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We have all received this phone call, probably several more times than we have wanted to. “Hi, Mr Smith, this is Susan with XYZ company, I sell widgets and I would like to come by and talk with you about how our widgets could benefit you and your company. My phone number is 555-555-5555. Please call me back and let me know a time that would work for you.”

What is wrong with an approach like this? Well, in my opinion practically everything! First, if Mr. Smith is like the rest of us he is most likely a very busy man. The fact that he does not know or has never met Susan is just one of the reasons he will not return her phone call. Second, since Susan does not know Mr. Smith, that was most likely an uncomfortable call for her to make, and since Mr. Smith will most likely never return her message she is going to have to call several times before ever getting the appointment or simply giving up.

In the sales calling cycle, setting the appointment is often seen as a small and insignificant task, however how and why you set the appointment sets the tone for the entire call and the relationship. If you want to turn your prospects into customers then follow these three rules to set every sales call appointment – have a reason to call; prepare to set the appointment; take control of the appointment.

Rule 1 – Have a reason to call. Remember, we are in phase two now of turning our prospects into customers – the call. In phase one, we put all that time and energy into laying the foundation. We selected our prospects, we networked, and we defined our value. All the work we did in phase one gives us a reason to call in phase II. The foundation ensures that when you take the step to set the call, you know the person on the other end of that phone has a need, can benefit from your product or service, and has expressed interest. This makes picking up that phone not only so much easier but so much more efficient. Your can rest assured your call will be returned.

Rule 2 – Prepare to set the appointment. No matter how well you think you know this person or how many times you have met. Prepare to make the appointment call. Do your research and learn about the company and the person with whom you are calling. It is important to not only know your facts, but to also ensure your timing is right. Here is an example, I met a woman at a networking event, after talking with her a while I identified that her company was getting ready to go through a strategic planning process. I made a mental note to follow-up with her as I specialize in this type of work. I found out however, in doing my research, that her husband was having surgery and she would be taking a week or so off from work. Great information for me to know before I try to set up a call. Instead of making phone calls to set up appointments, I sent her a note expressing my thoughts for her husbands speedy recovery. I then followed-up two-weeks later. She was so appreciative of my gesture, and this connection made talking business such an easy and natural step.

Rule 3 – Take control of the call and setting the appointment. Remember, people are busy, and they will respect someone who has a reason to call, is interested in them and uses their time efficiently. So, first understand your confidence, attitude and enthusiasm when engaging the prospect is critical. These are even more important when talking on the phone with someone. Second, have a connecting greeting. Something that conveys you know, listen to and understand the prospect, and third, get to the point. Third, state the reason for calling, the benefit to the prospect and the next step. Example, “Hi Tom, that was a great golf tournament last week wasn’t it? Congratulations again to you and your team on your win. My team and I had fun, but think we need to work a little on our game. I am calling, because I wanted to follow-up regarding our conversation around sales and your goals for next year. I’ love to buy you lunch or a cup of coffee early next week so we can finish our discussion.” This example is personable, focused and effective.

If you want to turn your prospects into customers, then pay close attention to your process of setting the appointment. Follow the three rules: have a reason; plan; and take control. If you follow this process then your prospects will welcome your call, look forward to meeting with you, and be far more open to buying your product or service.