(By Matt Sunshine) One of the leading indicators for sales success is the number of appointments a salesperson has each week (this is not the only leading indicator you should be looking at, but it is one of them). The idea is that if a salesperson has a significant number of appointments each week — the kind where they are either finding needs, getting assignments, presenting solutions, or delivering a proposal — this quality sales activity will lead to good, solid revenue performance.
There are other kinds of appointments, but let’s focus on those that are aimed at bringing in new business. Here’s where it breaks down: Too many salespeople are confusing “I have an appointment” with having heard the statement “Follow up with me next week.” To be clear: Hearing “Follow up with me next week” does not mean you have an appointment.
Last week we had the opportunity to meet with each person on the sales team at a radio station. The agenda for each meeting was exactly the same, to focus on just a few of their prospects and come up with ideas on how they could keep that prospect moving forward in the sales process. After all, there is absolutely no reason to move slowly when you have a great prospect that you know you can really help and they’re showing interest.
In almost every meeting, there was at least one instance where we asked the rep when the next appointment was with an account, and they responded with some form of this answer: “Well, I told them I would call them Monday to set something up,” or, “I need to follow up with them next Thursday,” or, “I’m supposed to stop by Tuesday or Wednesday next week.” You get the drift. So, while the next step was to “follow up,” these are not actual scheduled appointments.
Salespeople need to set the followup appointment
“Follow up” should not be an acceptable next step.
Follow up on what, specifically, would be 1 million percent better.
So our two takeaways so far are: “Follow up next week” is not an actual scheduled appointment. “Follow up” is not a very good next step.
A busy calendar requires a set appointment. Imagine your calendar for next week is jam-packed. You couldn’t squeeze in one more meeting or appointment on Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday if you tried, your Wednesday only has two one hour open slots, and your Friday morning is currently open, but after lunch it’s packed.
If you had a great meeting with a prospect and the next step was to meet again to present the proposal, you would never say, “I’ll follow up with you next week,” because you couldn’t. Instead you would say, “I want to come back next week and present you with some ideas, so let’s get our calendars out and lock in a time that works, as I know my week is really tight.” Boom! You just set an appointment.
Conversely, if your schedule is wide open and you have virtually no appointments scheduled for next week, and all you have on your calendar is your company sales meetings and your individual meeting with your manager, you might say, “Let’s set a time to meet next week,” and when the prospect tells you they are very busy and asks you to follow up with them next week, you gladly say, “OK, that’s fine, I’ll call you Monday and we will set something up.” There is a huge difference.
Don’t settle. Your time is valuable. You must set appointments. “Follow up next week” will lead to slow sales because it often leads to a prospect’s saying something like, “Oh, you know what? This week is not going to work after all. Can you call me next week and we will meet then?” Set a goal for the number of weekly scheduled quality appointments, and stick to it.