As the great philosopher Dory once told Marlin in Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.” It’s guidance that not only gets us through a hard day, but might as well be the motto of almost every B2B organization out there.
Business success is hard-fought and short-lived and, no matter how successful your company may be right now, the only way to continue to grow and prosper is by increasing monthly recurring revenue (MRR). For the overwhelming majority of B2B organizations, that means landing more meetings with key decision-makers. In other words, just keep swimming.
Of course, there’s no silver bullet to booking more appointments, but there are some easy wins that can be grabbed with both hands and some obvious mistakes that many companies make that you can avoid with a little work. Here, we dive into a few tips and tricks that’ll have your schedules bursting with meetings before long.
1: Make it easy for customers to schedule appointments
Let’s start with the lowest-hanging of fruits: your company website. Many organizations focus on building great call lists. They spend vast sums on inbound marketing strategies to warm up leads. They invest hours into role-playing calls with sales development representatives (SDRs). Yet, even though it takes an average of 18 calls to connect with a buyer, they make it too difficult to schedule an appointment for potential customers who visit their website wanting to connect.
We can hail cabs with the touch of a button; we order and pay for food without ever speaking to a person; we organize vacations without ever speaking to the hotel. We’re a generation of DIYers, and a third of us would rather schedule an appointment ourselves than call a salesperson or fill in a form. These people are serving themselves up on a silver platter and it’s your job to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
- Make sure you have an appointment booking button displayed clearly and prominently on every single page of your website. Don’t be vague with your call to action: “Book your appointment now” is as ambiguous as your copy should get.
- Consider adding an appointment booking button to your menu too.
- Integrate your scheduling software so visitors can reserve a convenient time slot from right there within the website. Easy peasy.
2: Make more calls and better calls
OK, so this might be stating the obvious a little, but the more calls you make, the better the chance you have of booking more customer appointments for your business. Sales is, to a degree, a numbers game. But that’s only if your calls are already excellent. How do you make sure that your calls are worth taking?
First, make sure they’re not repetitive. Scripts work to a degree, but they can make sales executives sound tired and unenthusiastic while coming across as uninterested. Spend time on discovery before every call. Google the person you’re calling for news, interests or some level of insight into who they are as a person. Take a look through their LinkedIn profile to get a sense of their career path and the companies they’ve worked for; check which posts they’ve liked or shared. This will help make your call more personal and appealing to the person on the other end of the call.
Once equipped with this information, use it to kickstart a conversation rather than a sales pitch. Establish a relationship and then move on to asking questions that will help you qualify the lead and sparking their interest in your products or services. Research shows a direct connection between the number of questions a salesperson asks and the success of that interaction.
Finally, you’re on the call, chatting away like old friends and you’ve gauged that they’re a good potential lead. Then make sure you don’t hang up until the appointment is in the book. The same applies to any future meetings or demos; always make sure the next appointment is scheduled during that call to reduce the lag between sessions and to make sure that the next face-to-face happens.
3: Sell the appointment, not the product
Arguably the biggest mistake that SDRs make is forgetting what it is they’re trying to sell. They become so wrapped up in the solution and all the ways it can improve any potential customer’s business that they come on too strong like they’re trying to sell their solution right there on the call.
Think of the call like a movie trailer. You introduce the main characters (say, a young fish and his dad), then introduce a little tension (the fish gets whisked away to the other side of the world and his dad has to find him) and add maybe a good joke or two. Just enough to have people excited to find out more and buy a ticket to the main event: the appointment itself.
Ways to do this include:
- Do your discovery work about the person, their company and their potential problems. Make your first approach as specific to them as possible. These are our main characters.
- Be concise and get to the point straight away. If the movie trailer is boring, how uninteresting must the actual movie be? This also demonstrates that you’re respectful of their time and appreciate them making time for you despite their busy schedule.
- Quickly and clearly introduce the friction: their big business problem and how you can help them solve it.
- Be definite about the next steps. Tell them exactly how to schedule an appointment.
- Break out the popcorn; it’s time for the main event.
4: Use meeting scheduling software
We admit it; this should probably be point number one, but, like Dory helping Marlin find Nemo, we wanted to show a little humility. We’ve all been in a store about to make a purchase, only to put the item down because nobody is assisting at the checkout desk or there’s a queue that’s longer than a line of turtles riding the East Australian Current. Frustrating.
When you’ve gone through the hard work of either making people interested in your product and getting them on to your website, capturing their attention with your emails, or winning them over on a call, it’s vital you make the appointment booking process frictionless. Appointment scheduling software to the rescue.
Choose a tool that links straight through to your sales executives’ agendas. We call this feature Bookable Calendar. It means that sales professionals can share their availability directly with prospects, while setting their desired meeting rules, such as their available work hours, meeting duration, minimum notice period and buffer time. This all shows up via a unique URL, which can be added to websites, emails, direct messages and even social media posts. Interested parties can book their appointment at their convenience; they can even choose which sales executive they’d like to speak to, if relevant, and both parties automatically receive a calendar invite in their inbox complete with a Zoom link, if they have this integration with Doodle enabled. That time slot is removed from the bookable calendar, so there’s no risk of being double booked.
Not only does scheduling software make the experience of booking an appointment utterly painless for potential customers, but it also reduces the workload on SDRs and salespeople, giving them more time to do more commercially impactful work instead of calling and email to arrange a convenient time for an appointment. This process robs companies of many working hours each week.
5: Get creative with your tools
The phone remains king in sales, with almost half of sales professionals still claiming that their humble phone is the most powerful tool in their armory. But, in these multimedia, multi-device, always-on days, sales people must use all the tools at their disposal.
Email still has a role to play, if used smartly and strategically. Right now, an average of 306 billion emails are sent every day. For an idea of how fast that figure is growing, when Finding Dory was released in 2016, 220 billion emails were being sent each day, while just 31 billion emails were being sent each day when the original Finding Nemo hit cinema screens in 2003.
All of which is to say that people are faced with giant and ever-mounting piles of emails in their inbox, which explains why open rates are so low. To cut through, you’re going to need something special. So make subject lines personal, exciting and surprising, and make the content useful. A good approach is to send contacts emails containing company and industry news, with your execs’ perspective on industry trends. Then make sure there’s an unmissable button for booking appointments at several points throughout the email.
Campaigns on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, can be highly targeted to your dream demographic. However, companies often give posts calls-to-action, which are either too vague (click-through to the company website) or ask way too much (buy now). A link through to your Bookable Calendar page where prospects can book an appointment is the ideal middle ground.
Finally, companies see success using text message or messaging apps, such as Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger, and including a ‘Book Now’ link within the message. On average, we spend more than three hours a day on our mobile devices, so it makes sense to hit up your targets on their preferred platform.
6: Follow up to prevent no-shows
Given all the hard work it takes marketing and sales teams to get potential customers to the point where they’re ready to schedule an appointment, it’s enormously frustrating that between 15 and 35 percent of scheduled appointments never actually happen.
Scheduling software helps to reduce that figure. People commit more to appointments that they’ve scheduled themselves rather than having had a time slot thrust upon them by an enthusiastic SDR. At Doodle, we also send invitees a link that makes it easy for them to reschedule, reducing the likelihood of no-shows or last-minute cancellations.
Keeping appointment slots short can also increase compliance, as you’re far more likely to cancel a one-hour appointment during a busy day than you are to cancel a meeting that is scheduled to last just 20 minutes. This is evidenced by our analysis of meetings earlier this year, which found that 30 minutes was the most preferred meeting duration.
However, the most important thing is that SDRs don’t think the job is done once the meeting is in the books. Find ways to remain in occasional contact with the potential customer leading up to the appointment. Maybe send them a recent article or case study they might find interesting. Then remind them you have an upcoming meeting, confirm the agenda, double-check the time and date work for them, and explain clearly how to reschedule if it’s no longer convenient.
Some companies find that sending reminders via text message or messaging app is more effective than traditional email.
7: Test. Measure. Analyze. Repeat.
“Here we go! Next stop: knowledge!” — Mr Ray, Nemo’s teacher
Booking appointments can sometimes feel like an irrational numbers game, merely slinging mud at a wall to see what sticks. It’s vital that it doesn’t become that and you bring some reflection to all that noise.
That means tracking all the contacts you make according to the platform you use; the method, tone and message you use; whether you include a video or a GIF in your email.
By tracking everything, you’ll soon learn to spot patterns. Maybe certain target groups respond best to text messages. Could a particular case study video provoke recipients to schedule more appointments? Once you identify a trend, you can try it out more widely and maybe even do variations on the same theme. Suppose a particular subject line outperforms all others in terms of open rates or appointments scheduled. In that case, it’s time to create variations on that same subject line to see if another version can perform even better.
By testing, measuring, analyzing and repeating the process, you’ll finetune your methodology and increase your chance of booking more appointments for your business. But it’s essential you make time to try something a little unpredictable from time to time too. Maybe you can send contacts a birthday card with a shortened link to your appointment scheduler on the back? Could you employ a pilot to etch the URL across the sky high above a significant industry event?
Or you could send them a little gift, like a couple of cinema tickets, with a note saying you’d love to chat once they’ve had a chance to spend a couple of hours in a darkened room, away from the hustle and bustle of the office. If they’re not sure what to go and see, we have a couple of classics in mind that are sure to put a clownfish-sized grin on their faces.
To learn more about how sales and marketing professionals can use Doodle to book more sales appointments, visit our Sales & Marketing Solutions page.