Inside salespeople spend hundreds of hours per week following up on leads in hopes of scheduling appointments for a demo, presentation or field appointment – hoping to push the sale forward. But today the number of cancelled appointments is on the rise, and sales organizations are feeling the fallout from disappearing customers and lost sales.
Today’s sales climate is unpredictable. Factors like larger deals, more competition, and questionable lead quality stretch sales cycles and mean a start-stop cadence for salespeople that throws off their momentum and often amounts to nothing. According to IDC Research, 25% of a salesperson’s time is spent on unproductive prospects.
Deals that look good regularly come unglued, and getting appointments to stick is getting tougher. As the number of cancelled appointments continue to rise, so do frustration levels. More and more inside salespeople are asking themselves the same question: Why did these appointments disappear?
This eBook is designed for the B2B inside salesperson who wants to make sure their appointments stick. You’ll learn how today’s customer operates, the best way to schedule appointments, and strategies and tactics you can use to prevent them from being cancelled.
Today’s Customer is Super Busy and Independent
Today’s elusive customer is super busy, mobile, connected, and independent. They are self-sufficient and prefer to do their own research, bypassing salespeople and evaluating products on websites, social networks and other digital resources on their own.
According to Forrester research, customers wait to engage with sales until they are 60 to 90 percent into the sales process. And when they do engage, they often know more about your product or service than you do. They actually control the buying process, creating their own unique—and hidden—sales cycle: They buy when they’re ready to buy.
When it comes to scheduling and keeping appointments, customers are quick to bail at a moment’s notice. They are extremely skittish, they don’t return calls because they see the phone as an interruption, and they are too smart for promotional incentives.
This leaves salespeople trying to feel their way in the dark. According to IDC research, 85% of reps are struggling to meet quota goals. By gaining more control over the top of funnel activities you gain more control over reaching and exceeding quota goals.
Stacy Sets an Appointment
Here’s a common appointment-setting scenario:
Stacy works in inside sales. For the last few months she’s been following up on a marketing-generated lead for ABC Company where Bob Smith, the IT Director, is the contact. Bob has demonstrated interest downloading white papers and participating in webinars. She thinks he shows all the signs of scoring as a “hot lead.”
Finally, Stacy gets Bob on the phone and convinces him to agree to a demo with her field partner. Bob agrees to a phone meeting and wants to invite his team (two more people) to join in on the call. Since they work as a committee of decision-makers, he wants them together for the demo.
The first available appointment is three weeks out. Due to their busy schedules, that is the only day they will all be together for the call.
Stacy confirms the time, gets their contact info, and sends them a calendar invite for a 60-minute meeting. She also mentions that her sales manager and her organization’s systems engineer are very excited and will also be at the meeting.
Twenty-four hours before the meeting, Stacy sends a reminder.
Cancellation almost guaranteed! Really? Yes. There’s at least a 75% chance this appointment will be DENIED.
What Stacy Did Wrong?
Even though it seemed to Stacy that she was doing everything right, and Bob was really interested, the following red flags indicate that the appointment will never happen:
Stacy never indicated what would happen during the meeting. Most salespeople assume the prospect knows what to expect for the appointment. They forget to dedicate time to setting appropriate expectations. When appointment time rolls around, it may seem like a waste of time to Bob compared to everything else on his desk that day.
What Else Can Go Wrong?
But Stacy is not alone here. Many salespeople regularly set themselves up for cancellations:
Chasing unqualified leads:
According to The Bridge Group, 84% of reps following up on marketing-generated leads found that 70% of these leads didn’t hit their sweet spot.
Poor lead follow-up:
Too many leads are dumped into lead buckets, and salespeople don’t have time to get to all of them. According to InsideSales.com’s Lead Response report, a lead who is called within 5 minutes of requesting information is more than 10 times more likely to respond, and is 4 times more likely to qualify. Yet the same research also indicates that 71% of Internet-generated leads are never called.
No LinkedIn chops:
According to recent Social Selling studies by LinkedIn, 99% of reps with 5000+ LinkedIn connections are achieving quota, and 80% of social introductions generate a sale. It is time for salespeople to take their LinkedIn connections seriously and keep building them.
Help! Today’s customer (and everyone else) is tired of long PowerPoint presentations. They will run away fast from salespeople who promise to hold them in a headlock with endless slides.
Not following sales intelligence:
There is so much intelligence on customers today – ignore it at your own risk! Companies that invest in strong analytics and data, and salespeople who pay attention to it, will stay ahead of their unpredictable customer. Engaging with them after researching and understanding their challenges, needs and pains will earn you more time and respect.
Sounding too robotic:
Today’s customer is too smart for generic and meaningless messaging or robotic call tactics, and they don’t want to talk to a generic salesperson either. Listen up! You will capture the customers’ attention by being authentic and approaching them in creative and unique ways.
Customers behaving badly
What drives today’s customer? A deeper understanding of customer needs and expectations goes a long way to explaining why they send mixed messages, make false starts, break promises and cancel appointments.
- They have a short attention span: This is one of the biggest challenges salespeople face. Customers may be fully engaged one minute and gone the next. They make decisions instinctively and focus on solving a specific need at a particular time. They may agree to something one minute and change their mind the next because something better came up.
- They are digitally astute: These B2B buyers are DIYers. They prefer the do-it-yourself online options for researching and buying products and services to a sales pitch. They are quickly weaning themselves off salespeople altogether by doing their own research and making their purchases unassisted.
- They steal micro-moments for shopping and buying: They are crazy busy and like to shop in spare moments, maybe searching for product information in the middle of a meeting about something else. They may pick up their cell phone and just buy impulsively while they’re on a break because they have a spare second.
They are socially savvy: Today’s customers prefer to rely on their social network and peers for advice and information instead of salespeople. When they want to learn about a product or service, that’s where they go first. Even after you talk to them, they’ll check with their network.
They are commitment-phobic: This customer likes shopping around, and they lack loyalty – to a brand or to you. If they sense there is something better, they’re gone in a flash.
They hate high pressure: If they sense they are being “sold” to, you won’t hear from them again.
They love visual bling: These customers love visuals and devour the visual entertainment snacks that are now the language of our culture. That means they would far rather take time out to glance at a short, fun video or visually appealing infographic than read a white paper.
9 Ways to Prevent Cancelled Appointments
Eliminating the appointment killers above is a good start. Understanding what drives customers adds to your knowledge base. Now you can put into practice the following cancelled appointment prevention tips to make sure your appointments stick:
Remember that your appointment has already started while you are scheduling it: Scheduling an appointment is a strategic task. The appointment should start the day you set it – not 3 weeks out.
Include the PPP: When confirming the appointment using an Outlook calendar, include the PPP in the agenda: Purpose (the goal of the meeting), Process (what can they expect during the meeting), and Payoff (what is their take-away, how they will benefit).
Send the team personalized LinkedIn invitations: Let them know you’re not a robot. Personalize the invite to say that you are “excited and look forward to meeting them” for your upcoming meeting.
Reserve less time, even if you earn more: Send the invite for no more than 20-minutes. If you start with less time, you will get more.
Listen for their electronic signals: Pay attention to early potential responses.
Nurture them with content: Stay in touch. Identify a few thought-leadership pieces that position your company as an expert in your field and remember your customer has a large appetite for devouring visual and bite-sized pieces of content. Staying close and putting them on a healthy nurturing diet of relevant, fresh and fun content will keep them interested.
Differentiate yourself from Marketing: As you rev up your content engine, remember that marketing may also be doing their own nurturing campaigns. Do not confuse the two. The sales nurturing engine is much shorter, and personalized with visual nuggets. During a 3-week timeframe, you might only include 3-4 short nurturing outreach emails.
Use inviting, short subject lines in emails: As emails continue to get shorter, more salespeople are taking advantage of the subject heading for their email. Your subject line can look like this: “Bob, thought you might like this video” or “An excellent infographic that explains it all.”
Design a confirmation strategy: Confirm as close to the appointment as possible. For morning meetings: confirm the evening before with an email or voice mail just hours before. For afternoon meetings: a morning email serves as a confirmation.
Schedule and confirm the appointment 3 weeks out.
Immediately send a calendar invite requesting 20-minutes or less meeting time.
Invite all attendees and include the purpose, process and payoff, and attach a fun intro video.
Four to five days later, send another video about your solution with one sentence explaining why it is so interesting.
A week later, send them a fun little infographic on the state of the industry.
Two to three days later, send them a copy of a research report – preferably Gartner – that highlights your strength in the market.
A few days before the appointment, reach out to them with an interesting news article that provides statistics and trends in their industry.
24 hours prior to the meeting, resend the agenda and ask them to review it in preparation for your meeting.
Confirm Appointment - For morning meetings: confirm the evening before with an email or voice message just after business hours.
Confirm Appointment - For afternoon meetings: a morning email serves as a confirmation — a call is a chance to cancel.
Make “no cancellations” your mantra from now on!
The Right Appointment Setting Technology
Appointment setting in general needs its own set of tools not found in traditional CRM. The process is unique and requires unique tools. VanillaSoft leads the pack with its Appointment Setting tools.
All the tools and strategies in the world won’t help unless you can see what’s going on with appointments throughout the sales cycle. Run reports to see what appointments are booked and the results of the appointment when entered by the sales rep. Gain insight into what campaigns work the best, which territories are the most fruitful, and know which employees are the most productive.
Make “No Cancellations” Your Mantra
Increasing your number of appointments is about having the right strategy and implementing that strategy with the right sales tools.
Learn how you can utilize sales technology to help you set more appointments, keep more appointments, and close more deals.