Appointment Advice

By Cindy Waxer

Most sales professionals use the telephone to prospect for new business and schedule their sales appointments. Adrian Miller, president of Adrian Miller Direct Marketing, a sales training and new business development consultancy, offers these tried-and-true techniques for enhancing your appointment-setting efforts.

1. All too often, sales professionals fail to mention how a particular product can benefit a prospect. “Salespeople often talk in terms of what a product is versus what it can do for you,” says Miller.

Miller recommends always opening your call with a benefits statement. Most prospects are busy thinking: What’s in it for me? The sooner you can address this unspoken question, the more successful your call will be.

2. The more questions you ask, the more you will know about what’s important to your prospect. “It’s important to get people to talk about their circumstances and their needs so that you can discover opportunities,” adds Miller.

Develop a series of relevant questions and keep them near as you make your prospecting calls. Intersperse them in your dialogue so you don’t sound as if you are interrogating the prospect and note responses in your contact management system.

3. Objections are par for the course for sales professionals. Be prepared by formulating responses that address the prospect’s objection and include a sales-oriented benefit. And don’t be surprised if a few of your prospect’s objections are entirely legitimate. Miller says, “There are some objections that are 100% valid. Ramming through and battering prospects isn’t going to win you anything.”

4. Don’t attempt to close too soon. Too often sales reps ask for the appointment in their opening statement. Allow the prospect to ask questions and engage in a dialogue to establish rapport first. Miller suggests, “A close should be just a natural part of the conversation. It should be the logical next step that everybody is expecting.”

5. Listen carefully to prospects’ tones and manners. How they say something can contradict what they are saying, and it is up to you to discern the true meaning. Miller says, “For every person that is extremely open, receptive and chatty there’s another one who is reserved, cold and shutdown who can turn out to be your best client.”