn’t good for me.” In that case, you can reply: “That sounds totally reasonable. How about we put something in the calendar for next month so we can just avoid that back-and-forth. We’ll get together then. But at least we’ll have it in the calendar so this doesn’t just fall off the radar. Does that sound OK?”
Either way, you will know right away whether the prospect is actually qualified, and avoid wasting your time chasing down a prospect who doesn’t want to meet with you. If someone’s being wishy-washy with you on the phone about scheduling an appointment, you don’t have much to lose anyway.
So, there you have it. There are the 7 keys to set the appointment with any prospect in sales. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share in the comments section to get involved in the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.