Closing a deal is always the most heavily emphasized aspect of sales, but you’ll never have the opportunity to close deals without landing appointments first.
Prospecting and securing appointments is arguably the most important step in building an effective sales process. But it’s also tricky to do. To secure appointments, you have to be strategic, bold, and relentless. To put it bluntly, you have to earn it.
Effective salespeople need to know when to ask for an appointment (and when not to), how to leverage technology for appointment scheduling, and how to prevent momentum-killing no-shows. But proper discovery, confidence, and setting a conversational tone are also crucial to securing the appointment.
Here are six tips on how you can secure more appointments with prospective customers and eventually close more deals.
1. Make time for discovery
The number one reason so many salespeople fail at securing appointments is they continually use the same rehashed email template or cold calling script. Sure, the majority of your emails will have similar elements and calls-to-action, but no two emails should be entirely the same. You have to find a way to add personal touches. With enough personalization, the recipient should feel like you’re talking to them, and only them.
Making time for proper discovery is very important. You need to to get to know prospective customers before hitting that send button by following these email prospecting best practices. Otherwise, your email ends up unread, deleted, or marked as spam like the majority of the other emails people receive every day.
Here are some ways can learn about a prospective customer:
- Take a look at their LinkedIn profile for job descriptions, endorsements, recent awards, promotions, and other interests you can use to personalize your conversation.
- Google them to find public social media pages so you can learn more about their interests, motivations, values, influences, and personality.
- Comb through their company website (if they have one) to read news stories, vision statements, product releases, about us information, and any other section that can provide basic context about the company.
2. Always show confidence
Getting a response from prospective customers is half the battle, one that you’ll almost always lose if you don’t sound confident in your emails and over the phone.
Most cold calling fears stem from salespeople feeling like they’re taking up someone else’s time. Salespeople who don’t speak with confidence use phrases like:
- “I’m sure you’re very busy.”
- “I would be super grateful for just five minutes of your time.”
- “My schedule is wide open. What works for you?”
- “Thanks so much for your time.”
Those types of phrases come across as desperate, needy, and insecure. Also, it gives them all of the power because now believe even more that their time is more important than yours and they’re doing you a favor.
An alternative approach is valuing your own time, showing confidence in yourself, and believing in your product or service. If you truly believe what you have to offer could solve a pain point for them, then your call or email may be the most important thing they receive that day. Approaching every interaction with the right attitude will pay dividends in securing more appointments.
3. Lead with a conversation
Scheduling an appointment after you’ve just met is highly unlikely. Far too many salespeople try this approach and naturally come on too strong, too fast.
Instead, the goal for the first two to three interactions should be to start a conversation. Shift their focus away from the fact that you’re a salesperson and towards your value proposition. To do that, start a conversation that disarms them, enlightens them, and possibly even compliments them.
According to customers, the three most important elements of a positive sales experience are a salesperson who 1) listens to their needs, 2) isn’t pushy, and 3) provides relevant information. Usually, if you ask the right questions and provide the right information, you’ll keep them engaged long enough to get them asking you questions. Each interaction should build on the other so the conversation earns another response.
The questions you ask should serve two purposes:
- To qualify the lead
- To engage and spark the lead’s curiosity
As soon as they ’re curious, engaged, and qualified, then you can slowly begin to share examples of how customers with similar pain points, interests, or needs have benefited from meeting with you.
4. Ask for the appointment
Once you’ve positioned yourself to secure the appointment, there are two ways to go about it:
- Ask them for the meeting
- Get them to ask you for the meeting
The majority of salespeople ask the prospective customer for the meeting. There’s nothing wrong with that because it certainly works. You just have to make sure you do it the right way. To begin, be specific and clear about why you want the appointment, and give them all the appointment details—date, time, and place (if you’re meeting in-person).
The key here is to make your ask small. Don’t ask for an hour of their time. If you need an hour to deliver your pitch, then you’re talking too much and should work on tightening up your pitch. Instead, you should only be taking up 15-20 minutes of their time. If they want to meet with you again after the first appointment, that’s when you can get more of their time.
Salespeople who secure appointments without asking for them take a slower, more methodical approach. They ask the right questions, emphasize the prospective customer’s pains or goals (not the appointment), and consistently spark curiosity. In fact, salespeople that take this approach almost always avoid talking about their service, product, or making an appointment. This method entails starting a conversation, building suspense, and adding credibility until finally, they ask for the meeting.
5. Use appointment scheduling technology
Getting attention and building the case for an appointment should be the tough part—not the scheduling of the appointment itself. The best salespeople make it easy to say “yes” by using software to schedule the appointment.
Tools like Calendly and ScheduleOnce allow prospective customers to click a link in your email which takes them to a webpage where they can see your available appointment slots by date and time and choose a time that works for them. Scheduling this way requires minimal effort and avoids the endless back-and-forth emails that usually come with scheduling. This Is a win-win for everyone.
6. Follow up to prevent no-shows
Securing the appointment doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Ask any salesperson how often they get “no-showed,” and they’ll tell you it’s a standard occurrence. The key to preventing no-shows is by following up strategically.
The right way to follow up is all about positioning yourself as a partner, not a vendor. Partners don’t “check in” for no good reason, and neither should you. Write the follow-up email or call with new information, something to share, or an important question.
“We follow up at least three times—two emails and a phone call. If there’s no response, we add them to our nurturing sequence. We have decreased our percentage of no-shows by adding a specific agenda to the meeting invite to remind them why we booked the appointment and what we’ll be covering during the appointment.”
Setting appointments with prospective customers takes persistence and determination. You’ll hear”‘no” far more than you’ll hear “yes,” and there’ll be plenty of no-shows. But you can’t let that get you down. Make sure you carve out time to personalize your approach, radiate confidence at all times, engage in thoughtful value-packed discussion and master the art of following up. If you can do that, then you’ll naturally book more appointments—and close more deals.
Sujan Patel is a leading expert in digital marketing. He is a hard working and high energy individual fueled by his passion to help people and solve problems. He is the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency, and a partner in a handful of software companies including Mailshake, Narrow.io, Quuu, and Linktexting.com. Between his consulting practice and his software companies, Sujan’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and marketers scale their businesses.