8 Laws of Hiring an Appointment Setting Firm
As the already competitive MSP space becomes even more crowded, top MSPs are taking more aggressive approaches to find new business. As marketing spends grow, more MSPs are looking to appointment setting—where a dedicated team of specialists identifies prospects and sets the first appointment—to fill their pipelines with new opportunities.
Appointment setting is often a controversial topic in sales circles because many businesses have tried buying leads or hiring telemarketers and found those experiments to be, at a kind minimum, lackluster. The return may not have justified the investment, and the prospect experience may have been so poor that it hurt the business’s reputation. As a result, the sales teams that have tried using an appointment setting firm refuse to try it again, and they are vocal in discouraging their peers from trying a similar experiment in their businesses.
At the same time, however, these same sales teams are hungry for new opportunities but feel caught in a Catch-22 of wanting the activity but not the headaches of working with a third party.
You are right to be skeptical of appointment setting, but you should not allow that skepticism to stunt your business growth. Instead, use it to thoroughly vet your appointment setting firm so that you can add a powerful competitive advantage to your growth strategy.
You can find an exceptional appointment setting firm if you have the right vetting process. Here are the seven laws you can use to separate the wheat from the chaff:
1. Work with appointment setters who understand your industry. Generic appointment setting services are a Google-search away. These are often call centers dialing prospects en-masse for dozens of different types of businesses, which means that the callers can’t speak to your industry or properly screen prospects. Instead, hire an appointment setting firm that specializes in making MSP calls.
2. Hire sales associates, not minimum wage telemarketers. The individuals calling on your behalf have a direct impact on the success of your appointment setting program. Anyone can dial a phone, but it takes an experienced, thoughtful sales associate to effectively engage prospects. When you vet your appointment setting firm, ask about the average age of their callers and what their sales training program is like. The firms with more mature callers and a consistent sales process are more likely to find you the prospects you need and act as your voice and brand guardian.
3. Meet with exclusive appointments. One of the biggest problems in the appointment setting and lead generation space is recycled opportunities. Vendors will sell and re-sell the same list of prospects, which is just as frustrating for salespeople as it is for the prospects enduring a barrage of calls. A reputable appointment setting firm will offer exclusivity. They won’t call for a competitor in your area, and they won’t send you prospects that have been sold and re-sold.
4. Demand quality before quantity. The problem with buying leads or paying per appointment—as is common in this space—is that you incentivize the wrong behaviors. When you pay by the prospect, you are more likely to get prospects that are not actually interested in hearing from you or are not a good fit for your business. On paper, paying for quality might look like you get less for your money (because you will take far fewer appointments), but the longtail of the return is magnitudes greater. When you meet with 3 prospects who are an ideal fit for your business and want to hear from you, you will generate much more revenue than if you met with 10 prospects who were outright not interested in the first place.
5. Create a compelling story. Appointment setting typically means engaging businesses who already have a provider for the solutions you offer. To unseat the incumbent, you need a well-crafted story about who you are and what sets you apart. This story will come into play with your part of the sales process, but it is also vital for the sales associate setting appointments on your behalf. Not only will a powerful story help you set more appointments, but making that story consistent across your business—from your appointment setters to you to your office administrators—is critical to your success as well. Every conversation a prospect has helps to set and affirm expectations with the decision maker, which is a sales advantage when everything aligns.
6. Sharpen your sales sword. Even the best appointments require a refined sales process. A set appointment is much different from a referral. The prospect has expressed interest in hearing from you, but the appointment is still “cold.” Using practiced sales process will improve your ability to close and also make your success replicable. If you improvise the sales conversation in every appointment, you will not be able to learn from your mistakes or successes, crippling your ability to refine and improve from appointment to appointment. If you aren’t sure where to start, talk to a sales coach who understands the nature and challenges of taking set appointments.
7. Support the frontend activity with backend behaviors. In competitive B2B sales, prospects rarely convert on the first or even second appointment. We have seen clients meet with a high-value prospect and not close the sale until a year later. To maximize your return on what can be a long sales process, streamline your process with drip marketing and scheduled follow-up touches from you or your team, automating as much of this activity as you can to make it more consistent. If you aren’t prepared to play a long game, your pipeline will leak incredibly lucrative prospects.
8. Patience is more than a virtue. It’s good business. Focusing on quality and preparing to play a long game speak to the importance of patience. No reputable appointment setting firm will promise instant returns (so be wary of those who do) nor should you expect them. The nature of high-value B2B sales necessitates that you play a more methodical, and sometimes slower, chess game. Decision makers will not make big, hasty choices, and it may take time for you to hone your ability to realize the full potential of the appointments you meet. Remember that a slower return does not mean that the return will be small. In fact, many of the biggest wins for a company come from careful consistency and persistence because the goal is to gain and retain the right clients.
If you take these laws of appointment setting to heart, you can add a game-changing source of new prospects and new revenue to your marketing mix.
Brad Stoller is manager, Business Development at PT Services Group, which provides appointment setting and data collection.