How To Make An Appointment Part 1

True story:
So, I place a telephone call to a prospect, actually get to the right person and after a short discussion, I ask for an appointment.
Prospect response: “An appointment?  How’s never!”
My response: “Never works for me but Tuesday at 10 is better”
Prospect response: Click

Does it get more challenging than that?  And that story became legendary with my colleagues.

It’s time to go out the door (or at least for our voices to go out the door) and get some appointments.  What’s our first stop as we head out?  Our goals.

Our experience shows us that the best, highest-reward approach is to stick with these few concepts: 

  • figure out the number of calls you have to make in order to hit your appointment requirement,
  • make the calls,
  • don’t spend energy trying to figure out when or how many times to call,
  • remember that the only purpose of the call is to get an appointment,
  • always maintain a professional demeanor.


Please note that we are making no distinction between calling and contacting – your pick, but make those contacts.

You have likely figured out how many new business appointments are needed per month to achieve your income / W2 goal.  If you need help on this – there are really cool tracking worksheets on our website, check them out: 

Now, let’s get a clear sight of the number of calls/contacts needed that result in the right amount of appointments.  Do you know how many calls/contacts it takes you, on average, to get one appointment?  No?  Then look back through your prospect management system and figure it out.  You don’t maintain a prospect management system?  From now on, you’re going keep a written (or word-processed) record of your calling activities. 

At a minimum, we’re interested that you keep track of: 

  • the overall number of calls/contacts made for a given period of time, like a day, week, etc. 
  • the results of each call (“scheduled meeting for Tuesday, April 1, 11:00 am”, or “left voice mail re:  scheduling phone appt. for Tuesday April 8, 10:00 am”)
  • scheduled follow-ups.


It doesn’t take sophisticated software to generate this useful information and the call-to-appointment ratio is very useful.

We’ve discovered at Redmond Group, that our call-to-appointment ratio is about ten to one.  We make ten contacts in order to schedule one appointment with a targeted prospect.  So, if we have figured out that we need sixteen meetings each month in order to generate enough active proposals to set us on the path to our income goals, then we have to make one hundred sixty contacts to get there.  One hundred and sixty contacts!  Oh man, I’m going to get another job!

Getting a Grip

Is one hundred and sixty contacts a mind-bendingly awesome undertaking or is it?

Let’s focus a moment on outbound telephone calls.  Did you know that eighty-six percent of calls go to voice mail?  No kidding!  And yet, we recommend that you always leave a voice-mail.  Get out of the “to leave or not to leave” debate.  Leave one.  In fact, it diminishes the effectiveness of your message if you allow that debate to occur, even in your mental background. 

Why?  We’ve measured how long it takes, on average, to dial a number, wait through the recorded greeting, leave a quality message and hang up.  It takes one minute and fifty-one seconds.  That’s it, the law of 1:51.  At that level, the one hundred sixty one doesn’t look so daunting and keep in mind that this is over a month, about 40 contacts a week; 8 per day, 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon – whew, that I can do!

The probability that most calls go to voice mail in no way diminishes the care with which they are handled.  Consistency and professionalism are the best wrappers for your increasing value, and the value you present to prospects.

Our ten-calls-per-meeting average is spread over a range of frequencies.  We’ve found that a referral produces a “one call = one meeting” ratio.  On the other hand, if we’re cold calling a very large prospect, a different pattern has emerged, “Seven calls to get to the wrong person”. We’re talking about the “average” number of calls per appointment.  That means that we count each call/contact until we get to the right party, whether it takes two or ten calls.  It all comes out in the numbers.

Unburden Thyself

There’s another topic we want to highlight, another way to clear the path for maximum efficiency in nailing down meetings.

We’ve noticed over the years that two questions often arise in connection with the mechanics of appointment making.

The questions are:

1) “When is the best time to call a prospect?”
2) “How often should you call/contact prospects?”

The answers are:

1) “When you’re conscious.” and
2) “Until they surrender.”

In other words, unburden yourself of these questions and focus on the answers, on the activity.  At Redmond Group, we’ve encountered clients with hard-wired rules of thumb like:  “don’t call on Fridays or Mondays” or “don’t call just before or just after holidays” or “only call before 9:00 am or after 5:30 pm” or “tomorrow feels right for her!”   Go ahead, add your own – we know you have at least one – and then drop it.

How about calling, “Until they surrender”?  Isn’t that a little more clever than it is realistic?  No.  Again, it goes to the point of getting out of your own head.  Or maybe a better way of saying this is to get “Until they surrender” into your own head.

You call people.  You have something valuable to offer them.  The value of your service doesn’t deteriorate over time.  Why should your support for it deteriorate?

An Afterword

What looks like a daunting undertaking quickly morphs into an energizing feedback loop.  As appointments get booked (and they will), you gain confidence in setting other appointments.  New contacts become referral sources – remember that one to one ratio?  The energy we apply to getting these meetings comes back to us in the form of unforeseen opportunities.

Most of your prospects appreciate what it’s like to be in your shoes.  As you maintain your professionalism, and stick (impersonally) to the game plan, you’re going to win some of them over.  It just happens.  Getting appointments for sales opportunities can be usefully thought of in terms of getting a job interview.  After all, you are looking for a job.  The process deserves the same amount of care and preparation as advancing your career.  Each call is an opportunity to contribute to the fulfillment of your goals. 

Oh yeah!  A sense of humor is helpful.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - A few worthy generalizations about calling, voice mail, gate keepers and (dare we say it) Social Media and Direct Conversations

Sales Coach Newsletter is a product of Redmond Group, Inc.  We are specialists in the systematic process of developing and retaining new business.  We design sales and retention process maps and unique measurement tools to track progress to meet business objectives.  We conduct in-house workshops, individual and sales team coaching, Webcasts and assist with product launches.
© 2010 Redmond Group, Inc.

Redmond Group, Inc., 43 Frost Circle, Middletown, NJ 07748

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