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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Back in 2006 I posted a blog on Ecademy called "The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting.

I was talking about many of the appointment setting agencies, mainly operating on a pay-per-appointment basis, who are simply "meeting machines". You know, the kind of boiler room operation that squeezes out a supposedly high-level 15 minute meeting just to hit their targets.

If you've ever been sent half-way across the country to find yourself sitting across the desk from someone who's equally confused why you're there - you know what I mean.

My post struck a chord back then and is just as relevant today.

So, the question to ask is - just what is a "qualified" appointment?

Of course, it means something different for each client.

When we start an appointment setting campaign we invest time understanding exactly what "qualified" means to our clients. To answer that question we really need to understand their sales process.

What's that? Sales process? Surely our job is to book the appointments and let them worry about the rest, isn't it?

The reality is that unless your marketing and sales processes are clearly linked (and the initial sales appointment is pretty much the interface) then you are asking for trouble.

Think of it like this:

There are plenty of acronyms used for qualification; in the sales old-school everyone is taught MAN (Money Authority Need) - "you need to find the MAN".

We prefer to use AIM-T, which stands for Authority, Interest, Money, Timescale (think of Aiming at the Target). We use this because it actually follows the appointment qualification process.

That is, before we call someone we've usually pre-qualified (by targeted data sourcing) the authority level; when we engage with the prospect by phone we start the process of developing and qualifying their interest and, particularly in B2B sales, Money and Timescale can be partly qualified by phone but is usually best qualified as part of the sales process.

On this latter point, whilst it is possible to qualify some aspects surrounding Money, usually by asking questions that uncover whether the prospect is likely to be able to build a business case for your product or service (again this can often be filtered through data-sourcing) we believe that gauging budget and timescales is best kept within the sales process.

So, when is comes to qualified appointments, we need to understand (and sometimes educate our clients) about how they are going to qualify opportunities in the sales process to inform our level of qualification when setting appointments.

Let's look at an example: Say you're selling a high-end B2B product or service, such as a consulting offering or software proposition, with a typical long sales cycle. Whilst, it's true, we will occasionally call a hot prospect who's ready "right now", it's usually the case that they have some lower level of interest.

More often their level of interest will be very early stage and this is one of the great things about telemarketing. At that early stage they are aware of a need but they usually haven't acted on it (which means they haven't called in the competition yet).

The question is, at what point is their interest level high enough for us to set an appointment with them?

If our clients have a solid sales process in place then we may book an appointment with a prospect with the right level of authority and is willing to "take the meeting". Taking a prospect from this mild level of interest to closing a deal takes effort and skill but the rewards are that you're often not competing with other vendors (or at least you have the opportunity to influence a RFP and develop a relationship with the prospect).

Alternatively, if a client has less of a established sales process (or perhaps they are just extremely busy) then we take on the process of further qualifying and nurturing the lead until it's ready to book.

To do this we have to invest in clearly understanding our clients' business and proposition.

It can be a fine line and quite subjective, but that's why our people are so experienced at booking qualified appointments.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 7:44 am |   | Links to this post  

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  1. Feedback At 11:33 am ~ Blogger Nikki said...

    that's really a fantastic post ! ! added to my favourite blogs list.. http://www.appointment-plus.com

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