B2B Appointment setting: qualified sales leads metrics to set your expectations

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What are reasonable expectations and some basic rules of thumb for a B2B appointment setting campaign?
Whether you are the appointment setter or the manager of a b2b sales team, particularly an inside sales team, you need to have reasonable expectations. Your numbers must make sense, otherwise your lead nurturing efforts will generate nothing but frustration.
Let’s start with the most important questions.
  • How much would you pay for a qualified opportunity?
  • How much would you pay for a new account?

Those are the initial questions. Not how many dials? Not how many emails do you have to send?

Start with determining how much you can pay for a new account or a new opportunity.
If you want a sustainable lead generation program, those numbers come first. 
Everything you do must fit within those numbers, or you will abandon your efforts. What good is it to start if you are doomed from the beginning?
What YOU would pay for a discovery call will depend on these factors.
  •  Average revenue for a new client / account.
  •  Margin on those accounts
  • Lifetime value of a new account.
  • Referral value from that account
There is another consideration as well, strategic value. Should you be willing to go negative for a while, to enter a promising vertical?

Appointment setting metrics from two common scenarios.

Each of these are on opposite ends of the setting discovery call spectrum.

Common B2B services:

On one end, you might offer a service that many companies buy. Think commercial cleaning or managed services of some type. Many companies buy these services, they change vendors at times. Typically sold on a month to month or annual renewable basis for between $500-$5,000 monthly.

High end consulting projects:

On the other end you may offer advisory services of some type. Your project size ranges from the low six or even seven figures.
Many times, these projects are sold with a two-step system. For example, one project I worked on the first sale was an assessment for $25,000. One in three assessments converted into larger consulting engagements of $500,000 or many times over $1,000.000.

First question to determine reasonable B2B lead generation probabilities?

How many fish are there in the pond? If you were to reach out to 100 suspects that fit your best prospect profile, how many would be an active buyer? What is an active buyer? My definition is a company that fits your prospect profile. They recognize a need you can fulfill, and will buy from someone (maybe you if you are at the table) within 3—15 months.
If you are offering a more common B2B service, assume that between 15%-18% of suspects within your profile are active. That means that on some level, they recognize a problem they need to fix and are likely to hire someone within 3—15 months.
If you are offering high end consulting projects, it might be more reasonable to assume that only 1% or 3%, or less, of suspects are active buyers.

Proper management priorities for appointment setting system

Most focus first on b2b appointment setting scripts. Big mistake. Your great telesales scripts do you no good unless your sales reps are talking to the right people, and enough of them.
It is your total lead generation campaign system which serves up primo sales conversations so that your great sales scripts can do their job. No system, your sales team will scramble to turn garbage leads to a decent lead. Good luck.
When you know your numbers, you greatly increase the odds that the appointment setting efforts of your sales team will lead to the closed accounts necessary to reach your sales goal.

Some prospecting numbers from my experience

How many sales appointments should you expect per week?

For more common B2B services, prospecting 15—20 hours weekly should net you 4—8 high level qualified appointments. Fewer means you are calling the wrong prospect list, your appointment setting campaign process (How often you call, when you call, stop calling, your sales and marketing “touch” strategy and more) needs to change or your phone scripts lack impact. I have seen more, but a range of 5-7 is very typical.
Sales managers may push for and celebrate a higher number of meetings per week, but what good are b2b leads that don’t convert?
If sales management just pushes for more and more meetings, appointment setters and salespeople respond by booking lower quality meetings to get the manager off their back. Looks good temporarily, but those meetings won’t convert. Drive-bys and glorified literature drops are not legitimate qualified meetings.
Not only that, but those lower quality “prospects” that don’t convert to clients distract from being able to nurture and close the quality meetings that are set. More meetings for the sake of more meetings are never a good thing.

What is a reasonable b2b lead generation rate from any “group” you prospect?

If you complete your appointment setting process with 100 companies, how many qualified appointments should you expect?
Please note the phrase “complete your appointment setting process.” An appointment setting campaign process will include multiple calls (minimum nine) and multiple touches (minimum of 6) which usually are voicemail, email and LinkedIn messages. But, when they make sense, could include snail mail, lumpy mail, ravens, texts, video messages and more.
If your #1 priority and benchmark is how many dials should we make per day, you are doomed. Other factors have much more impact on whether you generate discovery calls that sell.

Different dial scenarios have different levels of impact on active buyers.

Nine dials each to 100 decision makers: Call a specific named decision maker within 100 companies with a planned sequence of a minimum of 9 dials and 6 touches over two weeks. (900 dials.) The highest impact on buyers.
Placing 900 calls to 900 different targeted decision makers erratically. Some get one call, some three, no proper plan or call process, just make dials (900 dials.) Lowest impact on buyers.
Which scenario is your sales team closest to?
But let’s get back to the question, if you execute your complete call and touch process with 100 targeted decision makers within 100 different companies, how many qualified meetings should you expect?
This is the way to think. If we call 100 companies that fit within our top prospect profile, how many are active buyers?
If you are selling a more common B2B service, the answer would be typically 15% – 18%. The next question would be how many of these 15—18 within each group might you reach? Of those you do, how many would meet? If you were to reach 2/3 of them and half agreed to meet, that would mean about four meetings from every group of 100.
If you are offering a high-end consulting type service, the number of active buyers would be 1% – 3% or less. Make a reasonable assumption of how many you might reach, and what percentage would meet from there.

The velocity of your outreach efforts matter

I hope you see how overreliance on dial activity is shallow. The quality of the group called, your ability to reach active buyers in each group, the conversion rate of conversations to meetings, what percentage of those meetings are qualified and show, the closing ratio and average size of sale from qualified opportunities, have far greater impact on the success of your B2B outreach efforts than how many dials you make.
To have a successful appointment setting system, you need to think this way.
You dump fresh meat into your system. These would be new leads or leads that fit your profile that are due for another cycle. You work your process on them until they say yes or no, or you have reached the point of diminishing returns. As you work your process, you are sorting these records by potential value and identifying those that won’t meet now but provide a date for you to be back in touch.
As you complete your process on some records, that creates more room for you to start your process with other records.
The key to getting maximum results is the efficiency or velocity that you work through groups of records. My strong advice is to get all the other factors that determine success right first. Focus initially on building out a process that works. Once you have a process that works, now you can seek to accelerate it. Not before.

How long is the typical set-the-appointment sales conversation?

2 ½ minutes. If your conversations are typically longer, sales prospecting results will plummet. Fire your best core script verbiage right up front,. Get a clear “yes” or “no,” then move on.

Once you hear “No,” how many can you turn into a qualified lead?”

25%—33% of your appointments will be set after you hear “no,” “send me some info,” “call me back,” or “we are all set.” If you understand what is going on and are managing a strategic sales process, you have expected all common repetitive scenarios and are prepared with proper rebuttals, you will set more meetings.
Some decision makers won’t be able to grasp your concise benefit laden and credibility building verbiage right away, so they say “no.” You hear a sales objection not because your decision maker “gets it” and says “no,” but because your decision maker is still processing your verbiage. They feel they have to say something, so they say “no.”
Of course, because your business-to-business sales team is working a total lead gen call process and not just making dials, they are prepared and eloquently deliver the carefully crafted verbiage which is most likely to achieve the business result you seek.
Look at it another way: you boost productivity by 25% – 33% just by being prepared for common call scenarios and rebuttals, not by working harder or blindly “making more dials.” You are already making the calls. Use every opportunity you can to turn dead end calls into qualified opportunities.

What is a reasonable closing ratio from these meetings?

If you are working a pure cold calling program, you are looking to close a client that has not been referred, has not sought you out or does not know you by reputation, then the best closing ratios I see from these types of leads is 20% to 25%. Closing one in four or one in five qualified opportunities from stone cold outreach efforts is reasonable. At times I will see one in three.
Closing 1 in 6 or 1 in 7 is often acceptable, but if your closing rate is less than 1 in 10, something is seriously wrong. Margins and cost of sale have a big impact on what is an acceptable closing ratio.
If your closing ratio is less than 10% then you need to go back and reevaluate your prospect list management, your call process and phone scripts and how you “qualify” these meetings.

The greatest reason by far for a low closing ratio.

Low closing ratios can often be predicted in advance. If the prospect list is crappy or watered down, the best call process and phone scripts in the world won’t help you close. All too often, I see sales teams calling crap records when high probability prospects are staring at their phone and email boxes with no calls from you.
The closing ratio is not the only issue you should be concerned about. Customer retention and the average lifetime value of these closed clients are major determinants of success. A close is not a close is not a close. You want to close them, keep them and have them refer others to you.
Sales managers, sharpen your pencil, make some reasonable assumptions and determine if your lead gen efforts have a chance to work out. If the math doesn’t work on paper, it certainly won’t work when your salespeople call.
Get a handle on…
  • Suspects called to appointments set ratio.
  • Appointment to closed account ratio.
  • Average new account size.

Now the B2B cold call fun begins. Play “what if.”

To generate X volume of sales per month, I need to close Y accounts, which means I need at least AA number of appointments, which means I need to launch my process with BB number of new suspects every month.
If the prospecting math makes sense, you now know how many decision makers you need to call at what pace, with an acceptable appointment setting success rate and closing ratio.
If your numbers make little sense on paper, they will never work in the real world. These are common scenarios.

If your suspects called to appointments set ratio is too low…

…you need to focus on your calling efficiency and effectiveness. You are probably working a list that is not properly profiled, reaching out inefficiently or calling haphazardly. Tighten up your call process and prioritize the target groups you are calling.

If your appointment to closed account ratio is too low…

… in the 5/1 or 8/1 range, you need to tighten up your first meeting skills and probably need to re-evaluate how you are communicating value (it always comes down to perceived value) and executing the multiple touches necessary to manage a sales pipeline.
The root causes of low closing ratios are that the targets were lower probability to begin or how you conduct your initial discovery call and manage the front end of the relationship needs to improve.
How you manage the early stages of a relationship has far more impact on your closing ratio than anything you do at the end.
If you are certain your team is calling the right decision makers within higher probability companies, then look to your first meeting skills and how you are managing the sales pipeline.

If your average account size is too low…

… it is always because you are calling too many of the wrong targets. Go back and evaluate the industries and size of companies you are calling on and you probably find that you are calling on too many companies that cannot reasonably be expected to buy at levels necessary for you to justify the prospecting effort.
Doing the prospecting math before you call tells you whether you even have a chance of success, and where you need to adjust to reach your sales goals.

How many weeks does it take to go from prospecting chaos to working an effective system?

10—20 days from “go’ you are set up and trained on a customized contact manager or CRM, your targets have been profiled and carefully selected, you have a call process plan, and all your starter phone scripts are written. You call with your new system and within about two weeks start booking appointments. It takes another 7—10 days to write and get comfortable with your response to resistance scripts/strategies and power calling techniques. After that, you should test some options and making constant marginal improvements to your sales messaging and process.
As you go along, you will become more efficient and faster, but don’t pour gas on a fire until it is burning. Get all your foundation elements in place and see results before you seek to automate or crank up the dials.

The key to b2b appointment setting?

It’s mostly organization and process.
You don’t need advanced technology to be very successful in high level call environments. The biggest key is not the scripts (everybody wants to focus on scripts, but they shouldn’t) the qualification of the prospect call list and prioritizing that list so that the higher probability lead groups gets called out before the average quality lead group, which is called out completely before you even think about calling the lowest quality lead group.
If you don’t know with a high degree of certainty based upon facts, research, and verification the highest probability leads to call, you are doomed. Guessing and assuming which companies should be called is a great way to drive a company into the ground.

Bonus: When should you go negative?

Sometimes you make a strategic decision to “go negative” when trying to establish a foothold in a vertical that is promising to you. In that case, the above numbers get put aside until you get enough appointments and accounts in that vertical to establish credibility, referrals, stories and the skill sets to penetrate new verticals.
Once you get those initial foundational accounts in your new vertical and have learned how to do it, then you can move toward numbers that are more sustainable in the long term.
So, before you call, set reasonable expectations for each of the component parts of your b2b lead generation campaign. Know the metrics of a solid lead generation campaign adjust and tweak sales messaging, behaviors and process to get congruent with those numbers.
Ultimately, success is determined by money in and money out. How much are you investing in your lead generation effort and what is it adding to your bottom line?
Schedule a call to get answers to your questions.