Booking appointments is hard.
If it was easy, then EVERYONE would destroy their quota.
But the truth is, sales is a game of refinement.
Little tweaks that can be done can lead to amazing results… or terrible results if it’s the wrong tweaks.
Here are 6 seriously simple tips you can implement immediately to get results.
1. Everyone is NOT Your Customer
Have you ever had your sales manager say to you, “it’s a numbers game” or “smile and dial?” Or “the more hands you shake, the more money you make?”
Mine did, and this could not be further from the truth.
So, take it from me: become CRYSTAL CLEAR on who your ideal customer is before you start prospecting.
Let me give you an example:
On my first day in outside sales for a box truck leasing and rental company, my boss told me to go out and canvas my territory. He told me to knock on as many doors as I could. So I excitedly went out my first day and knocked on 60+ businesses. It was the beginning of the last recession, and because there were many businesses shut down, I found zero interest and generated zero deals.
I repeated the exact same thing the second day in the row: I went to 60+ other businesses, and… found zero interest and generated zero deals. I was feeling defeated and wanted to quit.
On the third day, I decided to try my luck on the phones! So, I pulled up a list in the CRM and started dialing. I dialed for 4 hours straight, making 80+ dials. But I didn’t book any appointments.
I went to my boss and begged him for help at this point. His advice?
“Just keep dialing. It’s a numbers game.”
The next day, I hit the phones again...
You guessed it: ZERO booked appointments.
I felt awful – how was this so hard? How have I walked into 120+ businesses, made 160+ cold calls, and not been able to book a single appointment?
I wanted to quit, but I was worried that I wouldn’t get another job.
So I called up a rep in another state that was having pretty solid success despite the recession. I asked her how she was getting appointments. She shared with me her very simple strategy. She called on prospects that she had seen with fleets of box trucks. Her logic was that if they had trucks, then they had a need, or would eventually have a need.
It clicked. I had been calling on businesses in a different industry. I was trying so hard to CONVINCE prospects that would have ZERO need. I was trying to sell steaks to a vegetarian!
That night I started making a list of key characteristics of ideal customers. It only took fifteen minutes, and I had a pretty good list.
The next day, I started dialing, and after four hours, I had booked four appointments!
It wasn’t anything crazy, but that was FOUR MORE appointments that I had booked. I was ecstatic!
Over the next three months, I continued to refine my sales process and scripts and became the #1 sales executive. What's more, I held the #1 spot for the next three months!
But six months later, I was asked to take over a different territory, so I lost my pipeline.
I went into this new territory, but this time I came in hyper-focused on uncovering the right target market. Through this simple strategy, I stayed #1 for the next six months and earned two further promotions! This was all due to knowing where to target first.
So get crystal clear on who your ideal customer is and prospect those first! Think: what do my ideal customers have in common? What are their common needs and characteristics? What are their psychographics?
Everyone is NOT your customer.
2. The Separation is in the Preparation
Most companies have some sort of CRM system with purchased data or lists. Unfortunately, most mediocre sales managers will tell you to just ”dial down the list.”
This may seem fine… until you realize that data changes ALL THE TIME. What was accurate one week ago but may not be accurate today.
Therefore, prepare for call block sessions by doing the research before you dial!
Let me share with you an example. In 2011, I started with a brand new company. On day one, I was given a printed list to dial off. After the first 20 or so dials, I found a lot of disconnected numbers and incorrect names.
While I pushed through the first day on the phones and booked seven appointments, I felt exhausted. The data required so much cleaning up that I had made 80+ dials to get those seven appointments.
I knew this was a simple solution, so I just asked my manager to give me the list in advance or let me build my own.
I took the next half-day and just did research. I looked up business types, decision-maker info, news articles, etc.
I booked seven appointments in half the time.
Before I called, I made sure I had the right names of the decision-makers and some basic info. This allowed me to have better conversations on the phone. It’s not complex, but it takes a little bit of time.
As the saying goes, those who fail to prepare are preparing to fail! In today’s world, the information available is so much better than it was a decade ago.
The key is doing it consistently. I blocked time every Friday to make it simple and ensure I was consistent. By taking a few hours every Friday afternoon to do a little bit of research, I was able to find an edge to help me achieve results faster.
So, build time in your calendar to research your prospects beforehand, and you’ll see your results skyrocket.
3. How to Get Through Gatekeepers
Gatekeepers can be tough to get through!
Early on, I learned the best way to get through gatekeepers is to be the complete opposite of a salesperson.
Here’s what I learned.
Gatekeepers used to shut me down frequently.
One day I was sitting in the lobby about fifteen minutes early for my next appointment. I sat within eight feet of the receptionist, who was receiving call after call after call.
In those fifteen minutes, she answered over ten calls, and I could hear each one.
Some salespeople called that sounded just like me. Friendly, outgoing, and delivered a short pitch. She sent those right to voicemail.
Once she heard their friendly voice, I could see her get annoyed as she directed them to voicemail.
Then I observed two different calls. On both calls, she directed them directly to the right department heads.
I noticed that both callers:
a) did not even say who they were with; and
b) their tone was direct.
Once the gatekeeper heard their tone, she immediately transferred without hesitation.
It clicked! Those direct callers probably already knew the person they were calling, so they got through.
So the question was this: If the gatekeeper thought that the decision-maker knew me, would she send my call through? I decided to test my hypothesis the next day.
Every single call I made, I was direct, firm, and did not pitch. I acted as if they already knew me. I felt super uncomfortable, but what results did I achieve?
I was put through to almost every single decision-maker, and I booked a lot of appointments!
This changed the game for me, and I’ve done it this way ever since.
So, don’t act like a salesperson when speaking to the gatekeeper. Being direct and firm converts at a higher level. Find the decision maker’s name through your research process and ask directly for them by name.
4. Simplify to Multiply
Have you ever answered a phone call from a telemarketer?
I can almost see the cringe on your face as most of us have received one of those calls.
Once you answer, they jump straight into a 60-second pitch. The problem is, most telemarketers were given a lengthy pitch script to work from. Then they were told that “it’s a numbers game.”
The reality is simple scripts convert faster and at a higher level. Let me give you an example when I was a brand new sales manager that was benchmarking with a team in San Jose, California.
I was in the bullpen with two reps, Jorge and Carlos, who were new but decent reps. It wasn’t long before I saw them struggling on the phones. So, I asked them if they were open to some coaching, and they both agreed.
I saw the laminated corporate phone scripts on their desk, so I took a sharpie and cut the script down from 60 seconds to about 20 seconds.
I made it as simple as possible and told them to just trust me. They started dialing, and within two to three hours, they both had booked eight appointments and were FIRED UP!
Simplifying the message works because overly complex scripts make the receiver feel frustrated. The longer it takes to get to the point, the more frustrated the decision-maker will be.
Jorge, Carlos and I became good friends. They both achieved President’s Club every single year and got promoted.
Simplify your scripting to make it short, simple, and direct. The easier it is to understand, the higher it will convert. Simplify to multiply your results!
5. Predict the Future with Objection Handling
It doesn't matter how simple your script is or how much research you prepare. You will still have to handle objections. But, your ability to handle objections will determine if you meet your sales objectives.
What I’ve found over dozens of industries is that 98% of the time, most have the same six to eight objections to meet. If you know how to anticipate the objection, you can map out your responses to handle accordingly.
For example, during one of my early sessions of making lots of dials, I was receiving a lot of objections. I made a note of why each person declined a meeting.
You can imagine that after logging 160+ unsuccessful dials, you get a pretty good idea of all the objections. I started putting them into categories. After a while, it started to become quite clear that there were many ways to say the same thing.
I was getting objections ranging from:
- “The economy.”
- “Not interested.”
- “No budget/money.”
- “I’m loyal to a current vendor.”
- “Already have a program/vendor in place/switched to a new vendor.”
- “Under an agreement.”
- “No need.”
I called a colleague in another state and asked how she would respond to each of these objections.
This resulted in the creation of a roadmap for handling and overcoming every objection.
Next, I started testing and tweaking until I refined it into a natural response. If my prospect said “A” objection, I would use “B” response. I did this for every common objection.
Now regardless of the objection a prospect threw at me; I was ready to overcome it. I essentially could predict the future, and as a result, my booking ratio skyrocketed. As long as a qualified decision-maker answered, there was a 99% chance I could achieve a booking.
I encourage you to map out all potential objections upfront and your exact responses to each. This will lead to boosting your confidence and increasing the number of appointments you book.
6. “Curiosity Killed the Cat” Voicemail
Getting the voicemail in sales is inevitable. Some sales representatives leave voicemails, and some don’t.
I’m a firm believer that you should leave a voicemail every single time as long as a certain methodology is followed. Your voicemail must incite curiosity to get the prospect motivated to call you back.
Here’s the deal. I used to think voicemails didn’t work. But that’s because I was leaving voicemails like this:
“Hi Johnny, it’s Marcus with XYZ company! I was calling because I wanted to set up a time to meet to go over my JKL program that will give you Benefit 1, Benefit 2, and Benefit 3! Please call me back on my cell at 541.123.4567! Thanks!”
I literally had approximately a 1% callback rate.
The thing is, I knew voicemails were absolutely vital. I knew that if I called 60 decision makers, I would speak to 10. The other 50 were still viable opportunities, but I just needed them to call me back!
One day, I sent a call to voicemail, and after I listened to the message the caller left, I called them back immediately. Once we were connected, it became clear they were a salesperson trying to get me to refinance my mortgage.
This got my gears turning. Why did I want to call this person back? How did they do it? More importantly, how could I use this technique to ethically get people to call me back?
Then it hit me: They didn’t sound like a salesperson in the voicemail.
Their tone was firm, direct, and urgent. They left a short voicemail that was to the point but vague enough to incite curiosity.
All those things combined made me want to call back.
I started rewriting my voicemail script. It was short, direct, and I referenced an existing client. I practiced it so I could mimic the tone like the call I got. I tested it the entire following week.
What was the result? 60% called me back.
Since they were calling me, their guard was down, and I booked almost all of them as a result. What was also amazing was that if I missed their call, I’d get a voicemail with their direct lines and cell numbers too. I continued to refine this until I was getting a 70% callback rate.
Curiosity is a powerful way to get prospects to take action. So create a curiosity inciting voicemail and see the results.
As a wrap-up
You do not need a silver bullet, tons of experience, or be a “fast-talker” to book tons of quality appointments. If you use these six simple tips that you can apply today, you will achieve great results.
I was the worst rep on the team at a Fortune 500 company when I started in sales. If I could eventually figure out how to book 14-18 appointments per week every week, then so can you.
Keep it simple, and go fill your calendar!