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(Dis)Appointment Setting - Are Appointment Setting Firms Setting You Up for Disappointing Sales?

12 Sep, 2007 By: Dan McDade imageSource

(Dis)Appointment Setting - Are Appointment Setting Firms Setting You Up for Disappointing Sales?

Appointment setting services sound great. The general suggestion is that
companies that use these firms to schedule meetings for their sales reps will
get appointments with real prospects instead of simple leads.

In fact, companies that employ appointment setting firms have often done so
after their low-level lead generation programs haven’t led to desired results.
Appointment setting has to generate greater benefits, right?

Well, not really.

In reality, appointments made by these firms are usually no better than the
low-value leads culled from a trade show or mass-marketing campaign. While
companies presume that scheduled appointments are with highly qualified
candidates, few of them actually are. Companies may agree for your sales rep to
show up, but many of the meetings won’t turn out to be with bona fide prospects.

It is important to remember that appointment setters aren’t focused on
finding the best prospects – they just want to get your sales reps as many
appointments as possible.

The most logical argument against appointment setting is ironically at the
heart of its selling proposition, which is this: Someone who agrees to see your
sales representative is more qualified than another prospect that’s simply been
forwarded to your rep as a lead. Not true. In actuality, anyone who agrees to
see your rep for any amount of time without the preparatory conversations
required for real sales lead qualification has more time to waste than most
senior-level executives, and may not be the right person to talk to in the first

Over many years of executing successful business prospect outsourcing
programs, I’ve provided clients with sales lead qualification services that help
improve their sales performance. I’ve learned that appointment setting rarely
works, and for the following reasons:

1 - Appointment setting increases costs without corresponding benefit.

On the basis of “guaranteed appointments” companies send their sales forces
out on expensive appearances across town or across country where sales lead
qualification has not been done. This is a huge cost incurred for business
opportunities that generally don’t pan out. To illustrate the point, a former
sales executive of a large software company that used appointment setting
services reported to me that as many as three out of five of those appointments
offered no real opportunity. Additionally, at least 20 percent of the so-called
prospects didn’t even remember scheduling the appointment. While this is the
experience of one organization, it speaks to the universal problem of
appointment setting: lack of sales lead qualification.

2 - Appointment setting is the right sales step, but it occurs at the
wrong time in the process.

Most of my clients sell complex, relatively expensive solutions requiring
the involvement of multiple decision makers and multiple levels of evaluation.
Could a costly appearance with one person, without advanced discovery, be the
most efficient first step with a new prospect in that situation? I don’t think
so, either.

3 - Appointment setting forces your sales people into a cold call

Understandably, sales reps prefer to know something about the people they’re
selling to and present in a warm environment, rather than make a cold call. If
correct sales lead qualification is done ahead of time, rep visits are like
discussions with a trusted advisor or new friend. Conversely, if the sales rep
has to go in cold, all the focus is on the presentation. Worse, the audience is
unfamiliar with the message and may be naturally distrustful or even
argumentative. How many of your field sales people are great cold call

4 - Appointment setting is not the best representation.

Pick up the classifieds section of any newspaper and you’ll find dozens of
ads for “appointment setters,” usually headlined as follows:

  • "Earn up to $2,500 per week setting appointments.”
  • “Earn money setting appointments, no cold calling.”
  • “Earn $100,000 per year part-time, no experience necessary!”

You have to ask yourself whether these are the types of people you want
engaging your market for the first time. If you never get a second chance to
make a first impression, do you want that impression to be made by someone who
responds to one of the headlines listed above? No. Instead, you’ll want to work
with professionals with deep expertise in high end sales lead qualification.

Don’t fall for snake-oil solutions

It’s tempting to believe that appointment setting firms can change your
company’s sales outlook by doing the pre-work required to get your sales reps in
front of prospects. These firms appear to offer a shortcut, but ultimately they
leave out the essential step of prospect qualification. Without it, there’s no
way to ensure that your sales rep is talking to the right person, or that the
person has been properly “warmed” to the product or service before the meeting
takes place.

In many cases, using an appointment setting firm is not much different than
sending your sales rep out on an unqualified cold call.

Listen to the adage that says if something sounds too good to be true, then
it probably is. Putting your budget toward lead qualification programs focused
on identifying and cultivating ready buyers can ensure better results.

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