Sales HAcker: Nicolas de Kouchkovsky, March 15th 2018
For a long time, I thought of scheduling sales appointments, whether it was for demos or discovery calls, as just a feature. Improving this process was the last thing on my mind.
I was swayed by the all free tools you can use for yourself. 18 months ago, I came to realize that scheduling was much more important.
You waste a LOT of time exchanging emails with a prospect until a good time is found.
Besides compromising your Sales Development Reps’ (SDRs) productivity, there are a lot of no-shows. It’s not uncommon to see 25% of scheduled meetings not happening. You could say this led to the best practice of SDRs owning leads till a meeting actually occurs.
Why You Must Care About Improving Your Sales Appointment Scheduling:
- Appointment setting often defines the handoff from sales development to sales.
- The time it takes to arrange a meeting has a direct impact on conversion.
Point #2 is particularly salient when you’re selling something loosely tied to an immediate pain point or for commodity products. 70% of meetings occur when scheduled within 9 days versus only 47% when scheduled more than 30 days out. Time is the currency of many prospective buyers. Your ability to secure a meeting will depend on how effortlessly you can follow up.
Fortunately, technology can help. This category—sales appointment scheduling—I created in my sales tech stack already lists 20 tools.
Let’s explore 4 tips that’ll make sales appointment scheduling a lot easier for you and your prospects.
1) Add Appointment Scheduling Tools to Your Sales Stack
Calendly and Assistant.to were among the first few players in the scheduling automation space. Calendly’s founder Tope Awotona found the process of scheduling meetings the most frustrating part of his job when he was a sales rep.
Having majored in computer science, he immediately figured there had to be a software solution to the problem. He looked into existing solutions but they were either hard to integrate or specific to a profession.
He built his company on the vision to accommodate a broad set of use cases by making integrations a snap! This meant prospects could see a rep’s availability with a URL inserted in an email or a website. The prospect has to then simply choose among the available options.
This type of a tool is built for speed and simplicity and democratizes the feature. These solutions are designed to make trials signups easier thus leading to broader product/service adoption.
The paradigm is also very generic and can be added to any sales process and stack. It hinges on being integrated out of the box with calendars, websites, communication and conferencing tools as well as CRM for activity logging or payment.
2) Integrate Appointment Scheduling into Your Workflows
Several sales engagement vendors such as Outreach or Yesware have added this capability to their platform. New entrants such as Mixmax are pushing the envelope to “fuze” scheduling into the workflow for all the parties involved.
Mixmax’s Olof Mathé spoke with me about his vision—not limited to scheduling—of weaving communication into existing email and CRM tools.
The three founders pride themselves on being communication geeks who cut their teeth in this space and compete with industry disrupters like Skype or Google.
The key point here is to enable users to take action within the message. This model can also be applied to polls, surveys, and content. By reducing the number of clicks required, it makes automation almost irrelevant.
3) Focus on Conversion Rates Not Appointments Booked
The poster child for a specialized app is Chili Piper. Their founder Nicolas Vandenberghe is actually the one who convinced me to create a category for appointment scheduling.
He approaches scheduling from a larger perspective—as a hand-off from Marketing and Sales Development to Sales. It’s not just about finding a time, but securing an appointment and assigning the lead to a sales rep.
Of course, it’s critical to ensure there’s a fair distribution of leads among larger sales teams. Gathering data to do it can take time and break the promise of an instant booking.
Nicolas believes the industry needs to go beyond saving that 5 to 10 minutes it takes on an average to book a meeting.
The true measure of success should be improved conversion rates. Well-established offers may still rely on self-qualification by the prospect and don’t need an SDR to facilitate the process. Moving your appointment schedule online creates a “fast lane” allowing prospects to directly book their demos or meetings.
4) Automate Appointment Scheduling with AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not new for appointment setting.
x.ai, an appointment scheduling assistant, was among the first AI applications for sales.
Clara Labs added a twist by combining AI with human assistance. Their founder Maran Nelson carefully zeroed in on this angle after several iterations.
They first tried to create a User Interface (UI) for booking time. The UI turned out to be cluttered and could not work around language constraints. They then adopted Natural Language Processing (NLP) but was still struggling with a broad range of use cases.
Some organizations want a personalized appointment scheduling experience because it’s the first step in a relationship. Others want to automate and optimize their own appointment scheduling process down to a single click. The solution was to include a human in the loop, supervising the process and stepping in to prevent too many automated back-and-forth messages.
Start by Reviewing Your Internal Processes
We’ve covered a key aspect of your sales engagement process here. It governs both a critical handoff and overall conversion rates. In particular, you should check if your process is a leaky pipe or if it’s eating into your team’s time.
Before you consider any of these tools, you should define your ideal appointment scheduling process. That will guide the selection of the approach best suited to your business. It will also help you assess where you need to improve, why you need technology, and how to measure success: enhancing SDR productivity, making their job easier, or improving conversion rates.
Also published on Medium.
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