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As every salesperson knows, face time with B2B prospects gives you a foundation for sales success. Execution in the appointment-setting process is, of course, is key to being successful.

The ideal situation is to get sales leads via networking and referrals. But in the new economy – sooner or later – every successful salesperson needs to resort to sales calling.

To lay the groundwork for success in appointment-setting requires several attributes: Research, precise record-keeping, assertiveness and energy, patience, and skill.

In my B2B sales experience of big-ticket products and services – as a sales employee, manager and later as a business-performance consultant – I’ve learned that in-person cold calls work best in order to reach a CEO. Why?

In-person cold-calling the CEO enhances your efforts to lay the groundwork for a long-term business relationship by creating a favorable first impression.

True, executives are busy but they appreciate assertive professionalism.

It’s always best to start at the top because it’s much easier to work your way down than to work your way up.

Your time is valuable. So save time in reaching the decision-maker.

Plus, you get to familiarize yourself with the prospect’s office environment, and it’s an opportunity to make a favorable impression with the people who count — the gatekeeper, an executive secretary and the top boss. If you’re really good and lucky, you might be allowed in to see the CEO to make an appointment.

Yes, I know, conventional wisdom dictates that you sit in the office to make phone calls. Bear in mind that gatekeepers are good at screening out telephone solicitations, but today’s generation of receptionists has less experience in turning back a savvy salesperson.

To lay the groundwork for success in appointment-setting requires several attributes: Research, precise record-keeping, assertiveness and energy, patience, and skill.

Here are the seven tips:

1. Train for a marathon. Anticipate that sales prospects will inevitably check you out, so make sure that you reinforce your brand and manage your Web reputation. If you’re really good, your prospects will already be familiar with you and your company.

Most people don’t like cold-calling, so make sure you’re prepared mentally to act with confidence. Research and know your elevator pitch to get your foot in the door, and when you meet with the CEO to set an appointment. Also know and prepare to use the seven steps to higher sales. (The seven steps include how to overcome sales objections.)

Research your desired targets. Know who the chief decision-maker is at each company. First impressions are crucial. To get past the gatekeepers, make sure you have professional demeanor – you have to look like you’re on the same level as CEOs – with a well-tailored suit and shined shoes. 

Be ready to engage the gatekeepers with empathy.  It’s not easy protecting the boss while dealing with dozens of phone calls and visitors.

2. Resolve to be resilient. If you can’t get in the door, remember it’s not a rejection. If a CEO does say no, it’s OK. That means you’re closer to selling to someone else.

As a young salesperson in economic downturns, I learned to treat the cold-calling process as a marathon. There were times that I made more than 100 calls in a row without success – then suddenly the dam burst and I enjoyed a flood of sales orders.

As manager and later as a business-performance consultant, I noticed there was one common trait why many salespeople were unsuccessful in selling to me. After a few sales calls, they gave up – just before I made up mind to buy. Normally, it takes five successful contacts before CEOs will buy from you. So keep at it until they say no, but expect their acceptance of you.

3. Celebrate any and all accomplishments. To help you stay resilient and mentally sharp after even small victories like getting an appointment, take time to relish your success. Give yourself a stroke for being tenacious,  and knowing what to say and when to say it.

4. It’s vital to be yourself. True, you’ll want to impress the CEOs, but don’t worry about being a chameleon. Simply listen intently and take notes in sales calls. Answer questions honestly with value propositions. Avoid using the latest buzz words.

5. Be detail-minded. Ask open-ended questions. Pay attention the person’s opinions. Remember CEOs have a unique job with few sounding boards – people with whom they can confide. Become that person. If you’ve taken good notes, you’ll be in better position to present your ideas so that they can be easily understood and appreciated on an emotional level.

6. Stay focused in your presentation. Don’t ramble. Use an economy of words in providing your introductory benefit statement and your value propositions in your pitch. Encourage questions.

7. Make selling fun and be consistent and tenacious. Enjoy the ride. Keep smiling even when you don’t feel like it.

Don’t give up. Once you’re successful, continue to make cold calls. Make it an important part of every day. Always have an attitude of hunger. Business is full surprises, so alleviate the uncertainty. In this way, you’ll be prepared in the inevitable revenue roller-coaster ride.

And, of course, don’t forget the power of a handwritten thank-you note on your monarch or A-2 stationery. That also means telling the CEO what you appreciate about the chat, your benefit statement, and a point to prevent buyer’s remorse.

P.S. Bosses often complain about lack of great sales talent. If you’re looking for a sales job, these techniques work when you execute them well with panache, assertiveness and value.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles:

6 Sales Tips for Successful Cold CallingAttending mere networking events or depending on a high marketing budget aren’t sufficient for strong sales. OK, cold calling isn’t always easy, but you must if you want to dramatically increase sales in double-digit percentages.

11 Sales Strategies to Outsell Your Big Competitors — Big companies have obvious advantages over small businesses. Their brands are well-known. They can afford sales training, sales-support staff and customer-relationship management software. On the other hand, there are good reasons why Cyber Monday has become big.

You Can Get Bigger Corporate Accounts in 5 Steps — So your company needs to grow and you’ve decided to go after bigger fish. Getting bigger corporate accounts is easier, if you develop the right system. But not only must you have reason to be confident, you must position yourself and your company to instill confidence in your prospects.

A smart salesperson listens to emotions not facts. 


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.