If You Don’t Have This, It Ain’t an Appointment

It’s easy for us salespeople to kid ourselves.

Sales appointments have a date, time and location

Photo by Feng Yu

What Does “An Appointment” Mean?

When I get to the end of a Revenue Initiative with a television station sales department, I ask each Account Executive to write up and send me their follow-up plans for each client we met with. Among the questions they are to answer: “Do you have a face-to-face appointment with the decision-maker, and if so, when is it?”

Invariably, at least one AE will write back that they have an appointment — “I’m supposed to call the client next week.”

From now on, every time a salesperson tells me something like that, I will immediately email them a link to Matt Sunshine’s blog post “Follow Up Next Week” Does Not Mean You Have an Appointment.

Sunshine, who writes for the Center for Sales Strategy Blog, puts it very plainly in a subhead:

You Don’t Have an Appointment Until the Prospect Has Agreed to a Specific Date and Time.

Then he explains the problem:

‘Follow up next week’ leads to slow sales because ‘follow up next week’ often leads to a prospect saying something like ‘Oh, you know what, this week is not going to work after all, can you call me next week and we will meet.’

He’s right. When you set a real appointment with a prospect, both of you make a commitment — you both agree to show up at the same place at the same time, ready to do business.

“Follow up next week” is, at most, a one-way commitment. The client asks you to commit to an action without agreeing to do anything in return. Nothing is on the client’s calendar, so there’s no deadline.

With a real appointment, the client has something on the calendar. If they’ve agreed to take a look at their budget to see if they can make room for your proposal, or discuss your idea with their partner, they have a deadline to do it.

Heck, even if all they’ve agreed to do is “think about it”, they’ve got to think about it before you show up for the appointment.

For moving a conversation closer to a sale, the ideal appointment with a local client will be face-to-face — the hardest thing for them to ignore is a human body in their office.

When the customer is unable to agree to an in-person meeting, push for a phone appointment, with the customer writing a date and time on their calendar.

If the client isn’t willing to set a firm phone appointment, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the deal is dead. But it is a sign that the client isn’t as interested in the process as you are.

So don’t kid yourself. A real appointment has a date, a time, and a location. Anything less is… something less.


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