A Tale of B2B Appointment Setting: How an IT Salesguy Increased Prospecting Results 5X in 3 Months.

How an IT sales guy increased prospecting results 5X in 3 months with the economy tanking. Three tips I gave him to get even more results.

Russ from Georgia calls me. Sells IT services. Very competitive, commonly perceived to be “generic” in the eyes of prospects. So, no easy task to stand out and find worthwhile people willing to meet with you.

Three months ago (in 2009,) Russ decided to “get serious” with his prospecting. The last 3 months he set 28 qualified appointments. In the previous 3 months he had set only 5, which was typical. Russ handles the complete sales cycle. He sets the appointments, goes on the meetings and closes the deals. Very difficult to juggle.

The big picture view: Competitive industry, hard to differentiate yourself service industry, economy tanking. Yet Russ is meeting more qualified prospects, has increased his closing ratio and is selling more. How??

Before I share with you three ideas discussed to increase his productivity even more, let’s summarize what earned him these results the last 3 months.

    1. Chose his targets more carefully. Got very serious and spent just a little time about profiling his targets. Now 100% of his prospecting time goes to high-probability targets. No more calling everyone and saying, “You never know.” He picked his spots.
    2. Created a system of sequenced touches. Calls, Emails, Voicemails. Rather than call intermittently and haphazardly, he calls in accordance to plan. He works that plan to the end for every record, then lets it go. Next!!
    3. He reworked his scripts to go from “Hey, how are you doing.” (his words) to a benefit laden pitch. People respond.
    4. He uses a contact manager. If you are not, you simply cannot sustain sales improvement. It is self-defeating and simply nuts to not use one of these tools properly.

So, Russ, who had increased from 5 appointments set in 3 months to 28 set in the last 3 months, had a couple questions. Here they are…

1. Russ asked: What is the proper sequence of calls? He says that many times he calls, and the only option is to leave a voicemail, which he does. Is that good?

My advice: Feel free to hang-up after being transferred to voicemail without leaving a message. I would make at least 3 dials without contacting my target before leaving a message. You want to make enough dials to have a reasonable expectation that someone will pick up the phone, but you also must leave touches. So, three dials, then leave your voicemail, send your email. That way people get 2 or 3 touches. Do this every three-business days for 3 cycles. That way people get at least 9 dials and 6 to 9 touches. Results will shoot up.

Russ was kind of doing this but not making enough dials in the sequence.

2. Russ asked: I use three voicemails. Is it a good thing to have different voicemails to leave at different times?

My advice: I never did. It’s hard enough to come up with one good voicemail never mind multiple versions. Consistently builds credibility and recognition. Use one.

3. Russ asked: I track my conversations to meetings set ratio and it is about 3 or 4 pitches to one meeting set (pretty decent,) how can I increase the number of conversations?

My advice: Two strategies. Use all those gatekeeper interactions to increase the odds that you will get them to pick up the phone in the future. That usually means getting more direct dial and extension numbers. We discussed some script path and gatekeeper interactions strategies to accomplish that.

Also, use “power calling,” which simply means calling select groups of records to which you have extension numbers in a certain way, before and after regular business hours, to have more conversations.

Strategies used to have more conversations with decision-makers are very different from the strategies you will use to convert a conversation to a meeting. Know the difference.

The biggest lesson from Russ’s experience? Even in tough economic times buyers are out there. People still are running companies and have needs. People are buying from your competitors.

Russ took a little bit of time to greatly increase his efficiency to find more qualified prospects to sell to. He also improved his ability to communicate value to break through complacency and “we have no budget.”

There are buyers out there. Work the right plan, the right strategy. You can get them.