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The 5-Step Strategy to Get Sales Appointments

When you first reach a prospect, the temptation is often to try to sell your product then and there. Resist this urge! Your job is to sell a face-to-face meeting. Only telemarketers try to close a sale over the phone, and that approach is exactly why they have dismal closing ratios. In order to move your prospects a step further along the sales cycle, you want to give them just enough information to get them to agree to an appointment. Leave them wanting more and they’ll be eager to meet with you.

Step 1: Preparation

Before you actually pick up the phone, fire up your computer and see what you can find out about that person. Search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can give you an amazing amount of information with a few clicks of the mouse. Companies almost always have a website with lots of useful data, including names and even direct phone numbers for decision makers. The more you know about the prospect, the better you can fine-tune your approach.

Step 2: The Strong Opener

From the moment the prospect picks up the phone and says “Hello,” you have about 15 seconds to get his attention. Your first sentence should be crafted to give him a powerful reason to listen to you. Here’s where your research can really pay off. If you can find something major that has just happened to your prospect, good or bad, you can use it in your opener. That will not only get the prospect interested, it will impress the prospect that you did your homework ahead of time.

Step 3: Qualify

Now that you have his attention and interest, ask a question or two to determine if he really is a good fit for your product. Don’t try to do a full qualification; your goal here is just to weed out the ones that are clearly not able or willing to buy. If that’s the case, there’s no reason to waste your time and theirs by setting an appointment.

Step 4: Offer a Benefit

Come up with something that you can do for or give to your prospect during the appointment, whether or not he ends up buying from you. It could be a tangible gift such as a small gift card, or an intangible one like a free one-time consultation. Whatever you decide to give, it must be something that the prospect will value or it won’t be much of a motivator.

Step 5: Set a Date

Once you’ve gotten to this point, you can and should assume that the prospect is ready to meet with you. So pick a date or two and ask him if that’s a convenient time for your appointment. Some salespeople prefer to give a single time, saying something like, “I have an appointment in your area at 2:00 on Tuesday, can we meet at 2:30?” Others find that giving a choice of two different times works best. Stick with whichever system is most comfortable for you.

As with most aspects of sales, persistence pays off. A prospect might not be willing to meet with you the first or even second time you call, but by the third time you’ll find that his situation has changed and he suddenly has a need for your product after all. Other prospects will blithely set an appointment and then not show up, or forget all about it until you appear at their office. In that situation, the prospect is probably mildly interested in your product but not enough to actually take the time to see you. Adding urgency, like a special price that will be expiring soon, can break the logjam long enough to get you your appointment.

About the author

My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.

As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.