One way to reduce the unpredictability of appointment scheduling is to use our scripts, at least in the beginning. Whether your marketing assistant is an absolute beginner or a seasoned pro, telephoning techniques are always helpful. The key to successful appointment scheduling is learning to control the outcome of the call. In other words, marketing assistants can manage the call by getting to the point, remaining persistent, and assuming they will get the appointments.
The approach. The marketing assistant should be friendly, but not phony, and firm but not pushy, remembering that the marketing assistant sells the appointment, while the producer sells the product or service. Yes, marketing assistants should know the general nature of the appointment and the producer’s specialty, but their job is to fill the calendar.
Keep it simple. Some producers want marketing assistants to use flashy words or go into detail about tax savings benefits, etc. I believe the best approach is to keep it simple and just ask for the appointment. Why? If someone asks questions about specific products or services, the marketing assistant might not have the answers. The phone call could become awkward.
I also recommend brevity. If the marketing assistant rambles on, the message is lost. Get to the point, and people will respond.
With our scripts, marketing assistants avoid long-winded spiels that sound unnatural. Of course, other approaches are acceptable, but this language works because it is simple and to the point. Once they are experienced, marketing assistants can jump through any hoops without the scripts.
A friendly voice makes a difference. When making phone calls, there’s one variable that marketing assistants can control at all times: their voice. People respond to a friendly voice, which means tone and inflection really do make a difference. When a caller is upbeat, people tend to listen.
Introductions. For any type of call, the introduction is key. It is what captures the attention of the person on the other end of the line. If marketing assistants are enthusiastic and concise, they will get better results; excess verbiage can lead to a phone hang up. Marketing assistants also need to inject some life into the conversation, and not sound robotic. Their goal is to generate interest without sounding like they’re reading.
Verbal ping-pong. Asking for an appointment is similar to playing a game of ping-pong — polite, verbal ping-pong. The marketing assistant begins with an introduction, and then asks for the appointment. After the request for an appointment, the ball is in the other person’s court. When the person hits the ball back with an objection, the rally begins. When the marketing assistant asks for the appointment again, the ball goes back to the other court. The objective is to keep asking for the appointment.
Listening skills required. A successful phone call also requires listening skills. Marketing assistants need to hear the person on the other end of the line. When an objection is made, they should counter it appropriately. If a person says, “I’m not interested,” the response would be, “We didn’t assume you would be at this time.” Or, if the person says, “I’m busy,” the reply would be, “I can appreciate that,” or “I understand,” or “When would be a better time for you?”
“Many people may listen, but few people actually hear.”
Persistence pays off. It is important to be personable and persistent. Being persistent means asking for the appointment repeatedly in a pleasant way. Every time the person objects, the marketing assistant should overcome the objection, then ask for the appointment again by repeating, “How does your schedule look?” or “How does next week look?” or “When would be a good time for you?”
There is also a huge difference between asking for an appointment and asking permission for an appointment. Asking for the appointment: “How does next week look for you?” Asking permission: “Is it okay to schedule an appointment for next week?”
I remember a situation with a referral I’ll call “Bill.” I called Bill repeatedly, left numerous messages, but never managed to connect with him. One day I finally reached him. I was very enthusiastic because I actually had him on the line. Bill did not feel the same way!
After my introduction, he shut me down quickly, saying he wasn’t interested. When I asked, “What aren’t you interested in?” he replied, “Whatever you’re selling.”
I told Bill I wasn’t selling anything, but was trying to set up a time for Tom to meet him. Again, he said he wasn’t interested. I didn’t give up because despite his emphatic no, Bill was talkative. After four objections (polite, verbal ping pong), I felt I might have pushed Bill too far. I heard him pound his fist on his desk and say, “When does he want to see me?” I paused for a nanosecond — I didn’t want to lose him — and replied, “How’s next Wednesday for you?”
The appointment was scheduled but I thought Bill would cancel. To my surprise, he didn’t. When Tom walked into Bill’s office, Bill said, “I don’t know how much you’re paying your assistant, but it better be good. The only reason you’re here is because she wouldn’t let me off the phone without making an appointment.” Tom just smiled and began the meeting.
Every time I called Bill, he was a tough customer, but he appreciated my approach because it convinced him to do what was right for his family and him. I’m not saying you should be overly aggressive on the phone, but a little persistence goes a long way.
“Be like a postage stamp. Stick to it until you get there.”
Remember, marketing assistants need to be in control of the phone call. My advice to them: take charge, be confident, and stick to it to get results. Because marketing assistants rarely know what to expect from the person on the other end of the line, our scripts help them overcome resistance and develop the confidence to ask repeatedly for the appointment. It does not matter what type of call is made — marketing assistants need to be ready for whatever comes their way.