Setting Up B2B Appointments

The best approach: Call first...and make sure you listen to what your prospect has to say.
From the September 2001 issue of Startups

Q: Although I have sold B2B before, I'm not sure how to approach a business. Should I just show up, or should I call first? I've called on businesses just to introduce myself and set up appointments, but this doesn't always go over well-even though I've already landed my first client this way and have three appointments for next week. I think I should have a variety of clients from many different business fields. What do you recommend as my best course of action?

A: First, the fact that you have the ability to sell is a decided advantage in any business you choose. So hopefully you feel the self-confidence that comes with this ability. Self-confidence creates credibility, because if you believe in you, others are apt to as well.

Second, an appointments approach seems to be the answer for you. It's clear you're able to get through to the people you need to talk to, as evidenced by your three upcoming appointments. Plus, it will help you weed out calls that will consume your time without yielding any results.

Keep in mind, the fact that your appointments approach is hit or miss is probably reflective of the personalities of the people and their corporate or industry culture. For example, editors are split about evenly on whether they welcome telephone calls to follow up on a news release. Some like it; others hate it-meaning there is no "right" answer every time. With experience, you may be able to predict the best approach for each person you deal with.

Here are some things you can do to increase your ratio of appointments to calls:

  • Focus on a few key ideas. For example, if you can save your caller money, the appointment is a way for you to determine how much.
  • Listen carefully to what the caller tells you. You may learn something you didn't expect and that you can turn to your advantage. So don't interrupt him or her.
  • Ask questions that demonstrate your understanding of and caring about your caller's situation.
  • Seek to turn what you learn from the answers into benefits that justify an appointment.

The best prospects to call are those based on referrals from existing clients. In time, with satisfied customers, you can get those.


Paul and Sarah Edwards' most recent book is Changing Directions Without Losing Your Way. Send them your start-up questions at www.workingfromhome.com or through us at Entrepreneur.

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