Gaining the First Appointment

Following on from my first article ‘Pre-call Planning’ Sales Person Telephoningwe should have planned that this contact is the correct person to be initially approaching but let us not make the assumption that this person knows we are planning to make an appointment with them and that they too are planners as well. In the first article I made mention of not making a sales call without an appointment. As stated earlier many will say that it is ok to just walk-in unannounced and that you just take your chances but I do not believe in wasting my time or the time of my intended contact as they too are business people who will probably have their days planned ahead and expecting to just walk-in to see them I know is not fruitful and as a senior manager they will not see me without an agreed appointment.

Many, many, years ago I learnt that the best way to sell to another business person is not to sell a product or service but to present a business will this benefit the buyer, business owner or manager? It even has a name, it is called ‘solution selling’ and I have been using the terminology for over 40 years. So, what does this lead to, if you intend to gain an appointment for the first time with a ‘targeted’ contact, you need to think about what you are going to say and here comes the scary will only have approximately 10 seconds for the person to decide if they wish to continue to listen to you. Many sales people when they make their first phone contact tend to waffle with too much small talk, then they sometimes make the mistake of asking if the contact is in the market for an XYZ etc. Most business people do not want their time wasted so will cut the sales person short by usually saying something like...No I am not in the market; just send me some information, and they brush the amateur aside with disinterest.

When designing a telephone sales approach to gain the all important appointment, keep these points in mind from a customer’s perspective: -

Your first contact should provide answers to these questions in basically the order I have presented otherwise you stand a very good chance of failure. Many an amateur has been taught to just ask for the owner of the business or the manager straight up front living in hope of getting to speak with them. So what is wrong with this approach, most business owners or managers are very busy people who in most cases have their days planned so it is highly unlikely this sales person will get to speak to the decision maker. When I coach and mentor senior managers in Time & Priority Management I tell them such things not talk to sales representatives without an appointment, if you feel it is worthy of your time then speak to them but at a later planned date that suits you and only if you think it will be of benefit to you or your business. Also many senior managers have a front protection barrier it usually takes the form of the company Receptionist or the Personal Assistant (PA), you must be prepared to sell to them the reason for wanting an appointment with the decision maker. So you can see that if you go in unprepared you will fail.

With reference to the four main questions that need answering quickly, let us look at them individually: -

Who are you?

Many sales people will not be forthcoming with who they are, tending to just ask for...say, the business owner and giving no other details. If you wish to speak with a business owner/senior manager/PA/Receptionist as one professional to another, announce yourself, with a confident tone, by saying who you are immediately coupled with an appropriate accompanying salutation.

Good morning/afternoon my name is Stephen Hampson”.

Where are you from?

Here once again I am upfront in telling this other professional who I am because I have nothing to hide and believe what I am about to offer will be of value to this organization.

I am from Sales Image, we are sales development specialists”.

What do you want?

Next I tell the person exactly what I want, the purpose of my call, hide nothing be honest. We do not want this person we are talking to, to think that we are being dishonest in any way by hedging around why we are calling, as after all “Time is Money’ remember.

The reason for my call is to make an appointment with you (or John Smith if talking to the Receptionist or PA - fictitious name) to present my company services, proven by many clients to improve sales results by an average 30 percent.

Why should I see you?

Keeping in mind that the purpose of this call is only to sell the appointment, not the product or service, unless of course you really do wish to sell an individual product or service over the phone. The person you are contacting must be able to hear tangible benefits to them and the company in giving you an appointment, present a business solution in the reasoning for seeing you. How you present this is up to you but here is a funny example. Imagine you wish to speak with a medieval king who is fighting a war using lance, arrows, and swords to fight battles by saying can I see you right away versus I have just invented a new weapon called a machine gun which individually shoots the equivalent of 20 arrows a second per person using you think the King may be interested? It is about selling business solutions, think about designing a short statement that creates interest and desire in wanting to speak with you, and remember you are just selling the appointment.

I have many testimonies and referrals from delighted clients which I would like to share with you and how I believe I can gain your company a 30 percent increase in sales”. Then I close by asking for the appointment by then saying...”when would be a suitable time to meet”. And yes it may not work 100% of the time but sales is a numbers game and with planning you will improve your results. Some sales people may say that being too open will lose appointments but in my many years of sales experience, the ones you may lose will most likely not be in the market anyway saving you wasting further time.

If you need to sell the appointment to the Receptionist or PA, then think about why they should connect you with the owner or senior manager thinking about how they are going to justify why they are suggesting their decision maker should talk to you. At all times talk with confidence, courtesy, and respect to a fellow professional and in most cases it will be returned.

Appointment Gaining Tips

  1. Design your professional phone approach to answer the following: -

    Who are you?
    Where are you from?
    What do you want?
    Why should I see you?

  2. Write it out like a script, polish it, practice it until is flows and sounds professional, then hide the script and do not read it, know what to say like a professional actor and with the correct voice inflections, practice it until it sounds really professional.

  3. Now record it and become your toughest critic and say to yourself...would I give this person an appointment, when you can say yes, start calling.

  4. Review each call to see if it can be improved upon.

You may even like to send a personalized email, if you have their address, or a personalized sales letter of introduction to precede your initial phone call, this can in many instances make it easier to gain that important first appointment.

Good selling, Stephen Hampson – Sales Image.