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The Secret to Setting Appointments with Prospects

Oct 9, 2007
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...
-Charles Dickens, English novelist (1812 - 1870)

Talking to prospects on the phone is like reading those first few lines of Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The key is to avoid being the worst, being foolish or incredulous, and to prevent the season of darkness and the winter of despair.

Now imagine the following:

You hear your telephone ringing. You pick it up only to discover a salesperson on the line. She says,

"Hello, this is Angel Smith with ABC House Cleaning Service. We clean your house so you don't have to. We'll be in your neighborhood this week giving free estimates for our services. We can come by your house on either Tuesday at 10:00 A.M. or Wednesday at 3:00 P.M. Which works best for you?"

Okay, gut reaction -- how do you feel? What do you want to say?

I'll tell you what I would want to say. I would want to say,

"If you think you can get an appointment with me by cornering me with that tale of two dates, think again. Hey! I'm the customer. I get to choose the date, not you. And by the way, there's nothing amazing about giving a free estimate."

That's what I want to say, but because I'm pathetically polite, I'd chicken out and say, "Neither." And then I'd just hang up.

I know plenty of sales people still try to close their prospects that way, and plenty more are taught to sell and close like that, but I flat out disagree with that method. When a salesperson uses a script like that, what he is really saying is:

Hello, I'm with ABC Cleaning Service and I'll go wherever I can to get an appointment. I want to make some sales this week, so do you want to buy from me on Tuesday or on Wednesday?

Wouldn't you think it foolish for a sales person to use that script? Well believe me, most prospects are savvy enough to hear between the lines of phrases like "We'll be in your neighborhood," and "We have an opening on Tuesday at 10:00 or Wednesday at 3:00." Prospects are quite familiar with the tale of two dates.

When a sales person uses phraseology like that he is obviously trying to push the prospect in a certain direction. But prospects often resist, once a salesperson pushes. The key is to find out what your prospect wants. Once you know if your prospect wants what you're selling, setting a time to get together shouldn't be any different than setting a time to get together with a friend.

The other day I got a call from my insurance agent. He wanted to get together with me for a cup of coffee this week. When it came to picking a time to get together, he simply said, "So what morning works for you this week?"

On Monday I called a friend of mine I'd hadn't seen in a few weeks. When I called I asked her if she could meet me sometime this week, she said, "Sure. When?" I said, "Any chance we could meet in an hour?"

If you look over those conversations, they both included selecting a time to get together with someone, but there was no pressure and no resistance. Indeed, I quickly suggested Thursday morning to my friend Mike, and my friend, Sue, told me she could meet me in 45 minutes.

I suggest that the reason those appointments were easy to set was because the conversations surrounding the appointments were real. When you're real with your prospects, you'll find it far easier to generate interest and appointments. You don't have to put on a "salesman hat" and speak like a salesman. It isn't necessary.

If a prospect wants what you are selling, there's absolutely no need to corner him into a tight place with your tale of two dates unless you have a strange desire to resemble Dickens' character, Madame Defarge (not exactly a likable person). That technique is old and truly worn out. Your prospects don't want to feel manipulated; they want to feel like they can trust you. Trust will generate a sale far faster than manipulation.

Just this week our refrigerator went kaput. Naturally I had just spent a small fortune in groceries, so it became imperative that we go get a new refrigerator right away. We went to one of these huge places and started looking for a brand our repairman had suggested. Why did we want what our repairman suggested? Because he manipulated us? Of course not. We wanted what he suggested because we trust him.

While we were looking, a salesman came up and asked if he could help us in any way. I told him that we had to get a new refrigerator because the compressor in our refrigerator had died. I then told him that our repairman had told us that compressors typically last 15 - 20 years, but ours had only lasted 9.

How the salesman responded stopped me in my tracks. He said, "No, the manufacturers don't design refrigerators like that anymore. You know, they realized that when they make them last that long, it's bad for their business. So, these days they only design them to last 7-9 years." HUH -- pure unadulterated honesty coming from a sales person in the appliance division?

What do you think I did? I looked at his name tag. Five minutes later when we were ready to buy (no, he didn't hover over us while we shopped), I searched the place looking for Cheech. Why? I trusted him.

Could it be that the secret to setting appointments and getting a sale is exchanging manipulation for simple honesty? AH! The epoch of belief, the season of Light, the spring of hope!
About the Author
Tammy Stanley directs The Sales Refinery, a sales training firm that assists sales professionals generate more business through powerful marketing and selling strategies. Click here for your FREE report,
7 Keys to Easier Prospecting"
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