The truth about appointment setting

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Appointment-setting companies promise to get your sales reps face-to-face with prospective customers. But do these appointments actually lead to better sales performance?

The term "appointment setting" is a misnomer. What these firms are doing is actually "appearance setting." In other words, companies may agree to let your sales rep show up, but many of the meetings won't pan out to be with bona fide prospects. Some may not even recall setting the appointment in the first place.

The most logical argument against appointment setting is, ironically, at the heart of the appointment-setting proposition itself, which is this: Someone who agrees to see your sales representative is more qualified than another prospect that has simply been forwarded to your rep as a lead.

Not true. In fact, someone who readily agrees to see your rep without the preparatory conversations required for sales lead qualification has more time to waste than most senior-level executives. He or she is probably not the right person to talk to in the first place.

Additionally, this low-value activity produces a negative ripple effect. These unqualified appointments add cost to your selling activities and time to the sales process, since sales reps may be traveling across town or even across the country for meetings. This can also result in lost opportunities while reps are busy with less likely buyers, further degrading sales performance.

While appointment-setting firms appear to offer a shortcut, the truth is that they offer about the same value as the low-level leads culled from trade shows or mass-market campaigns. As with appointment setting, these types of programs don't incorporate actual sales lead qualification into the process. Appointment setters do not focus on finding the best prospects. They just want to get your sales reps as many appointments as possible. Putting a good salesperson in front of a bad prospect will not yield cost-effective revenue.

Appointment-setting firms leave out the essential steps of ensuring that sales reps are talking to the right person, and that in turn, the right person is knowledgeable and engaged-before the first meeting ever takes place. By shifting to programs that accurately qualify ready buyers and work to establish an ongoing dialog, companies can begin to realize the tangible benefits of a more efficient sales process, more accurate forecasts, better sales performance and greater revenue.

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