More Appointments With Decision Makers Is Not the Answer

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more. Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers?

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more.

Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers? I’ll bet you’re not.

Rushing into meetings gives your team:

  • Less motivation to hunt
  • Pipeline filled with unclose-able deals
  • More “no decisions” by clients

What it costs to generate a sale matters just as much as revenue. From a business perspective, wasting time on bad leads drives profit down — by driving cost up, profit decreases.

When salespeople rush meetings it decreases productivity. Under-qualified meetings waste reps’ most valuable time — speaking in real-time with prospects.

Because qualification happens purely in meetings. Objections are increased.

Instead, a qualification (screening) system ensures reps spend time on phone/in demos/appointments only with close-able customers.

Qualification is faster.

You Don’t Need More Appointments With Decision Makers

Here’s the rub: Courting un-closeable leads decreases what you want more of — time and money. Instead, field sellers (your closers) need pre-qualified discussions with decision makers most likely to close.

Before you say, “Obviously, Jeff, that’s why we have inside sales/marketing/demand generation people,” think about what you’re doing, right now, to earn more meetings. You’ve probably got a system in place, or are pursuing a systematic way to get more meetings.

Are you also giving reps ways to effectively qualify — to ensure better meetings and demos?

Too often, our “prospecting mindset” is bent on chasing quantity of conversations — at the exclusion of quality.

The lure: More activities put into the system, more sales come out. Naturally, without question. It’s a fact.

That’s what makes systems great, according to “experts.” Systems are controllable. Want more sales? Increase prospecting outreach. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

But is it really that simple? Is more appointments with decision makers the answer?

No and no. Spinning wheels on bad leads costs you. It drives profit down. Perhaps worse, sales people are demotivated.

Because your sales reps’ profit comes in two pieces: Commissions and time spent doing what they enjoy, working less. Or you might say there is a third component — enjoying their work.

Qualifying leads — before investing quality time with them — is vital to success.

The Truth About Systems

There’s a quality component to every system. It what makes one system better than another. Look at motor vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, aircraft engines.

Quality of systems drives quality of output: performance.

Purely? Of course not. Input matters. Quantity of fuel, air … inputs demand proper amount. When quantity and quality are in harmony resulting output is effective and efficient.

It’s the same in sales.

We don’t want more appointments. We want better quality pipeline. More meetings and more close-able opportunities.

Effectiveness Versus Efficiency

The happy marriage I’m describing conflicts with culture and philosophy of sales managers… even boards of directors … who want more, more, more! (promoting effectiveness, demoting efficiency)

Many are calling this model Activity Based Selling (ABS). This strategy (and philosophy) mandates quantity. Minimum number of activities.

ABS requires sellers to make X number of calls, push Y number of emails, share Z numbers of articles on LinkedIn. All good, so long the difference between effectiveness and efficiency is appreciated.

Time for

Effective: Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.

Efficient: Functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.

In many cases, activities-focused selling is damaging inside/digital and field sellers’ ability to efficiently generate more and better conversations with potential customers.

Don’t care about efficiency? Not a priority? Then you don’t value money nor your time enough.

Scott Channel, a B2B cold calling expert, says “every call not made to the worthless is a call that could be made to the worthy … or lead to finding a prospect that is worthy.”

Don’t waste time. Efficient use of prospecting time drives what you want — and don’t want!

Why Efficiency Is Worth It

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient. Setting more meetings isn’t difficult when you take a meeting with practically anyone. Effectiveness takes less time, effort and communications skills than efficiency. But it’s not worth the trade-off.

People choose getting more meetings over better meetings because they’re too lazy to get the better ones. There, I said it! But this is slowly killing you/your business.

Cold calling expert, Wendy Weiss, recently profiled financial advisor, Jerry Iancangelo. Jerry invested in a quality-driven way to screen out decision makers with lower chances of closing.

Iancangelo says he learned, “How to pre-screen people better so I could stop driving everywhere and meeting just anybody.”

As a result he’s built a $200,000 recurring annual income while doubling his time off.

“With the extra money and time, I can now vacation in Hawaii every year … take better care of myself and have a happier, healthier lifestyle with good food and proper exercise,” says Iancangelo.

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient, but pays benefits.

Better Appointments at Scale Is Possible

Constant over-valuation of more meetings is diminishing the value of better meetings. Don’t let this culture poison your prospecting strategy. Invest in scale-able ways to drive more and better appointments with decision makers.

Beware of over-focusing on reps hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to approach C-level decision-makers

We live in a world where sales managers struggle to differentiate between marketing automation and effective sales follow-up. Lines are blurred by the tech tools.

But are they? The best sales and marketing email solutions are working overtime to help sales reps understand—sales qualifies the leads marketing warmed up. I think I know why.

Because buyers of such tools prefer effectiveness (more meetings) over efficiency (better meetings).

More meetings, they believe, requires more activities. Not getting enough deals closed? Simply pull a lever and force reps to make more outbound dials, emails or LinkedIn connections.

But it doesn’t work that way. There is no room for mass emailing messages in sales environments.

Sales is (and always will be) a numbers game. But business growth, profitability and earning more free time is not driven purely by quantity of outbound activities. Excluding quality of conversation from sellers’ strategies is a mistake.

Make sure you and your organization are not over-focusing on hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to engage C-level decision makers.

What has your experience been?


Sales and Marketing Automation: Explaining the Difference

Is the difference between sales and marketing automation confusing you? There’s a reason why. Sales teams are being pushed to hit prospecting “activities” numbers — to the exclusion of making those activities count.

Is the difference between sales and marketing automation confusing you? There’s a reason why. Sales teams are being pushed to hit prospecting “activities” numbers — to the exclusion of making those activities count.

As one of my students selling enterprise software put it, “I’m glad to send out X number of emails per week and leave Y number of voicemails … so long as most of those touches bring me closer to a meeting. I’m not willing to hit my numbers for the sake of hitting my numbers — and that’s what management is demanding.”

Here’s the rub. “Mass marketing” mentality is creeping into most sales departments — especially SDRs and BDRs (sales and business development reps).

The result is a blurring between sales and marketing, broadly. But also a blurring between sales and marketing automation tools and how they’re being applied. Inside sales teams are behaving like mass marketing agents. Worse, field reps selling into enterprise accounts are being forced to pump out templated emails to C-suite and officer level prospects.

And it ain’t workin’.

Is Sales a Numbers Game?

Remember the old adage, “Sales is a numbers game?” Given LinkedIn, social media, email, postal mail, cold calling, etc., we need a new name; a more scientific name. They call it “Activity Based Selling.”

Followers of Activity Based Selling (ABS) believe, “sales is a numbers game — won primarily by those who knock on more doors.”

But here’s where it gets ugly. Sales is (and always will be) a numbers game. Is business growth purely quantitative? Certainly not. But proponents of ABS are excluding quality of conversation from sellers’ strategies. Many organizations are over-focusing on reps hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to approach C-level decision-makers.

In theory ABS makes good sense. In practice it turns out to be spammy, dangerous and ineffective.

Marketing Automation Isn’t Sales Automation

It may sound stupid to say marketing automation isn’t sales automation. Truth is, you may agree in theory: Marketing is distinct from sales. But in practice are your sellers behaving like mass marketers when using email, voicemail and social?

This is where things get cloudy.

According to sales automation software provider, marketing automation is not a substitute for a sales engagement platform. Well, duh. But interestingly, this software vendor prefers the word “engagement” over “automation,” with good reason. Folks in charge of purchasing these tools often don’t see the difference — based on how they intend to use marketing and sales automation tools.

When you intend on using both to send “campaigns,” look out!

Both sales and marketing automation tools have the capability to send en mass. I’m convinced this is because sales automation companies would go broke otherwise.

Everyone demands sellers to send mass emailed campaigns. Big mistake. rightly advises marketing automation:

  • is ideal for generating leads, but not working them;
  • is too technical and feature-heavy to onboard new reps quickly;
  • lacks flexibility needed for personal conversations;
  • doesn’t enable reps to make calls and interact on social media;
  • send emails via third party servers, not a rep’s inbox, which increases chances of getting caught in spam filters

So What’s the Difference?

The difference is simple in theory and what should be practiced: One-to-many (marketing) message management and one-to-one (sales) message management. It’s the difference between trying to earn whitepaper downloads and webinar registrants, and earning the right to converse with a client and qualify their need.

Marketing automation should be generating leads via mass marketing. Sales engagement (automation) tools should be helping sellers to do what they do best — help those leads qualify or dis-qualify themselves as customers.

Can you do this using cut-and-paste templates you found on Google?

Heck no.

Today’s most effective sales reps — on inside or in field — use qualitative, one-on-one conversations. Email plays a vital role in starting and moving conversations toward closure. Problem is, many who invest in sales automation software use it to push static, impersonal templates that scream, “delete me!” to prospects.

Prospecting templates don’t work.

The Problem With Activity Based Selling

Proponents of ABS tend to believe “If we focus on what sellers can control (activities) … and not the outcome we desire (customers buying) … sellers will perform better.” Thus, management focus sellers on “activities” that encourage a conversation via:

  • reach
  • persistence
  • education

Trouble is, those ideas easily morph into pushing information at prospects (low skill). Instead, C-level buyers demand sellers find ways to earn discussions by attracting (pulling) them into a qualitative, early-need-stage dialogue.

Worse, demand generation and sales enablement teams supporting reps instruct them to not focus on the sale. While pushing for the sale is not appropriate, telling a sales rep “don’t focus on selling” forces reps to ask, “what should I do then?”

Too often the answer is found in marketing-speak. Reps resort to pushing email messages at clients about features, benefits, solutions and webinars. Instead, effective reps provoke replies using non-marketing-speak messages based on problem-solving and other sensitive issues they’ve managed to research.

Thus, ABS demands reps to perform many touches (activities). The nature of what ends up being pushed out is purely quantitative marketing noise aimed at educating clients who have not yet asked to be educated!

Stop Sending Templates

At best, even when sellers are not pushing out education-oriented mass messages, they are sending out drivel like this…

Hi Sam,
I wanted to reach out because my company [insert vendor name] helps organizations like [target company name] [top 10 list of pain/value propositions every vendor claims — e.g., increase productivity, reduce sales cycle time, boost engagement, manage leads etc.]

Our solutions have helped customers like [list of generic famous companies designed to impress reader] see an improvement of [insert ROI stat].

Do you have 15 minutes to speak this week? Looking forward to hearing from you!

Templates don’t work nor do premature meeting requests. Effective sellers use templates to customize messages faster, not send faster. They use sales automation and engagement tools to start and qualify one-to-one conversations using qualitative (yes, time consuming) tactics designed to earn them.

Research is a key element of effective cold email messages — proving you’ve done homework on prospects multiplies response rates.

Add in a Qualitative Element

Provoking conversations with C-level executives is possible. It isn’t “cut-and-paste-easy.” Nor is pushing educational or value-added messages at them (before they’ve requested it) going to work. What does work is relatively simple: It mostly involves trimming back all messages to two to four sentences. Literally.

The other key element is sparking curiosity in cold messages.

True: It’s best to focus on what you can control (activities) … and not the outcome you desire (customers buying). But the answer is not a purely quantitative strategy—especially when calling into the C-suite.

Standardized templates do not work. They feel too “mass mailed.” Easy to spot, instant delete.

But a mental-triggers-based approach to message design—that can be very repeatable — does.

Customization is key. Psychology is front-and-center to triggering response.

What is your experience lately?