Monday, May 9, 2011

Set More Appointments with Decision Makers

A few years ago I was chatting with a very well respected VP of Sales at a software company in Chicago. One of the things he shared with me was that his company had a process for setting appointments that constantly kept their sales reps in front of new prospects. He admitted that he had challenges in other areas of the sales process, but setting appointments was not one of them. They had more appointments than they knew what to do with. He shared his appointment setting process with me and I immediately put it to work with my sales team and the results were amazing. If setting appointments is one of your sales responsibilities and you want to set more, read on.

At the time that I heard about this technique, I had a team of sellers who had sole responsibility for setting new appointments for our outside sales reps. Their quota was based on how many qualified appointments they set in a month and they also received a bonus if an appointment turned in to a sale. They were trying all of the best cold call techniques, and with some success. But until we implemented the “Circle of Leverage” (COL) process, it was a game of hit and miss.
Pardon the interruption, but I wanted you to know that my new book, Common Sense Sales, is now available at  You can click HERE to find it.  There is more information on the right hand side of the screen regarding it and my first book, Click “Send” and Sell.  Be sure to check them out.
The COL process was developed by Michael Boylan, and is described in detail in his book, The Power to Get In. The book can be easily found at any online retailer.

Boylan had been a successful entrepreneur with a strong desire to become a professional musician. In 1990 he put his efforts in to music full time, self producing ten songs and a music video, all with top musicians. He then started selling his music to the industry. He discovered two important things during the sales process: first, he was not going to become a professional musician; and second, he had an incredible ability for meeting with the industry’s top brass. In fact, he became fairly well known among top industry executives for gaining access to them. This, without any track record, reputation, or prior hit records. Wondering aloud how in the world Boylan had gained access to so many music executives, one of them challenged him to help his own sales team gain executive access like he had.

Boylan moved on from music to become a VP of Sales an at a Fortune 500 company and further refined his technique, later writing his book.

In short, the COL is a process of writing a letter to three to five executive prospects and letting them know that you have also reached out to each of the other executives. For example, let’s say that your company sells legal products to the telecom industry. You may find that you have the following prospects inside the organization:

- Don Bennett, General Counsel
- Michael Stevens, VP, Law
- Bill Thomas, Asst. VP Governmental Affairs

With those contacts you craft a letter that starts out like this:

“Dear Don:

I am writing this letter to you, Michael Stevens, and Bill Thomas, to find the most appropriate person or people to deal with regarding scheduling a twenty-minute in-person appointment on March 10th…..”

Then you send the same letter to Michael and Bill, each time referencing the other recipients.
Boylan’s theory is that by letting the “Circle” know that you have reached out to each of them you have activated one of their “Key Engagers”. Those are,
- Their fear of loss.
- Their curious insecurities.
- Their competitiveness.
- Their desire to be a serious player.

Boylan then goes in to further detail explaining these engagers and why they work. He also talks more about the specifics of the letter, the follow up phone calls, etc. All of those topics are very important for implementing this particular way of setting appointments.

And, it works.

My team set hundreds of great appointments using Boylan’s COL technique. We conducted the research to determine who our letters should be sent to and off they went. After we sent the letter and waited a few days we started our follow up calls. We found that it gave our reps a “warm” reason to place a call and have a meaningful conversation. Many times the letter was on the decision-maker’s desk. Other times the secretary had the letter, knowing that we would be calling to follow up. And there were lots of occasions that the prospect and their secretary had no idea what we were talking about – but we were having a conversation!

The really powerful advantage of the COL process is that you can gain access at very high levels in an organization. If you are hearing from your manager that you are calling on people too low in the organization, here’s a great way to get to the very top. Even if you don’t gain access, it is very likely that you’ll get a referral to someone at a high enough level to make your appointment setting time well worth the effort.

The COL process is not a shortcut for setting appointments. On the contrary, it requires painstaking research to discover the names and titles of your key prospects. For this we used all the online tools – Hoovers and Jigsaw to name just a couple. It also takes time to write the letters, each one referencing the other prospects – a very tedious process. We had an automated solution that made the letter writing process fairly streamlined.

I’ve referred folks to the COL process many times and they have reported good results with it. While there are many effective techniques for setting new appointments, this is the best one that I have found that embodies a repeatable and scalable process regardless of the target market, geography, or personality of the rep. By following the COL, you can increase your likelihood for new appointments just like my team did.

1 comment:

  1. Appointment setting is very good idea which is set your appointment as per your needs and also save your time.