B2B Appointments: Qualified Sales Leads Metrics to Set Your Expectations

What are some basic rules of thumb for time invested in a B2B appointment setting campaign?

Whether you are the appointment setter or the the manager of a b2b sales team, particularly an inside sales team, you need to have a reasonable grasp of the following metrics. Your numbers must make sense, otherwise your lead nurturing efforts will generate nothing but frustration.

1. How many sales appointments to expect per week.

2. What is a reasonable b2b lead generation rate? (If you complete your appointment setting process with 100 companies, how many qualified appointments should you expect?)

3. How long is the typical set-the-appointment conversation?

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

5. What is a reasonable closing ratio from these meetings?

6. How many weeks does it take to go from lead generation and appointment setting chaos to a complete efficient effective lead gen system?

7. How many hours does it take to get a cold calling system setup?

A successful appointment setting system requires proper management.

Most focus first on better 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 those primo sales conversations so that your great sales scripts can do their job. No system, your sales team will scramble to try 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 result in the closed accounts necessary to reach your sales goal.

Lets review some prospecting numbers from my experience to know if you are on the right track and when to make adjustments.

The answers…

1. How many sales appointments to expect per week?

Prospecting 15 – 20 hours weekly should net you 4 – 8 high level qualified appointments. Less means you are either 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 adjustment or your phone scripts lack impact. I have seen more, but 5-7 is very typical. More tend to be of the drive-by variety, which you don’t want.

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.

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. So more meetings for the sake of more meetings is not always a good thing.

2. What is a reasonable b2b lead generation rate? (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 in some very very limited circumstances snail mail.

Prospecting results will differ greatly in these inside sales team scenarios…

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.)

vs

Placing 900 calls to 900 different targeted suspect companies. (900 dials.)

vs

Placing 900 calls to god only knows how many companies erratically. Some get one call, some three, no real plan or call process just make dials. (900 dials.)

Which scenarios is your sales team closest to?

But lets get back to the question, if you execute your complete call process with 100 targeted decision makers within 100 different companies, how many qualified meetings should you expect. Answer: 9 – 13 would be the norm. Use 10% for planning purposes.

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

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

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

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.

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 anticipated all common repetitive scenarios and are prepared with proper rebuttals, you will get meetings.

Look at it another way, you boost productivity by 25%/33% just by being prepared, 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.

5. What is a reasonable closing ratio from these meetings.

If you are working a pure cold calling program and 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%.

These are usually bigger ticket multiple-decision maker multiple step type sales. 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 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 are “qualifying” these meetings.

The greatest reason by far for a low closing ratio is determined before any dials are made.

If the prospect list is crappy or watered down the best call process and phone scripts in the world won’t help you to close. All too often I see sales teams calling crap when high probability prospects are not feeling any love at all.

Closing ratio is not the only issue you should be concerned about. Customer retention and 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 even have a chance to work out. If the math doesn’t work on paper it certainly won’t work when your salespeople start to call.

Get  a handle on…

Suspects called to appointments set ratio.

Appointment to closed account ratio.

Average new account size.

NOW THE B2B COLD CALLING 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 don’t make sense, these are common scenarios.

IF YOUR SUSPECTS CALLED TO APPOINTMENTS SET RATIO is much more than 10/1, then you need to focus on your calling efficiency and effectiveness. You are probably working with a paper system or calling haphazardly, and almost always calling the wrong target group. Tighten up your call process and prioritize the target groups you are calling.

IF YOUR APPOINTMENT TO CLOSED ACCOUNT RATIO isn’t in the 5/1 or 8/1 range, than 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. Again, a root cause of low closing ratios is that the targets were lower probability to begin. 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 will 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 make adjustments to reach your sales goals.

6. How many weeks does it take to go from prospecting chaos to working a complete efficient effective system?

10 days from “go’ you are setup and trained on a customized contact manager like Act or others, your targets have been profiled and carefully selected, you have a call process plan and all your scripts are written. You start calling with your new system and 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 it takes about a week to set up your Plan B.

7. How many hours does it take to do all that?

Install, customize and get trained on a decent contact manager. 3 hours.

Profile, select, import best targets to call. 2 hours.

Write decent starter rocking phone scripts. 3 – 5 hours.

Map out your call process. 90 minutes.

What is b2b appointment setting? Its 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.

So, before you start to 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 and adjust your component parts to get congruent with those numbers.

And ultimately success is determined by how much is spent on the prospecting effort and how much profit is generated.

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