The B2B outbound lead generation process involves conducting in-depth research, building ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and buyer personas (BPs), hand-picking leads, creating personalized content for a multichannel outreach, calling, emailing, tracking various KPIs, performing analysis, and finally starting all over again. But, wait, did we miss something important?
Yep, the very point of this process is to set a B2B sales appointment.
You see, back in the day, the salesperson pretty much did all of the work. Now, with the evolution of sales specialization, we prefer to divide and conquer. Selling and closing deals are left to sales executives (SEs) while appointment setting has become the new currency of the sales development representatives (SDRs).
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the definition of appointment setting, dive into how to set an appointment via phone and email, and share tips and tricks on how to become a successful appointment setter.
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What Is B2B Appointment Setting?
B2B appointment setting is a sales process of reaching out to potential buyers via various channels (phone, email, and social media) and qualifying and nurturing them during this process with the ultimate goal of setting an appointment.
Appointment setting helps expand your sales funnel and grow your business. People in charge of this process are called appointment setters and usually hold a sales development representative (SDR) position. Find out more about appointment setters and what skills are needed to become top of the SDR game.
When the appointment is set, the spotlight turns to sales executives, whose job is to turn that meeting into a landed deal.
Appointment setting process
There are several important stages involved in the appointment setting process to help SDRs target the right prospects:
- Define the target. The appointment setting process starts with defining who you want to target. First, you should create an ICP and a BP. An ICP summarizes the main features of your past customers who define your future customers. This information will be a lead map for your researchers and used by the appointment setters during the outreach.
The BP focuses on specific personal and social characteristics that will clear up the motives of your potential buyer. You can think of it as useful instructions on how to target prospects. The ICP and BP are used throughout the entire lead generation process.
- Find the target. Researchers begin their expedition to find the leads who can result in qualified B2B appointments. A skilled researcher knows how to analyze ICPs and BPs, and look for leads and their contact information. The higher quality data they provide, the more chances an SDR has to schedule an appointment.
- Research the target. Before contacting a potential client, SDRs, a.k.a. appointment setters, must conduct their own research. Professional copywriters create all messaging for outbound campaigns (calling scripts, social media messages, and email copy), leaving space for creativity and personalization.
SDRs should gather any information that can personalize the outreach and make it feel human and personally crafted. According to our recent survey, 46% of prospects say personalization is the most effective way to land them as customers.
- Reach the target. The active phase of appointment setting starts when an SDR first contacts the potential customer. It can be done through various channels (phone, email, and social media); the most popular methods are email or phone outreach. According to Medium, 75% of executives are willing to make an appointment or attend an event based solely on a cold email or a cold call.
Appointment Setting Through Email
Cold emailing is one of the most effective ways to reach potential clients. A cold email is an initial email meant to start business conversations and is sent to the recipients without any prior contact. And there is a lot of science going on behind one sales email.
Moreover, it’s 40 times more effective at getting new customers than Facebook and Twitter combined. However, don’t misinterpret the cold emailing principle; it doesn't imply that you'll be able to set an appointment via the first email you ever send.
How to set appointments via email
Follow these three essential steps to successfully set up an appointment with a prospect:
- Plan. Planning involves sending out a few emails in order to schedule that appointment. That means creating a cold email strategy and deciding on waves and cadences. We suggest three to five waves, with at least a few days in between them.
- Create content. Now you can start preparing the actual content of your emails. A cold email consists of a subject line, opening line, sales pitch, closing line, and signature. Copywriters who create email templates always leave spots for personalization so the message can feel personally crafted.
- Send the email. After the SDRs personalize the email, they send it out according to the time zone of a receiver.
The better emails you create, the more chances you have to set an appointment. Your emails must be personalized, human, and full of value. They have to be sent at the right time and day and to the right person. If all of these puzzle pieces come together, you’ll be able to set an appointment through email.
If you need to dig deeper into what makes an excellent cold email and how you can achieve better results, check out our cold emailing guide.
Appointment Setting over the Phone
Another way to schedule an appointment is through the phone, and in the lead generation saga, cold calling is responsible for that. Cold calling is a tricky subject: While some say it’s the best way to reach prospects, others consider it dead. We say it’s neither.
Cold calling is highly effective when combined with other types of outreach to warm it up (cold emailing, social media messaging, ads, etc.). Still, it also requires some persistence—most salespeople give up after a couple of attempts to reach a prospect over the phone.
How to set appointments via the phone
Use these four cold calling techniques to set up more appointments with prospects:
- Prepare. Professional researchers know how to find accurate and up-to-date information, including the correct telephone numbers. It’s recommended to find the direct line that connects right to the lead, avoiding the gatekeeper.
- Warm up. Before starting the outreach, it’s better to warm up your contacts. Cold calling is best paired with cold emailing, making a multichannel approach highly productive.
- Create a message. Before SDRs pick up a phone, they need to know what they will say. To achieve that, they must be fully aware of the value proposition, use personalization, and have a calling script in their hands.
- Just call. The actual moment of asking for an appointment over the phone can seem terrifying. But don’t worry. If you have a good lead, a message to warm it up, an appointment setting script, and some personalization in your bag of tricks, you are most likely to succeed.
And when you need a boost of confidence, you can just open our cold calling guide.
Appointment setting scripts
You never know what might happen during the appointment setting over the phone. The prospect might throw you off: their tone, manner of speaking, or the question. To ensure you won’t lose the ability to communicate, you should always have an appointment setting script by your side.
Appointment setting scripts are helpful to train SDRs, deal with call reluctance, control the conversation, prepare for the next call, deliver the value proposition, and lift the SDR’s confidence.
The best appointment setting scripts include:
- Introduction. The start of a conversation, including greeting, is significant to build a rapport. A well-written script has a few options for conversation openers that state who you are and what company you represent. Since your cold call is not a monologue, we suggest making pauses in your speech to give prospects time to talk.
- FAQ (frequently asked questions). What do you do? Why are you better than your competitors? How much does it cost? A set of answers to these questions is the perfect glossary right on your desk.
- Prequalifying questions. Before setting an appointment, define whether you are looking at a qualified lead—someone who may actually go down your sales funnel. There are at least a dozen methodologies for that, but CIENCE prefers NOTE.
- Value proposition. It’s the key component of your sales pitch. You have to clearly show why your service can make a difference AND make your pitch client-centered. Make your message more about them and always bring value to the table.
- Appointment setting. All of the tips above lead to this very moment. If you’ve had a successful communication with a prospect, this is when you’ll want to negotiate the next steps. This can be either by following up (in case more information is needed) or scheduling an appointment.
Appointment setting scripts won’t do all the work for you; however, they will help connect you to the person on the other side of the line. Use your value proposition, personalization, and copywriter's content to engage the prospect. It’s also helpful to have a resource that includes common objections and ways to handle them.
Most importantly, listen and be human. And whenever you require some coaching, use cold calling scripts to help you through the pitch.
Best Time to Set Appointments
According to the sales specialization principle, the work of SDR is done once the appointment is scheduled, yet there is more you can do to minimize the risk of a no-show for your sales executives. Although there’s no universal time of the week that will work for all of your prospects, there are some time slots you can avoid.
According to Salesloft, the worst time to schedule a meeting is in the morning from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. These three hours have the highest no-show rate. Conversely, the best time to set appointments is at the end of the day, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
As for the days of the week, that same survey shows that Mondays and Wednesdays have the lowest no-show rates compared to Friday, which has the highest.
Avoid Monday mornings and Friday evenings in general; people are usually distracted by other plans during this period of time. You can explore eight more recommendations from CIENCE on how to reduce no-show appointment rates.
Appointment Setting Tips
Now that we’ve hit on the mechanisms of the appointment setting process, it’s time to lift the curtain a bit and share the wisdom that continues to bring us winning results. For instance, during just the last six months of 2021, CIENCE set over 800 in-house appointments and over 6,500 appointments for our customers.
Check out these creative sales tips on how to get an appointment:
- Always ask for an appointment. Sounds silly, right? It’s all we're thinking about—scheduling a meeting with a potential client. Yet, some SDRs may feel uncomfortable asking for an appointment, especially after an objection from the prospect. Our advice is to try to handle the objection and offer a non-obligatory meeting to get more information.
- Know your audience. Take some time to study the ICP and BP to know the audience to target. For instance, the IT industry differs drastically from the tourism one. You have to know all the details to understand what kind of issues your potential clients face on a daily basis. Check out case studies to be knowledgeable about a certain industry.
- Be human. After the detailed research on the industry, our SDRs spend most of their time looking up info on every prospect. What is going on in their company? What challenges may they face? What victories have they celebrated?
This will be used to craft a personalized message that will speak directly to a decision-maker or decision-influencer. It will show prospects that, above all, they are talking to an actual human who took the time to get to know them.
- Use your value. We can’t say this enough. Know how to use your best weapon—the value that your company can bring to the table—that’s what hooks your clients. You can change your clients’ workflow for the best, and that’s a great argument you can make to set an appointment.
- Use multichannel strategy. Multichannel outreach is one of the most effective lead generation strategies you can try in 2021. A social media touch warms up your cold email, while an email warms up a cold call. It increases the chances of a lead recognizing your brand and scheduling an appointment to find out more.
- Choose the right time for the outreach. Timing means a lot to the outreach. According to our sources, the best time to call a prospect is on Wednesday mornings. According to our own data, the best time to send an email is early in the morning (8:00 a.m.), with Wednesday also being the optimal day. However, we suggest testing various time slots and finding those that work best for you.
- Follow up and circle back. According to the industry standard, an effective sales cadence includes eight touches. However, 7 out of 10 sales representatives don’t follow up with prospects after the first unanswered email. Be among those three people who do follow up to get more appointments.
Also, never forget to circle back to prospects when they seem interested but use the “it’s not the right time” objection. Here's how our SDR scored a victory:
- Use interactive content. Using interactive content generates two times more conversions than passive content does. It’s one of the trendiest SDR practices that is here to stay. It stands out from all the other sales prospecting emails, and it may send a more positive impression to the recipient. Get creative by using emojis, pictures, and even videos to boost your response rate like in the example below:
- Use your humor. Sometimes, it’s tricky being in sales. Besides reaching the stars, sales teams have to face rejections from time to time. So it’s only reasonable to laugh about certain things and even use humor as part of your outreach. You may try using humorous subject lines, creative openers, memes, and GIFs.
Outsource Appointment Setting
Lead generation, lead qualification, lead research, targeting, and appointment setting are all among the sales specializations that take a lot of time to master.
Though we’ve discussed the many fine points of what B2B appointment setters do, how appointment setting works, ways to ask for appointments, and even shared the tricks that have made us successful, it's still not the same as doing it professionally for years.
So, if you need some experienced pros to work on appointment setting for your business, you know where to find us.