Throughout my many years in the B2B lead generation business, it’s fair to say that I’ve learnt a thing or two about effective appointment setting (it would be a sorry state of affairs if I hadn’t!).
Not that I do much appointment setting myself these days; I’m too busy running the business here at eMarket2 – a varied task which frequently demands sharing the wealth of my hard-won experience with our telemarketing team.
And, despite the technological breakthroughs that have appeared in recent years designed to help (and hinder) telemarketers, I am still compelled to believe that the secret to effective appointment setting is all about mastering a small number of basic, but nevertheless critical, techniques . Here are five such techniques:
Keep your pipeline filled. Replenish your pipeline with fresh leads from an up-to-date list and continue to top it up as prospects drop out. Working with a stale or redundant list is demoralising and counter-productive. But, that said, it’s equally important to know when to discard a lead, which brings me on to our next technique.
Be persistent. One attribute of a good telemarketer is that they never give up – or at least not until all avenues have reached a dead end. Give a fledgling telemarketer a new list and quite often they’ll motor through it and be demanding fresh leads within a matter of days, in the process having drawn a blank. Conversely, give an experienced telemarketer the same list and, in the same amount of time, they will have barely scratched the surface of his or her database. The main reason for this is that they don’t give up without a fight. Quite often it will take a dozen or more calls to a single prospect to get a result. The experienced telemarketer knows this, and they will not discard a lead until they are convinced they have exhausted its potential.
Vary your calling times. As a telemarketer, it’s too easy to get into a ‘routine rut’, i.e. making all of your calls within a tight and repetitive time frame and following an unvaried routine. So experiment by calling at different hours of the day, especially if you can’t get hold of someone on the phone on the first or second try. One strategy is to begin your calling day outside of regular office hours: you would be surprised at the number of executives who are regularly at their desks between 7am and 9am, and therefore this can be a remarkably fruitful time to call, not least because the usual gatekeepers have yet to clock-in and there is a good chance that your call will be answered in person by the decision maker. Likewise, after 5.30 pm can be a great time to catch people at their most receptive: the gatekeepers have all gone home, the working day is winding down and as such there’s a good chance that a decision maker will be open to receiving to a well-placed phone call.
Do not neglect the influencers. Influencers (and even gatekeepers such as PAs and secretaries) can be your best friends when attempting to reach decision makers, especially in complex sales when there is more than one influencer or decision-maker involved.
Quite rightly, your principal focus should always be on the decision maker, but, as any telemarketer will tell you, this is in an ideal world, and the hard-nosed world of sales is far from ideal. In the event that you find yourself selling through a third party, do not make the mistake of expecting them to singlehandedly ‘sell’ the virtues of your product or service up the line. In most cases they won’t. But, in my experience, third party influencers are able to present your case or, on occasions, act as go-betweens when arranging a face to face meeting. But whenever you find yourself ‘selling’ via a third party influencer, it is important to arm them with the right information to do the job.
Finally, be mindful of ‘you’. By this I mean that you remain constantly vigilant of how you might improve your performance on the phone. Without a doubt, one of the most important factors affecting a telemarketer’s performance is their telephone manner. You should sound as fresh and lively on your 100th call as you do on your first call. If your telephone manner is provocative or monotonous in tone, people will switch off and you’ll never get past the first fence. Keep your tone sharp and lively. Be pleasant and engaging, but without being in any way ingratiating or condescending. And, critically, learn to be a good listener. The hallmark of a bad telemarketer is that they seldom stop to draw breath. Rather than engaging with a prospect, they speak ‘at’ them, not ‘with’ them.
As with so many aspects of lead generation success, the devil is in the detail, and frequently it’s the minor variances (often very subtle) in working practices that determine the difference between excellence and mediocrity.
Shortly after moving into 10 Downing Street with his wife (and new Prime Minister) Margaret, Denis Thatcher was presented with a tricky question by a wily reporter: “Who wears the pants in this house?”Denis Thatcher: Iron Lady?