A reader reached out with this very common kind of problem:

“We currently have our prospectors (Sales Development Reps / SDRs) doing outbound and they are setting up first discovery calls for our Account Executives (closers).  The SDRs are setting up a lot of minimally qualified appointments.  50% of the appointments don’t show up and need to be rescheduled (if we can even do that), and then only half of the ‘show-ups’ are a good mutual fit and actually get qualified according to the Account Execs.  So if an SDR set up say, 8 appointments in a week, only 2 might convert into opportunities!  We need to improve how many appointments set up by our SDRs (prospectors) actually show up and convert into qualified opportunities, because right now we’re running in place.” 

Quality is a big challenge in prospecting because executives put the emphasis on quantity, not quality, from leadgen teams…so that is what they get.

A rough rule of thumb I use is that when prospectors are doing high-quality work, I like to see 80% of appointments showing up, and 80% of those turn into qualified opportunities.

The main problem usually is your prospectors are trying to set up appointments / demos with prospects who just aren’t very interested!  There could be any number of reasons: they’re not a good fit (and should be disqualified), the timing isn’t right, they are a good fit but don’t understand your value as a service or the value of an appointment, and perhaps your prospector just “sounds like a salesperson” and the prospect was just trying to get them off the phone, and never intended on showing up.

But let’s get a little more specific to why this can happen…

Common Causes:

  1. Target market is too broad
  2. Prospectors are only incented on quantity, not quality
  3. Not enough process, structure or training
  4. Too much desperation (quotas too high, base salary too low)
  5. Reps aren’t coachable

Some Simple Scheduling Tips 

Perhaps much of your “no show” challenge is around scheduling challenges with busy people…try these as a simple starting place:

  1. Once you feel they would get value from a follow up call with an Account Executive, ask “do you have your calendar handy.
  2. Agree with the prospect on the phone to a specific day and time, and ask them to put it into their calendar so that they don’t have to remember to do it later.
  3. Create a calendar item and email them the invitation.
  4. If you can’t schedule it with the prospect yourself, make an email introduction between them and the Account Executive, so they can do it between themselves.  But make sure the prospect sees the value of an appointment first and is a good fit!
  5. Send a gentle/friendly reminder (via phone or email) less than 24 hours beforehand.
  6. From Kyle Porter, CEO SalesLoft: After they commit to the meeting ask them this: “So I can count you in for the meeting next Wednesday, right? Cool, what would prevent you from making it? Can I get your word that you’ll be sure to attend unless it’s a crazy wild, snowpocalyse type of event?” You can goof around here with anything. You just want to get their word that they’ll make it. They’ll be a lot likely to miss with a “double commit”.
  7. BE HELPFUL not selfish: Use your judgment in all things and remember you are being helpful to busy prospects by doing these things – don’t selfishly “push” prospects on this stuff and come off as a jackass.

The Main Places Quality Gets Sabotaged

Back to the bigger problem of prospectors not being able to ‘sell the dream’ or selling to people who aren’t very interested…

Every company can improve their overall quality of prospecting work beyond scheduling tips – here are a list of common areas to look into and improve:

  • Is your Ideal Outbound Customer Profile as specific as possible, or is it too general?  It all begins here.  How targeted are your prospectors at finding people who are a good fit and passing on ones that aren’t?  Have you clearly identified some positive and negative signals?  Don’t be afraid to be ‘too narrow’ in your targeting!  There’s an old saying, “Pick a niche, get rich.”
  • Is your compensation plan only rewarding them for quantity, such as # of appointments?  Tie at least half of their variable comp to number of qualified opportunities generated per month.  Qualified means “the Account Executive has qualified and accepted the prospect” according to your internal standards, because they are the judge of what’s qualified, not the prospector.  Do not tie any of your comp to activity levels: number of dials, calls, emails or appointments set.  This also means you will have to educate and check on your Account Execs to ensure they know how to qualify consistently too!
  • Are they “selling stuff” prospects don’t understand or care about, rather than useful ideas?  People don’t care about what you do, they care about what you can do for them.  Check out Sell Ideas, Not Stuff.
    • Are prospectors encouraged and trained how to disqualify?  If you see prospectors getting one person on the phone for a few minutes, then trying to flip them over to an Account Executive appointment or demo, it means they aren’t disqualifying.  Prospectors sometimes ignore warning signs in their need to generate appointments, because they unconsciously don’t want anything to go wrong with this lead (Account Execs do this to).  They should be disqualifying as much as qualifying…to avoid wasting their own and Account Executive’s time.    Prospectors need to be able to confidently know  “yes this is worth the Account Executive’s and prospect’s time” before moving forward.  It’s not uncommon at large companies for a prospector to need talk to multiple people several times before setting up a first appointment with an Account Executive.
    • Are prospectors desperate to hit their goals?  When people are desperate, it’s very hard to make good decisions.  They WILL throw over unqualified / unprepared prospects to Account Executives.  If this is happening across more than one rep, it’s more likely the environment is causing the problems more than the people (unless you are hiring all of the wrong people, which can happen).
  • Do you have helpful guidelines to teach SDRs when it’s appropriate to set up an appointment between an AE and prospect? It should only be once they know the prospect is actually interested, they are at least an influencer (not too low-level), and there is a good fit.
  • Are your prospectors well-trained in identifying and following these guidelines?  Even when a team is up and running, it takes 6-8 weeks of training to get a new prospector to “proficient”, and another 2-3 months of practice and coaching to get them to “expert”.  Don’t stop training too soon, and for sure don’t hire people and say “figure it out” in a sink-or-swim approach. They’ll just fail.
  • Does anyone review and audit qualified opportunities, to ensure consistent quality standards?  At Salesforce.com, I and my managers reviewed every single opportunity created by prospectors, to ensure both the quality of work and quality of understanding/training of each prospector.
  • Are prospectors attending their own appointments with Account Execs?  Is there a tight feedback loop from Account Execs to prospectors, to help train and educate them on what worked or didn’t work for each appointment they set up?  In other words, how do the prospectors know what they are doing right or wrong?  Ideally prospectors should be attending these appointments so they can see first hand what they’re doing well – and not.
  • Prospects don’t see the value in attending an appointment.  How often do prospectors say something like “I’d like to set you up to talk with an Account Executive here, so they can show you a demo.  When can we set that up?”   This is just a selfish statement – there is no value to the prospect here.  What will they get out of it?  What can they learn from an appointment?
  • If you have everything in place above, maybe it’s the people – are they coachable?  Especially with our framework, which emphasizes things like finding a mutual fit, impeccable honesty, “don’t sell” and disqualify fast…sometimes people with a lot of traditional selling or prospecting experience just don’t seem to be able to relearn a new approach.  You need people who are open to learning and coachable.  See here how to hire them.

A Last Key Idea

If I left you with one key idea here at the end, it’s that when doing outbound prospecting, you will be more successful by focusing on generating fewer, better leads.  

Your people will enjoy their work more, you will generate higher conversion rates and more revenue, your prospects will have a much better experience.

Did This Help?

Go down the list above – did you identify the probably cause(s) and fix(es) for your issue?

Or are you doing everything right and there’s still a problem?

Contact us to let us know what worked or didn’t, we’re here to help.

 

 

 

 

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