Top SME appointment setting tips: (for your sales team and channel partners)

In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.

Jean-Paul Sartre.

Top appointment setting tips for targeting SME decision makers 

Despite the inexorable rise in popularity of Web 2.0, Google Adwords and social media marketing, when it comes to appointment setting, in my experience old fashioned cold calling on the telephone remains the fastest and most cost effective means of getting sales people in front of decision makers.

Over the years I’ve set countless appointments for myself.  And although in recent years I’ve taken a more hands-off role, I remain involved in training and advising our telemarketers and channel partners on appointment setting techniques. The following strategies are focused on setting appointments for technology companies with decision makers in SMEs.



Aim for the top

While you wouldn’t place a call to Apple Corp and expect to be put through to Timothy Donald Cook (CEO), it doesn’t follow that in most SMEs you can’t aim to speak to the CEO.

An SME may be defined as an organisation with a headcount from between 10 – 250, and / or a turnover of approximately £2 million- £50 million.   One fact that’s worth noting about the average SME is that the person who makes decisions on major technology purchases is usually not the IT manager; it’s far more likely to be a senior executive and in many cases the CEO or MD themselves. If you target the IT guy you’ll be in danger of talking megs and gigs with someone who has little influence in the ultimate buying decision.  It’s far better to target the CEO first and only work down the line if you fail to get a response.  Go straight in with a message that is designed to appeal to a CEO’s priorities – benefits such as competitive advantage, enhanced productivity and efficiency, cost savings and improved profitability (i.e. not necessarily the same priorities as the “IT guy”!).



Be upfront

While it may not work with large corporations, a good strategy is to go in with guns blazing from the outset.  Rather than shilly-shallying with an opening litany of niceties and bland open questions, be upfront.  Tell the prospect that the reason for your call is to introduce your company and see if it makes sense to meet face-to-face for 30 minutes.

By couching your suggestion as a closed question too soon in the conversation – i.e. one invites a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer – you are of course in danger of getting a blunt reply in the negative.   The art is to put the prospect in a positive state of mind first by throwing some irresistible pearls of information into your (very brief) opening pitch before you pop the question. Not always easy, granted, but nevertheless very possible with practice. Try writing an opening statement to this effect; continue to use it and fine tune it until you feel it’s working for you.


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