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25 Time-Tested Ways to Schedule a Call With a Business Prospect A prospect wants to know you're worth listening to before they give you their time.

By John Rampton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Luis Alvarez | Getty Images

Is there anything more challenging and intimidating for sales reps and business owners then asking for something from someone who you don't know all that well? For instance, asking if they can set aside time in their busy day to talk to you on the phone? After all, why should they waste their time on a sales call with a stranger?

While this won't completely change that perception, here are 25 ways that you can successfully schedule a call with a business prospect.

1. To schedule a call with a business prospect share your calendar.

It may seem obvious, but asking them to schedule a call with you should be obvious. If you have an email address, you could share your calendar with the prospect via email or send an embedded link. You should then write in an email that you sent the person your schedule for next available appointment -- and ask for a specific day and time that they can schedule a call with you.

You don't need to share too much information. There's no reason anyone needs to know what you're doing outside of work -- simply share your work calendar with them.

This is why I build Calendar for this exact purpose. It make sharing your calendar pretty easy. Calendly and Appointment are two other amazing options.

2. Launch a prospecting campaign.

Unless you already have leads, it's not uncommon to do a little cold-calling or emailing. While there's nothing wrong with this approach, per se, it's not always the easiest or most effective. How many times do you answer the phone or respond to an email from someone that you don't know?

Instead, sales strategist Marc Wayshsk suggests that you organize a sales prospecting campaign. You can "start by sending some direct mail, emails, or an event invite before ultimately picking up the phone and calling on a new prospect," writes Wayshak. He has found that those who use this tip "will find that prospects are more likely to answer the phone, engage in conversation, and ultimately agree to a meeting."

3. Strike when the iron's hot.

Let's say that you just met a prospect at a networking event. Why event wait to schedule a call with a business prospect for another day? Since you're already in their presence, don't be shy about asking when they would like to chat with you again.

It may seem like you're putting them on the spot. But, there's nothing wrong with putting them on the spot. And, if you have an online calendar app, you can send them their availability. Now all they have to do is select a date and time that works best for them. Here are a few scheduling tips that will help you along the way..

4. Just pick-up the phone.

Sounds easier said than done. Since you already have this client on the line -- some may think that there's no need to schedule another call. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are a few problems here. First, they may not even pick-up the phone. Second, if someone does answer, they may not have the time for a sales or business call. Third, you're probably going to lose them after the first couple of words out of your mouth.

If you want to book an appointment with anyone, here are three simple steps that you can start using:

  • Get them to lower their guard by introducing yourself and acknowledge that they're busy.
  • Dive right into the purpose of the call.
  • End the call with a specific purpose on how you can accomplish the objective.

If they don't have time for the call at the moment, book a more convenient option while you're on the phone with them.

Related: 20 Lessons Learned From Making 2,000 B2B Cold Calls in Just 20 Days

5. Use appointment scheduling software.

Regardless of the size of your business, there's appointment scheduling software that can use to book future appointments. Most of these tools allow you to place your calendar on your website. From the appointment, people can view your availability and self-book an appointment with you.

Since these tools also sync with you're existing online calendar, you'll be notified when someone has booked a time slot with you in real-time. Here are a few top calendar apps you can choose from. Here are a few other calendar apps from G2.

Here are a few other tips to manage your calendar when doing this.

6. Include a CTA in your emails.

Whenever you send out an email, there needs to be a clear call-to-action. It's a proven you to inspire the recipient to, well, take action. In this case, you want them to plan a call with you.

There's a variety of ways that you can add some persuasion to your CTA, but here are 10 techniques that are effective and easy to insert into your next message:

  • Provide an exact date and time.
  • Share a link to your calendar.
  • Provide a multiple choice option.
  • Reiterate your value proposition.
  • Request for a connection.
  • Ask a yes/no confirmation question.
  • Ask an open-ended question.
  • Use humor.
  • Ask permission to share something valuable.
  • Ask urgently.

Related: 3 Questions Behind Effective 'Calls to Action' That Drive Conversions

7. Ask for introductions and referrals.

As you probably know, asking for introductions and referrals is part of networking 101. But, ask your contacts if there are any people they know who could use your businesses assistance. You could also launch a referral program to encourage others to spread the word about you and your business.

Again, this isn't a surefire way to book a call. But, it does get your foot in the door. It also encourages others to put the wheels in motion for you. For example, a friend of you could pass your business card along to an acquaintance and tells them to give you a call. Next thing you know, the prospect is calling you up and asking for a time to talk.

8. Connect on social media.

Like introductions and referrals, connecting on social media is how people network in the 21st Century. Make the most of your LinkedIn connections. Interact and engage with potential clients on Twitter or Instagram. After you've built some rapport, send them a private message asking if they would be interested in having a conference call with you.

9. Don't be afraid to shoot them a text.

No one would text a prospect in the middle of the night. Some people are light sleepers or have their phone next to their bed and wouldn't appreciate being awakened by a message asking if they want to schedule a phone call with you.

At the same time, nine out of 10 people have reported that SMS is their preferred communication channel with businesses. So, go ahead and send your prospect a text message asking when they'd like to talk with you.

Related: The Rules of Business Texting

10. Tap into the power of A.I. and machine learning.

With artificial intelligence and machine learning, you can pretty much automate your scheduling. For instance, x.ai is a personal assistant that reviews your calendar and will coordinate with other tools to find the best possible meeting time.

Calendar is a mobile and web app that harnesses machine learning to get to know your schedule, tasks and contacts. With this information, Calendar can make suggestions on when and where to have a meeting, along with how to improve your schedule so that you have the time to call clients.

11. 'Read' the prospect's interest.

The key to scheduling a call with a prospect isn't merely just asking them. It's being "able" to read the clients interests so that no one is wasting each others time. If that seems impossible, here are four questions to ask to gauge their interest:

  • If they're skeptical. "If we really could do (something of value to the customer here), what would your thoughts be on having an initial conversation to hear more?"
  • For those who seem neutral. "What is your availability over the next few weeks to have an initial conversation with us about (something of value to the customer here)?"
  • If the prospect is interested: "I would love to have an initial phone conversation with you about (something of value to the customer here). What is the best way to get on your calendar?"
  • For those who are very interested. "How do I get on your calendar, please?"

12. Become an authority figure.

As mentioned in the first point, people are more hesitant to accept any time request when they have no idea who you are. To counter this predisposition, become an authority figure in your specific niche or industry. Tried and true ways include guest blogging, speaking at events, conducting studies, or publishing a book.

Even if the prospect isn't familiar with you, at least you have some evidence that you're legit. And, if you really make a name for yourself, don't surprised if prospects start contacting you -- as opposed to you reaching out to them.

13. Schedule your calls and emails.

Both you and your prospective clients are busy. That means you'll be fortunate if you actually catch them at a good time. What's more, if you don't block out these times to contact them, this task will either get overlooked or distract from completing your other work.

Block out specific times in your calendar to reach out to prospects. A lot of salespeople have had success contacting them during "off hours," like 8 am or 6 pm. I wouldn't call someone past 5 pm or before 7 am, but you could send them an email. Because they're not in the thick-of-it, they may not only respond, they could also be receptive to having a quick chat at the moment.

14. Be flexible.

You don't want to give the prospect too many options when nailing down a date and time for the call. But, you also need to work with them just a little. When requesting their time, offer a few alternatives so that they can't reject your request -- even if you have to fudge your calendar a bit.

15. Use multiple channels.

In a perfect world, you could just pick up the phone or shoot a prospect an email. They would respond ASAP and you could plan for a future call. Unfortunately, that's not reality. Everyone has different schedules and preferred communication channels.

For example, if you live New York, and the prospect resides in Colorado, then definitely don't expect them to answer a phone call when it's 9 am EST because they're most likely not in the office yet -- they might even still be sleeping. Also, they might not enjoy talking on the phone and prefer discussing business over email or video because they're more visual.

The point is, you may have to use a variety of channels several different times before getting in touch with a client.

16. Go directly to the decision maker.

No disrespect to assistants. But, when you ask them when you can speak with a prospect, they'll check their calendar and say that they're booked solid for the next month. That could be true. However, they're not going to try and squeeze you into their boss's schedule when they don't know who you are. And, even if they float the idea to their superior, they're not going to pitch for you.

If possible, go right to the source so that you can cut out the middleman and make your pitch directly to them. If that's not happening, start building a rapport with their assistant so that they can get on your side.

Related: Here's 3 Reasons Why the Customer Isn't Pulling the Trigger

17. Follow up on marketing leads.

As opposed to cold-calling prospects, reach out to those who actually have shown an interest in your business. Have they visited your website, signed-up for a newsletter, or downloaded content like a white paper? Did they attend an event you hosted?

You can obtain this information from your marketing efforts and go from there. It's not guaranteed that they'll respond, but the chances are definitely higher since there's already some context and interest.

18. Book discovery calls.

If you're in the service industry, Choncé Maddox recommends that you book more discovery calls. These quick 15-30 minute calls are also a great way to to get to know the potential client," writes Choncé. "They help me to decide whether we'd both be a good fit for each other."

Choncé adds that you successfully book more of these types of calls by doing the following:

  • Make sure the call is always free.
  • Be clear about what you do and what separates you from your competitors.
  • Resist the temptation to coach or advise.
  • Offer an incentive that makes that want to act now.

Most of all, remember that discovery calls are about getting to know the client better. After that, you can turn your attention to how and why you can help them.

19. Sell the heck out of the appointment.

If there is one key takeaway here it's that if you want to schedule a call with a prospect you can't push your product or service. Instead, you grab their attention so that they'll want to hear what you have to say.

In other words, you want to sell the appointment itself. You can achieve that by making them laugh, solving one of their major problems, or offering something that's valuable to them.

Even if it's not a good time for them to talk, they'll want to plan on picking up the conversation sooner than later. To make this possible, I would send a link to your calendar as soon as you hang-up.

20. Provide them with all the resources they need.

What if the person on the other end doesn't give you the time to sell them on the appointment? It's frustrating. But, don't give up just yet. Instead, offer to send them any resources they may want that can answer any questions or concerns that they may have.

If you send this information electronically, don't forget to include a CTA in your email. You could write, "Here is the information you requested. After you've looked it over, please click the link to schedule a phone call with me to discuss how we can help each other."

21. Show your humanity.

Chances are that you're using a lot of automated tools when interacting with clients. You may even be relying on a script so that you'll always remember important talking points. At the same time, you don't want to sound too robotic.

Show your personality in the language that you use. Don't be overly formal. Crack a joke if you're feeling. And, make sure that you've done your homework so that you can connect with them personally.

Related: Research Shows 3 Ways to Bring More Humanity to the Workplace

22. Respect their boundaries.

This was alluded to earlier, but don't bombard them with messages during off-hours. It's unprofessional and it's only going to make them tell you to back-off -- I'm sure that they'll use more colorful language though.

Again, you may want to send them an email an hour before they enter the office. But, they shouldn't wake-up to several emails and voicemails that you left overnight. Send them one message requesting a call and sit on that for a couple of days.

23. Use a power-dialer.

Close is a tool that could come in pretty handy for your scheduling needs. It's call automation software that's built into a CRM. This means it will go through your contact list and start dialing. If no one picks-up, it will move on to the next.

What's great about this software is that it allows you to work at own pace, keeps track of who called, and lets you work on other tasks until someone answers.

24. Revamp your voicemails.

It's been found that 97 percent of business calls go to voicemail. That means it's time to improve the messages that you leave. According to his personal experience and research, Donato Diorio has developed an effective voicemail script that contains the following items:

  • Your name
  • Reason for calling
  • The benefit of returning your call
  • Your contact information
  • A promise of a follow-up email

25. Don't forget to follow-up.

Even though you already scheduled the call, don't forget to follow-up. Send a confirmation of the appointment, as well as a reminder to yourself and the client as the call conference approaches. Most calendars and scheduling software do this automatically, but just double-check to be safe.

Additionally, after the call, make sure that you send them an email thanking them for their time. You may also want to include a summary that highlights the key points of the call. And, make sure you include a call-to-action so that the client knows what steps to take next.

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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