Lisa Vitale Appointment MakingAppointment-making third-party services – while an attractive proposition – may be losing their luster for the B2B market, at least for companies selling more complex solutions.
At first glance, outsourcing your B2B appointment making seems a perfect solution. After all, you can save your valuable sales staff the frustrations of cold calling, while reserving them for the higher value functions of their job. By streamlining this process, you’ll save considerable time and resources, as appointment making is essentially a numbers game – there’s really no way around it, you simply have to engage in significant volume dialing to obtain a small number of appointments.
Of course, there are reasons why the volume of calls is necessary. One is that people avoid calls from people they don’t know. Few people like to be pitched on the phone when they haven’t had time to make a considered and informed opinion for themselves. Another reason is that we are all so busy, who has time for random phone calls? So even though using an appointment making service has it’s attractions, it’s also important to consider your market and your buyers’ persona. Are your target prospects likely to accept an appointment with little previously established groundwork – the definition of a cold call. If they have time for a meeting, sight unseen, they may not be the person you need to be speaking with in order to move your sale forward. What will it cost you to meet these less-than-ideal appointments in terms of resources, labor, and opportunity cost?
The motivation for the appointment setting service is to set as many appointments as possible – to minimize their cost and deliver the promised number of appointments. Performing lead qualification with any degree of depth will be challenging because it’s simply hard to get beyond the basics without having an in depth understanding of the product or solution and how it can help each particular prospect.
But perhaps the strongest argument against traditional appointment setting services takes into account what we know about B2B buyers and influencers. Buyers, and especially those with complex challenges, like to be well informed via the Internet and social media before they will agree to interact with unknown sales people. If it seems you do have an interesting solution, they will want to vet you, and it, before agreeing to an appointment. If they do agree, they may well turn into a “no show” if they aren’t impressed by what they find online.
Yet getting appointments is a critical component of the sales process, even though cold calling increasingly goes against what today’s prospective buyer expects from their journey. One option that technology companies are finding increasingly effective is the prospect survey. This process begins with developing a target list of accounts then moves into phone-based contact discovery to identify those with the appropriate roles and responsibilities for purchasing the vendor’s solution. Qualified contacts are then incentivized to opt-in to a survey, which explores the various challenges they face. The survey culminates by asking participants how they would like to be contacted by the survey sponsor.
By engaging respondents in a willing dialogue about their challenges, it not only becomes easier to arrange for follow up appointments, it also creates an expectation that the survey sponsor may have a stronger solution. The survey is implemented by a third party adding to the credibility of the survey sponsor and leads can be passed onto an appointment making service for further pre-qualification, if desirable.
The key to success it to make sure that the survey company you hire values the quality of your leads over sheer quantity. And start thinking of this, not as a front-end solution, but rather as a valuable step for later in your sales process. Consider engaging your prospects first via a well-crafted survey and then ask them to select the next step themselves. Those that opt for appointments are likely to be much higher quality leads than those who reluctantly agree to a meeting based only on a minimal conversation.
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What steps have you taken to make your appointment setting more effective?