Setting Appointments

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Organiser with a pen and mobile phoneSetting Appointments

Executive Summary
It’s simple: Make efficient use of the telephone and set good qualified appointments and you will succeed. Fail in this one area and YOU fail. No matter how great your product, or professional your sales presentation or even that enticing offer you’ve just put together, if you don’t have a consistent stream of qualified prospects to listen to your story, you are doomed to mediocre sales at best.

It is essential for a professional sales person today to be able to get through to qualified prospects and set solid appointments. However, today’s consumer has changed. It has become increasingly difficult to pick up the telephone and set appointments.

To set an appointment, is to make a sale. You must “sell” the appointment as if it were a completely separate product or service. And, as with selling any product, you must have an effective and comprehensive sales process. Therefore, you must have a distinct and detailed selling process exclusively designed for setting appointments. This template will systematically lead you to design your own telephone sales process to set appointments in abundance. It does not matter if you need to set up meetings with Mr. and Mrs. Consumer in the dining room or Mr. CEO in the boardroom. Once you have the tools and, the confidence to pick up the telephone and create sales opportunities, you will begin to top the sales charts with consistency!

The Prime Objective
The most important issue in setting appointments on the telephone is to remember your primary objective: to set an appointment. While this focus may sound obvious, most sales people routinely lose this focus while making sales calls. You have to refrain from selling your product or service or from selling yourself or your company. What you are selling is the appointment. You must keep your focus on the one objective of setting up the meeting. It is during that meeting that you will sell your product, self and company—not before.

Sell the Appointment
As with selling anything, the basics of a sales presentation apply when selling appointments. To effectively sell anything, you need to:

1. Uncover a problem, thereby exposing a need
2. Present the solution to the problem to solve the need
3. Ask the prospect to take action now for a mutual benefit

However, before you can sell the appointment or anything else for that matter, you must get through to the prospect that has an open mind and will listen to your story. Before you get into your sales presentation to sell the appointment, you must develop an approach that will allow you to spend your time with prospects that are receptive enough to warrant your time as a professional sales person. To do this, you will “qualify” the prospect. You are going to screen all of the people you call so that you spend time on calls that you are reasonably sure will be worth your valuable time as a professional.

Get Rid of the Smile & Dial Mentality
One of the main problems sales people have on the telephone setting appointments or selling is the way they “sound.” When a “telemarketer” calls you, you can tell within the first three seconds that the caller is a sales person. There is a distinct sound affiliated with a telephone solicitation call that acts like a warning beacon to your potential customers. It is an abnormal tone of voice and pace of speech that is primarily due to a big phony smile and an unnaturally overenthusiastic attitude. You must get rid of the fake, forced, façade and sound like a normal person; like a businessperson. So first, lose the big smile and tone down your enthusiasm.

Next, you must reverse the old cold-calling philosophy of the “push” or “pitch” mentality. Stereotypical cold calling methods and “scripts” teach you to force your telemarketing script on anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. The idea is that if you can keep the prospect on the telephone long enough, perhaps you can get to the “good part” before they hang up. The typical script is designed to suppress or smother responses from the prospect until much later in the call.

You do not want to push or force your presentation on anyone. Nor do you want to spend your time with people who sincerely do not want to spend their time with you. What you want to do is simply find people who are receptive and in a state of mind to listen to you when you call. If a person were truly unreceptive or too preoccupied to listen to you, then why would you want to spend your time trying to force him or her? Instead of pushing your story on unreceptive people, you are going to put all prospects through a short series of tests that will let you screen out calls that may prove unproductive. You might call these trial closes that you will use within the first few seconds of the call. If the responses to these trail closers are positive, then you move on. However, if the prospect exhibits too many negative traits, then the possibilities of setting the appointment are weak. Therefore, you can choose to terminate such calls before you invest a lot of time.

The Screening Process
You are going to create a telephone presentation that will screen your prospects during the first few seconds of the telephone call so that you spend most of your time only speaking with prospects that provide the highest percentage for setting an appointment. The following is the “structure” and outline for you to design your presentation. It is not a script. It is a process. Your actual words can and should change depending on with whom you are speaking. You are going to pre-qualify prospects before you invest your time in a full presentation and closing for an appointment. For those prospects that fail to qualify, you will terminate the call and go on to the next call. You can decide which people you will re-call at another time and the ones you will not. For those who pass your screening, you will move to set an appointment. With this process, you will save enormous amounts of time and set more appointments.

Your first trail closes or tests for the prospect are to determine if you are calling at an opportune time. If you call someone at a time when they are legitimately preoccupied with something else, they may not hang up or even tell you, but you will not have their attention. In such a case, it is better to get off the telephone and call this prospect at a better time. Within the first few seconds of the call, you want to determine if the call is convenient for the prospect.

Then, you want to determine if the prospect has the right attitude toward you, your company and the product or service that you sell. You want to find out immediately if the prospect may have any pre-existing reasons that may prevent them from setting an appointment with you. If the prospect has some preconceived negative feelings about your product, you want to find out within the first eight seconds, not after eight minutes.

Finally, you want to technically qualify the prospect as to your target market and specifications. Does the prospect need to own a home, a business or a new car? Must your potential customers have a certain amount of employees or earn a particular amount of money? Before you go any further, you want to be sure this prospect has the capability to do business with you.

The prospects who pass those first three brief qualifying stages are the people you want to talk to. Now you will make your presentation as you will uncover the problem, expose the need, present the solution and close for the appointment.

Questions, Pauses and Stutters
To elicit these responses from the prospect you will of course ask a few questions. But you will also use deliberate, strategically placed pauses or stutters to give the person a chance to respond.

The Introduction: Time and Attitude Testing
First, listen intently from the moment the telephone begins to ring. You want to pay special attention to how the prospect answers the telephone. If you are going through a receptionist, then still pay close attention to exactly how the prospect answers the line. You can easily tell if someone is preoccupied, by the way they answer the telephone, if you just listen. Usually, the sales person is so concerned with what they are going to say to the prospect that they pay little attention to the first sounds and words the prospect makes. Listen for clues that reveal the prospect’s mental state. In your introduction, you want to test the prospect as to the convenience of the call and their response to your company name.

Prospect: “Bill’s Automotive. Bill speaking”
Sales Person: “Ah, Bill Johnson, please.”

Our sales person realises that the person is more than likely the owner, Bill Johnson. But the key is to elicit responses from the prospect. So, the sales person asked to confirm, thereby getting an additional response.

Prospect: “Speaking.”
Sales Person: “Yes, Bill, John Harris with ABC Life Insurance… (Pause)…how are you?”

You want to pause and listen intently to the prospect’s reaction to hearing your name and the company you work with. You also want to listen to the response to the question, “How are you?” This is not a rhetorical question, as you really want to know if the prospect is in a good mood. If this prospect has not offered any negative responses thus far, it is likely the call is relatively convenient for the prospect and so far there are no ill feelings about you or your company. Remember, you are giving the person as much opportunity to object if they have an objection.

Go to the last page of this document and design YOUR PERSONAL INTRODUCTION. You want to be sure to pause, giving the prospect ample time to respond to your name and the name of your company. Note, that if the prospect wants to engage in a little bit of friendly banter at this point, that is ok, but do not force it.

Introduce Product or Service – More Attitude testing
Now you want to make it very clear exactly why you are calling. Let the prospect know your purpose. You just want a brief statement that explains what you do and sell. You also want to make it clear that you work with other people similar to the prospect; you work with their peers.

Sales Person: “Yes, Bill, ABC Life, we work primarily with independent business owners like yourself on tax favorable insurance plans, and … (Pause)… or “do you have a quick minute?” And pause

Prospect: “Yeah, sure”

Pause again and allow the prospect the opportunity to raise an objection to the idea of insurance. You can also ask the prospect if they have a moment, though this is not always necessary. If the prospect still has not raised any negative feedback at this point, you can be reasonably certain that this person is at least open to the idea of talking to a life insurance sales person. This does not mean that they are guaranteed to set an appointment, but you did not run over the prospect. You allowed him time to offer a negative response or an objection and none came forth


Sales Person:“Bill I am talking to all of the business owners in your area, are you the sole owner there, Bill?

Prospect: “Yeah. Well, just me and the bank”

The sales person uses a quick question for the final technical qualifying stage. Design your TECHNICAL QUALIFYING question now.

Now, that this prospect has passed the psychological and technical qualifying stages, you can go into your presentation. Remember the steps to a sale: Uncover a problem, present the solution and ask for action

Sales Person: “I’m sure you are aware, Bill, that often independent business owners usually end up paying too much money for their machinery and property insurance. The large corporations save money because they insure millions of dollars, but usually the independent business owner pays way too much, you know what I mean?”

Prospect: “Yeah, well it’s no walk-in-the-park anymore that’s for sure.”

The sales person presents the prospect with a problem. It is a problem the prospect will easily understand and recognise. It is also a problem that all of his peers share. The problem has to be one that all prospects in the peer demographic can relate to.

Design your PROBLEM STATEMENT now.

Sales Person: “Well, Bill we have a program that helps the independent owner like yourself save tens of thousands of pounds in premiums and offers tax savings as well. You don’t have to have a million pounds worth of assets to save 20, 30 or even 40%…(pause)”

Prospect: “Oh yeah?”

Sales person presents that he has the solution to the problem. Design your SOLUTION. Remember, your objective is to sell the appointment ONLY. Do not get into detail on your solution. You HAVE the solution to the problem, but a personal meeting is necessary for you to present it.

Sales Person: “Anyway, the reason I’m calling is that I am getting together with some business owners in your area next week, basically to introduce myself and to show you how I can help you save a little money….

Sales person: asks the prospect to take action now because he is seeing other “like” people who share the same problem, next week.

Sales Person: “Anyway, I’d like to get together with you Bill, say this Thursday, at 2:30, or would you have a couple of minutes around 4:00?”

Always use a simple “alternate of choice” to close for the time. Design your CLOSING QUESTION.

Prospect: “Well, I don’t really need any more insurance right now. I have plenty. Why don’t you send me some information in the post?”

If the prospect offers some objection here, don’t panic. Remember that you are NOT in an adversarial relationship. You already screened out those prospects that would have offered strong resistance in the beginning. You are speaking to someone who is open-minded. Do not hit him over the head. Most important, DO NOT TRY TO SELL THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE. Stay focused on the appointment only.

Sales Person: “That’s great, Bill. We only work with successful business owners who are ALL well covered. We’ll sit down for a few minutes and I’ll share a few innovate ideas with you. In itself, the information that I leave with you, will be of great value to you. Are the mornings good for you, we can chat over a cup of coffee Bill, or is it easier to get a short break in the afternoon?”

Also, remember to always end that objection response with alternative choice of close. Design your OBJECTION Answer. You may wonder how you can design an answer to an objection that you have not heard yet. Understand that any objection from the prospect at this point is going to be about buying the product or service. So, in almost every case, you can use nearly the same response to get back to focus on the appointment.

Prospect: “The mornings are out I mean it would have to be after 4:00.”

Sales Person: “No problem, Bill. Let’s say we get together this Thursday, at 4:30, will that work for you?

Now simply rap it up by confirming the date and time. Design and complete your presentation keeping in mind, that this is a process not a pitch. You want a presentation that is PLANNED NOT CANNED.

Your Personal Telephone Presentation Process for Setting Appointments

Your Introduction
Determine time, convenience of the call
Your Introduction of Product/Service:
Test Prospect’s Attitude
Technical Qualification Question(s)

Prospect is qualified—time to go for it!

The Problem: Peers all share this problem
The Solution: Not too much detail. You have the solution but need to meet
Your Closing Question: Alternate of choice
Possible Objection: You are on the same side—sell only the appointment

Confirm the appointment!

Happy Appointment Making!


Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Sales Blog

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 18 September, 2008