An appointment setting program is a powerful way to grow your business. Regular meetings with new high-value prospects can inject new sources of revenue and referrals into your pipeline, creating a source of consistent new business.
Do not, however, make the mistake of treating a cold appointment like a referral because the sales situations are starkly different.
A referral already has a degree of comfort with you because a recommendation from a friend or colleague carries a great deal of weight. A cold appointment, on the other hand, starts at zero. Your prospect may be curious, but your credibility as a trustworthy expert has yet to be established. As a result, we find that the most successful advisors adopt a sales approach uniquely suited for cold appointments.
The hidden value of honing a cold appointment sales process is that the increased level of difficulty makes every other sales scenario feel easier. The advisor is sharp. The advisor is prepared. And the advisor is confident. Though the initial goal may be to succeed in cold appointments, the end result could be higher conversion rate with referrals as well.
Before you attend a cold appointment, take the following steps to increase your chances of successfully closing the sale:
- Temper your expectations. A referral or warm lead may close in two to three meetings. A cold appointment, on the other hand, may take up to eight meetings to close.
- Have a process that matches the scenario. Just winging it is a mistake, and using a sales approach better suited to closing a referral will likely mean that your pitch does not resonate. You might even consider engaging a sales coach to develop this process.
- Make your plan simple and direct. Set the expectations for the meeting, simplify your communication, and strive to get everyone involved on the same page.
- Research the prospect. Gather as much intelligence as possible. Visit their website, investigate their LinkedIn profiles, and search for articles written about the business or its employees. Consider creating a checklist for your research so that you can replicate your process from prospect to prospect, adjusting as you go if necessary.
- Honor basic professional expectations. Be on time and confirm the appointment via staffer to expose the prospect to your team early on. At the same time, the confirmation can go beyond time and place to reaffirm the purpose of the meeting.
- Treat the first appointment as a consultation rather than a sales meeting. Your singular goal at this point is to confirm that there is a fit between your practice and your prospect’s business and to then set a second appointment.
These tips are built around addressing the biggest challenge of cold appointments: your prospect does not know you, does not consider you an expert, and has no sense of what value your services offer. In this setting, you have a lot to prove to the prospect, so the first appointment is less about sales and more about establishing rapport. You are starting at the very beginning of a relationship, and you have a great deal of ground to cover before your prospect will be comfortable talking about sales.
Even with a better sense of what to expect from a cold appointment, be prepared to endure some growing pains. One of our clients, an executive compensation advisor out of Connecticut who has been in the business for 30 years, admitted that the first few months of his appointment setting program was a deer in the headlights experience. As an established veteran in the industry, he was used to walking into meetings as the trusted expert, but in his cold appointments he was just another guy off of the street.
Now that he has adjusted his approach to match the scenario, appointment setting is a key part of his sales pipeline. He enters every meeting prepared and focused, ready to deploy his finely honed sales.
If you approach appointment setting with a willingness to learn and with the understanding that you may need some practice to leverage their potential for business growth, you too can reap the rewards.
Photo: Markus Spiske / www.temporausch.com / CC-BY