Does your team have excellent, engaging telephone conversations with prospects only to have those prospects decline to schedule an appointment? Read on to discover a controversial answer to this very challenging issue…

Has this ever happened to you? You call a prospect for the very first time. You reach that prospect and engage him/her in conversation. The prospect seems interested and is even asking questions. You’re giving solid answers and explaining your value proposition. You’re thinking, “Wow! I have a live one here!” Then you ask for the appointment and the prospect says, “We’ll call you if we need you,” “We already have a vendor,” “Call me next year” or something else along those lines.

If your answer is, “Yes, Wendy, that happens to me a lot,” you are not alone.

I’ve been working with a new client. There are about 10 people on his sales team and they are all working very, very hard. They are scheduling almost no appointments.

All of the team members research their prospects so that they are prepared. When they get a prospect on the telephone, they try to build rapport and ask good probing questions. They try to use all the information they’ve gathered in their research to engage with the prospect and to have a conversation. Some of them do have conversations with prospects. They schedule almost no appointments.

Appointment-setting is often taught as a sub-set of selling skills. It’s not. Appointment-setting is actually a distinct and unique skill set. The skills one needs to engage with a prospect after that prospect has agreed to have an in-depth conversation are different from the skills one needs to gain the prospect’s agreement to have that in-depth conversation. (This, BTW, is the definition of the word, “appointment,” that a prospect agrees to have an in-depth conversation.)

My client’s team was struggling because they were all using the “conversation” skills they would employ once a prospect agrees to an appointment. This almost always backfires. Their attempted conversations were actually keeping them from setting appointments with qualified prospects.

So, here’s the controversial part that may shock you: If the goal is to set an appointment, your sales people are not on the telephone to have a conversation. They are on the telephone to set the appointment. Period. By not having conversations, you and/or your team will actually set more appointments. Save the conversation for the appointment.

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