When you talk with a client about variable assets, you know that you need to address expectations. You are up front about potentials highs and lows relative to the natural flow of the market. When times are good, clients politely nod and smile through this conversation, but as soon as the market dips they are likely to forget this conversation completely, calling you in panic and perhaps in frustration.
Just as variable assets have highs and lows, so does any new business development initiative.
Experienced producers recognize that the sales process takes time, especially with high-value B2B prospects. In a B2B environment, finalizing the sale requires buy-in from each key decision maker and a high-level of comfort with the new plan. For these reasons, a B2B sale could take months—from initial introduction to close—to come to fruition.
When a producer adopts an appointment setting program, this understanding of the natural sales cycle has a tendency to fade, and to be replaced by a number of conflicting expectations and an addiction to urgency. After all, the producer is paying to meet with interested prospects, right?
Yes and no.
A respectable appointment setting firm will set appointments with businesses that simultaneously:
- Meet your target criteria in terms of variables like size, location, and type
- Are interested in learning more about the services that a producer offers
This is not the same as a referral. The prospect does not have a pre-established comfort level. The prospect is not ready to convert. The prospect may in fact be happy with his or her status quo but is intrigued enough to learn more. If you are the producer walking into this appointment, you have an opportunity to be an expert and challenge the thinking of the prospect and to begin building toward a sale. In this scenario, the producer has a genuine opportunity to earn the business.
But it will take time to overcome a prospect’s natural resistance to change.
Just as closing a sale takes time, setting an appointment can take time. If you engage an appointment setting firm that guarantees a certain number of appointments each month, be wary. The frequency of quality appointments, especially if they are exclusive to you, will ebb and flow much in the same way your prospecting process has highs and lows. If the big picture view of your appointment setting experience is a series of meetings with highly qualified prospects, you have a valuable opportunity to fill your pipeline with sales and referrals.
If you are looking into an appointment setting program or perhaps recently started working with one, keeping these expectations in mind will help you to get the most out of your program with as little frustration as possible:
- Closing a prospect that you met through appointment setting will take time.
- These appointments are not like referrals. Adjust your sales process and expectations accordingly.
- Slow months are inevitable, so evaluate your program on its overall performance instead.
- When evaluating the return on your program, take into account sales, the potential for gaining more wallet share, and the potential for referrals.
- If your sales process is on point, your program will likely pay for itself in 9 to 12 months.
In competitive industries like insurance and finance, looking for the quick return is completely natural. When you try something new, you want to see some sort of evidence that it’s working, especially if you are investing time and money. Using this article as a starting point, talk to your appointment setting firm about reasonable expectations so that you can game-plan accordingly. The potential of appointment setting can be huge, but if you don’t give it time to bear fruit, you will miss out on the rewards.
Photo used with permission under a Creative Commons license. Credit to Flickr user Kev-Shine.