B2B appointment setting: How to book more (and better quality) sales meetings
Booking high-quality meetings is one of the most underappreciated opportunities sales teams have. We all want to learn the best tactics for negotiating and closing deals. But try getting people excited about appointment setting. Yet, no matter how you look at it, there’s one truth in sales: You can’t win a deal if no one’s willing to talk to you.
B2B appointment setting might not be the sexiest topic to cover. But it’s the foundation that your entire sales process is built on.
In this post, we’re going to run you through everything you need to know about setting better appointments, from how to set more appointments, when and how often to send reminders, to what to do after the call and how to turn no-shows back into hot leads.
Want to up your cold emailing game and start booking more sales appointments? Download your free CRM-ready email templates.
You have to sell the appointment before you can sell your product
Appointment setting is both a science and an art. Sure, there are tools and techniques that have been proven to increase your response rate. But the art is in how you sell the meeting.
Yet most sales teams don’t pitch the value of the meeting itself. We assume everyone knows what a product demo is and why they’d want to spend their time going through one. But why should that prospect give you their time?
Think about the last time someone called or emailed asking for a few minutes of your time. If you said yes, it was probably because they proved to you the ROI of taking the meeting.
That’s exactly what you need to do when you’re trying to set more appointments. Don’t give some long-winded request or backstory. Just get to the point and show the prospect that setting this appointment is going to save them time and help them get to a better decision faster.
The last thing you want is to fall into the trap of what Rachel Williams, Director of Sales and Partnerships at Calendly, calls, the “show up and throw up” appointment setting call or email. These are where you list all the ways your product is amazing in the hope that one of them sticks. But your prospect doesn’t have time for this. Plus, they don’t know you. So why should they care?
If you don’t sell the appointment, you can never sell your product. So don’t underestimate the importance of your appointment setting outreach.
Should you cold call or send a cold email when trying to set appointments?
One of the biggest questions in sales and in appointment setting is whether you should reach out by email or phone. The simple answer is both. The more complex one is that it depends on your team and your customer.
First, ask yourself how big of a sales opportunity is this? Is this a high-pressure situation where you need a response now and should call? Or is your sales process longer and it’s fine to email and follow up online?
Next, where and when is your customer most likely to respond? You know your prospect better than anyone. Do they respond better to cold calls or emails? Are they going to see your number pop up on their screen and take that call? Or do you need to email them when you know they’ll be sitting down at their computer?
Cold calls and emails aren’t your only option either. When you’re trying to set more appointments you need multiple touchpoints with your prospect. Add them on social media or comment on one of their latest updates. Let them know who you are and that you’re interested in talking to them.
Whichever method you choose, when a prospect gets back to you, set the appointment as soon as possible. Ideally, that same week. If you set an appointment too far in advance, you’re going to have to continually check back with them and get their buy-in. Capture the momentum of a quick call and push your prospect into your pipeline.
Appointment setting over email
Like all cold emails, your appointment setting messages will do better if you know exactly who you’re sending it to. This means having a deep understanding of who your ideal customer is and how you can sell the value of taking the meeting to them.
That means sending an appointment setting email that is:
- Personalized: Show the person you’ve done your homework and know who they are.
- Short and to the point: Your messaging needs to be compelling and attention-grabbing from the start. Don’t start with a weak “hope you’re well” or other throwaway statement.
- Respectful of your prospect’s time: Get to the point quickly. Acknowledge your prospect is busy and tell them why you’re reaching out.
- Clearly explain how you’ll solve your prospect’s biggest issues: What keeps your ideal customer up at night? And how is your product going to solve that problem?
- Tell them exactly what they need to do next: Should they reply? Click your calendar link? Give you a call? Be super clear about what their next step is.
It’s a lot to pack into a few sentences. Which is why one great tip is to share your email with the ideal customer within your own company.
So for example, if your ideal customer is a VP of Marketing, then show your email to your VP of Marketing. Is it something they’d open and read? Does it make them want to connect with you? Ask for their honest opinion, because they’ll know better than anyone else.
And don’t be afraid to get creative, either. Scott Barker, Head of Partnerships at Sales Hacker and his team use a “Fake Cold Call” email template for their cold outreach. Not only has it helped them land hundreds of sales appointments and contracts, but they consistently get a 70-80% response rate.
When it comes to setting appointments over email, you also need a tool that lets you send personalized emails at scale and be incredibly organized so you can respond quickly and timely.
Close's integrated Sales Inbox lets you quickly see all your appointment setting activity in one place—including emails, calls, voicemails, tasks, and reminders. This way you can track every touchpoint with your lead as you set appointments.
And with our two-way email syncing, you can set automatic follow-up reminders, use personalized templates, and send bulk appointment setting emails, all from your CRM.
Pro tip: When you send a calendar invite, put your company's (or your own name) first in the calendar invite title. Many sales reps put the prospect's name first, since that seems to be respectful, but think about it from an UX point of view: The calendar event title often gets trunkated, and seeing just their own name in there requires them to click on the invite in order to see the entire title. It's much more convenient for the prospect when they can see first thing what this call is about, before even having to click on the event in their calendar to open it up in full view. Small detail, but but also an opportunity to demonstrate with a little simple gesture that you do pay attention to small details which make it more convenient for them.
Appointment setting over the phone
Depending on your prospect and your industry, a cold email might not be the best way to set sales appointments. Plus, if you don’t have insight into the deliverability of your emails, you don’t know if they’re ending up in the spam or just being ignored. And with new data protection laws like the GDPR coming into effect, cold emailing lists might be a thing of the past.
That’s why cold calling is another fantastic option for appointment setting. But again, it comes with its own specific best practices.
For one, it’s always a good idea to let a prospect know who you are before you call them. This is as easy as following them on social media or checking out their LinkedIn page. Just a bit of engagement can go a long way in creating a “warm call” rather than a strictly cold one.
Second, you need to have insights into the success rate of your calls and how many it takes to land an appointment. This is where having a CRM with built-in VoIP calling like Close is so important for appointment setting.
Not only are you able to make more calls thanks to one-click dialing and our built-in Power Dialer call automation, but all appointment setting calls can be recorded and tracked to give you insights into how effective your cold calls truly are.
As Troy Logan, Founder and VP of Operations at Saleshuntr explains:
“Saleshuntr Inc. started out as an ‘appointment setting and tracking’ CRM product. We hired multiple software developers onshore and offshore to build the features we were looking for. But after a couple of years of mediocre results someone told us about Close.”
“Close had all the features we were looking for and more. Incorporating VoIP with a CRM changed our business model. We became an outsource appointment setting company. Today Saleshuntr Inc. uses Close exclusively to set appointments for our clients.”
For Saleshuntr, using Close to set appointments has changed the way they operate their business in a number of ways:
- They can track all their activity and know exactly how many calls it takes to land an appointment, giving them much more predictability.
- They can drop emails directly to the prospect while they’re on the phone (i.e. “I just sent you an email, it should be in your inbox now).
- They can make more calls and set more appointments every day thanks to its ease of use and sales rep-focused design.
“We tried a host of other CRM's and I can tell you, some VP of engineering must of have designed them,” explains Troy. “They are not sales friendly, it's cumbersome and an outright pain to use.”
“We love Close. I can't imagine using anything else.”
What to do once you’ve set a sales appointment
Once you’ve set your sales appointment you job isn’t finished. No matter what a prospect says, you need to keep them committed to show up to the meeting you worked so hard to sell.
Right after you’ve booked the appointment send your prospect a high-level agenda of what you’re going to cover during the meeting. This should cover the essentials, like what you’re going to show them, as well as remind them why they took the meeting in the first place by covering how your product is going to solve their pain points. You can even embed this agenda into the calendar link you send over.
Next, if you haven’t already, send them a LinkedIn request to establish the relationship and show that you’re invested in it. LinkedIn is abused way too much by salespeople. And so sending a request after they’ve agreed to the meeting is a much better way to get into their network.
Lastly, if you’re selling to multiple stakeholders within a company, you’ll also want to send this information directly to the person you want as your internal sales champion. This is someone who will organize the logistics behind the scenes and make sure everyone who needs to be at the meeting is there. An easy way to do this is to just be transparent and ask:
“It’s probably going to be tricky to organize this meeting with all six stakeholders as they’re all C-suite executives. What’s the best way to get this done?”
Not only will your internal champion be able to navigate the politics of bringing everyone together. But they also have a vested interest in looking good in front of their bosses. So while it might take a bit of time to find and develop this relationship, it’s invaluable to have once you’ve set a meeting.
How and when to send appointment reminders
If you’re setting a ton of appointments, you’re going to live and die by your reminders. And your prospects are the same. The more you can remind them of your appointment and get continued buy-in, the less likely they’re going to no-show on you.
Calendly’s Rachel Williams suggests doing a minimum of 2 reminders before your sales appointment:
- 24 hours in advance: A day out, send your prospect a personalized message with a link if they need to reschedule.
- 4 hours in advance: A few hours before the appointment, send another message and reschedule link in case their day got crazy. This is enough time that it won’t completely derail your own schedule if they have to cancel.
It’s completely fine to send these reminders over email and you can even set them to go out automatically in Close. However, if you’re meeting in person and it’s a large time commitment, it’s probably a good bet to call in advance to confirm.
From time to time, you might also run into a situation where a prospect agrees to an appointment but doesn’t actually RSVP to it. In this case, reminder emails are a great option to tell them why they agreed to the appointment in the first place, and give them a chance to put it in their calendars.
How to handle no-shows and get them to set a new appointment
There’s nothing worse than doing the work to set the appointment, sending reminders, and then having a prospect no-show. But it happens. And the last thing you want is for a no-show to ruin your entire day.
Let’s say, you’re waiting for a prospect to show up for a virtual demo. If they haven’t signed on after 1–2 minutes, send them a quick email such as:
“Hey, I’m in the GoToMeeting/Zoom. Here’s the info. Let me know if you have any questions about getting logged in.”
Wait no more than 10 minutes. After that, send them another quick email saying you missed them and then use your CRM, such as Close, to send an automated reschedule campaign.
At this point, you’ve done the work to convince them to set the appointment, so your messaging should be super clear and to the point. Something like:
“We missed you and would love to reschedule. Here’s a link/Does Tuesday at 11am work for you?”
Days get busy, and in most cases your prospect will reschedule. However, if they don’t after a few tries, you need to close the loop so you can move on. As a last effort, you should send them a final “break up” email saying:
“We’ve rescheduled a couple of times. If you’ve shifted gears and this isn’t a priority or you’re going in a different direction let us know.”
In many cases, the prospect will still want to connect with you. And so these emails have a surprisingly good response rate and often give you much more insight into what’s happening on their end.
And while you might get a no from them (or more silence), a no is the second best thing you can hear from a prospect. It let’s you know this is a dead end and that your efforts are better suited elsewhere.
The anatomy of a good sales appointment
- Set the agenda and expectations for the call. “We have these people from us/you. We’re going to talk for 30 minutes about X, Y, and Z. There will be time at the end for questions. Etc…” This creates structure for the call and gets buy in.
- What you should know at the end of your call: Who they are. What they care about. Who owns the business outcomes. Pain points and challenges. How you solve them. Their next steps and your next steps.
- Take notes and book 10-20 minutes after your call to add them to your CRM
- Record calls if you have to, but you’re most likely not going to listen back through the whole thing to take notes. Good for training purposes.
- Every call should end with a future commitment.
What to do immediately after your call
- Send a high-level recap of what you talked about. Make it digestible. This could also be a personalized video summary (Scott said this is like “sending them a training video of how to position your product or service”)
- Include a commitment calendar - the key dates working backwards from the close. Ask them to confirm.
- Find creative ways to stay engaged. Rachel from Calendly says to work with your content team to put together and send over useful information 3 days after the call to stay top of mind.
Setting good appointments is the foundation of your entire sales process
If your prospect won’t agree to talk to you, you’ll never be able to sell them anything.
Setting appointments is the first step every prospect needs to take if you want to turn them into a customer. But getting people over that initial hump takes skill and creativity.
Explain why the meeting is valuable to them in a short, personalized, and clear message. Give them an easy CTA for setting the appointment. And then use your CRM to send reminders and follow-ups to keep them committed to showing up when they said they would.
It might be cliche to say you only get one first impression. But setting appointments the right way makes sure your relationship with your prospect starts off in the best possible way. And while you won’t be guaranteed the sale, you’ll be one step closer to getting it.
Want to up your cold emailing game and start booking more sales appointments? Download your free CRM-ready email templates.