ML has conducted market research across a wide range of industries for over twenty years. Providing these Voice of the Customer services gives us a front-row seat to the trends in sales techniques, market drivers, and challenges facing companies, especially their revenue generation teams' appointment setting efforts.
We have always taken a strategic approach to outbound sales. Being strategic, combined with our deep experience, helps us identify emerging trends and take action to resolve challenges that may arise. For example, the current economic climate makes gaining an audience with an increasingly busy C-suite more difficult. But there are tips and tricks to cut through the very crowded playing field to prove that you have a solution that will benefit your potential client.
A particularly concerning trend we are witnessing across all industries is a rise in canceled or rescheduled meetings. Additionally, executives are increasingly “no-showing” an appointment they had previously committed to attend. Because of the volume of appointments our team is booking, ML spotted this trend early and has taken action to mitigate the negative impact. We applied our years of experience to identify ways to stem the tide of rising meeting cancellations.
In this blog, we share:
Our partner, HubSpot, has a definition for appointment setting that closely aligns with ML’s philosophy.
“B2B appointment setting is a sales strategy that involves seasoned sales reps engaging in the prospecting stages of the sales process. Once the initial rep has scheduled a follow-up call with the prospect, a closing sales rep takes over to facilitate the end stages of the sales process.”
The key phrase here is “seasoned sales reps.” Utilizing experienced team members to perform appointment setting is crucial if your sales cycles are long and complex and involve engaging the C-Suite and other senior executives.
Seasoned sales professionals understand how to differentiate themselves from the pack. It’s all about being strategic.
You must be strategic to impact revenue, especially when selling to senior executives. Therefore, we encourage you to spend time on two steps before picking up a phone or drafting an email.
STEP ONE: Identify and then VERIFY your total addressable market. It’s not enough to simply pull a list from a data source. Some extra work is required to engage your audience faster.
STEP TWO: Keep a consistent voice when addressing your market. Creating a Sales Program Guide is one of the best ways to do that.
“We are strategic from the very beginning, learning about our target market all along the way, taking what our research team has learned, and applying the information contained in our Sales Program Guides. These are built by our Content Marketing Manager using intel from multiple sources and are a critical source of information.”
Jennifer Aldinger Senior Sales Manager
Executive-level buyers are busy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t receptive to learning about solutions to their problems. The trick is to make sure your voice is heard above everybody else.
Focus first on any individuals who responded positively to your verification outreach. Prioritize anyone who asked for additional information or was referred by someone whose name you can drop. These are your lowest-hanging sales fruit and should convert to appointments quickly.
Use all outreach methods available to you and be professionally persistent. Don't think you can send an email or make a few calls, and you will reach your target. While this can sometimes happen, it is rare. Don't be afraid to reach out on mobile phone numbers. This has become even more important with the rise of the remote worker. Combine phone outreach with email and texting.
It might sound simplistic, but SMILE while you call. It really does make a difference. And be creative. If one approach, message, or talking point doesn’t work, try another.
Call and email at a variety of times and days. Executives are often coached to reserve certain times of the day to read emails or take calls. Your job is to find that sweet spot. This approach can also help you avoid gatekeepers and get the actual target to pick up the phone or read your email.
You can alienate your audience by sending irrelevant information.
Keep your emails and voicemails short and sweet. Include a small hook to leave them wanting to know more.
Send a personalized email directly following a call. Reiterate the hook in your voicemail to help your contact remember you. Plus, be sure to include your call to action. In this case, it is asking for time on their schedule.
“I keep it conversational, short, and sweet. I might open with, 'I know you aren't expecting my call. I was hoping to learn how you are currently handling [known issue or problem common in their industry] today and talk about how we might be able to help.' Depending on the response I get, I may go deeper. Almost always, though, the goal is to book some time to have a more focused conversation or even schedule a demo, so my call to action is to get a couple of available dates and times. I want to make this as easy as possible for them. I then quickly match their availability to our client's schedule and get the meeting teed up as fast as possible while it's still fresh in their minds.”
Terri-Lynne Anderson Director of Business Development
Are you experiencing higher-than-normal levels of meeting cancellations and no-shows? Most of the sales professionals we speak to are, so you are not alone.
We used to see less than 20% of meetings getting rescheduled, but in the past year, we’ve seen that number rise closer to 30%. As our CEO, Lara Triozzi explains in this blog from 2017, a no-show does not always translate to “no interest.” The ML Specialist team is made up of very seasoned sales and marketing professionals. We harnessed all that experience to address this trend and find ways to reverse it. Here’s what we learned.
“The most common reason for a no-show or cancellation is that what you are talking about is nice to know and would be helpful, but a more urgent priority arises.”
Jennifer Aldinger Senior Sales Manager
Make sure you properly qualify the opportunity. An experienced sales professional knows when a busy executive is feigning interest to get you off the phone. Be sure there is a fit and that the executive has a need you can address. Ask questions to identify the urgency of the need and their actual timeline for addressing it. Unless they have an upcoming initiative or acute need, there is a higher potential for cancellation. You might be better served to nurture that lead and delay pushing toward a meeting until that need is a higher priority.
Once you have qualified the opportunity, get that meeting booked for the earliest date possible. Priorities change fast, and executives have many projects on the go. Strike while the iron is hot! Once the meeting is set, monitor the invite to ensure all attending parties have accepted. Reach out to any who have not confirmed their plans to attend.
Use communication methods that your prospect prefers. This could be outreach via text message or email or communicating through their assistant. The point is to use the method they choose. For example, they may prefer you send a calendar link so they can book themselves. We are seeing much more of this. However, if they self-book early in the sales cycle, be sure to prequalify the opportunity on the back end before the sales appointment.
Stay top of mind. Send reminders that are meaningful and reinforce the agenda and purpose of the meeting. Base the cadence on the time between the day the meeting was booked and the actual event. Typically, this means within a week and again a day before the scheduled meeting. If new thought leadership materials that support the meeting agenda become available, feel free to share them. But don't be over-generous. If you overwhelm the prospect with too much documentation before you’ve had the meeting, you risk losing control of the narrative. You want the information you provide to build interest but not completely satisfy their curiosity.
If you have booked the meeting on behalf of other team members, be available at the start of the meeting to troubleshoot and intervene if technology issues arise or attendees are running late. Be prepared to resolve these issues. Have the participants’ mobile phone numbers on hand to engage with them quickly if necessary. If you are a sales development rep booking meetings for your sales executive, we strongly encourage you to participate in the call to provide a warm handoff. This helps to clearly define the transition from initial prospecting to the official discovery phase and elevates the purpose of the meeting.
“For meetings I have booked but am not required to attend, I ask permission to participate to kick off the meeting. This allows me to respond quickly to any problems like missed participants or technology issues. I then introduce the participants, summarize the meeting agenda, reiterate conversations with the executive, and hang up. The feedback I have received from both executives and the clients we are booking for has been extremely positive! We are even seeing an increase in requests for our Sales Concierge Services. It’s really just one step further in allowing our clients’ sales team members to focus on selling instead of ongoing prospecting activities.” Jennifer Aldinger
We hope we have provided some ideas to help you secure meetings with your target market executive-level buyer.
In our Playbook, “Best Practices for B2B Appointment Setting with Busy Executives,” we take a deeper dive into each of these areas, sharing best practices from several of our most senior team members. These will help you not only book appointments with busy executives but do it in a way that also protects against missed meetings.
Thanks for reading!