In the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic games the Mens USA Track Team won a Bronze medal.
Then they lost it.
They were running the 4×100 meter relay race. They did well and were happy to give their rival, Jamaica, a run for their money. USA came in 3rd. They were ecstatic.
Their joy turned to disappointment after five minutes though. One of the judges decided the USA team didn’t properly hand off the baton. That the handoff occurred outside the designated area, the “take-over zone.” The bronze was taken away.
A matter of inches in the handoff cost USA a medal.
Good handoffs are just as important in B2B Sales. In this case the handoff isn’t a baton. It’s in the form of a Sales Accepted Lead(SAL) or Sales Qualified Lead(SQL). The medal is revenue.
A good handoff is the difference between effortless closes and frustrating cold leads. In the B2B setting, Sales typically gets their handoffs via Demand Generation.
In Demand Generation, Marketing drives awareness and interest in a company’s products and services. After enough nurturing with relevant marketing campaigns, a Marketing Qualified Leads(MQL) is “scored” worthy to move into a SQL or SAL classification. This is the traditional route of feeding B2B Sales leads.
Recently though, a new trend has emerged for B2B Sales teams. It’s called B2B Appointment Setting. Appointment setting allows Salespeople to acquire SQLs/SALs without ever talking to Marketing.
So what exactly is B2B appointment setting?
B2B appointment setters are essentially telemarketers. Sales provides some basic information about the type of leads they want: Industry, Title, Location, etc. The appointment setting service scours their database and lets loose an army of Inside Sales Reps(Telemarketers). Some Inside Sales Reps also use email campaigns to support their telemarketing activities. They’ll call and email target prospects until the prospect agrees an appointment with your Sales team.
The appointment setter’s goal is to supply your Sales team with SQLs and SALs. However, some of the SQLs and SALs occasionally turn out to be less than stellar quality.
Before we get into that though, let’s take a look at when an appointment setting service is useful.
When to Use B2B Appointment Setting
No Marketing Staff
Many startups run with a lean headcount in their initial phases. If you need growth but haven’t had the time to hire and train Marketing staff, check out appointment setting.
No Nurturing Process
Maybe you have a few Marketing staff on hand for public relations, social media, or lead
acquisition. But you have no scoring strategy on how to move a Lead to a MQL to a SQL to a Close. Appointment setting is a formidable stop-gap while you design you scoring methodology.
Limited Access to Trade Shows
Trade shows are where many Salespeople meet new prospects. If your Sales team can’t attend a trade show for some reason (disabilities, remote locations, corporate budgetary constraints) appointment setting is a good proxy.
Steep Growth Forecast with a Hiring Freeze
Marketing supplies leads to Sales. Sales closes deals to generate revenue. If you can’t hire more Marketing staff, contract with an appointment setting service.
No Brand Recognition
Branding is the initial driver of any lead. If your Sales team is operating in a highly competitive environment or a brand new industry, use an appointment setter. They’ll give management some breathing room while the company ramps up awareness with PR.
Precautions with Appointment Setting Services
While appointment setters can provide a substitute for B2B demand generation, there are some risks in using them.
Greater Workload on Sales Staff
In a typical demand generation funnel, a SQL or SAL is warm by definition. The prospect has an idea of what your company does and has shown interest. Ideally Sales should receive a seamless handoff. However the job of an appointment setter is to sell the appointment, NOT your product or service. You have no idea what was said to book an appointment with your Sales staff. All you know is that your foreign SQL/SAL met certain prespecified criteria. Your Salesperson is going to have to work overtime to introduce your product or service and convince the prospect to buy. This tends to go against the grain of the way most B2B purchases happen.
Burnt Out Leads
Some appointment setting firms recycle leads. That could mean the lead that your Sales staff talks to gets sold by 5 other firms. Perhaps even to one of your competitors. Try to get assurances that the SQLs/SALs you pay for won’t be resold.
Poor Qualified Data
Some appointment setting firms offer email, social media as well as telemarketing support. However, many firms specialize in one function like telemarketing, and outsource the other functions. Subcontractors give prospect data to the appointment setter who then passes it on to you. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.
For example, it’s not uncommon to get a list of emails that are completely inaccurate or haven’t opted in. In this case it’s really no better than buying a blind email list.
As you can see, there is no substitute for a well oiled in-house Marketing team. Demand generation marketing is the perfect handoff for a hungry Sales department. But, if your company needs to take a pause in the quest for a gold medal, appointment setters may provide some relief. Just be careful and do your due diligence before hiring a firm.
If you’re not sure what to look for in a B2B appointment setter, shoot us an email or give us a call. We’re happy to share our advice on appointment setting and demand generation.