IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

The Secret To Successful Appointment Setting

Establishing an effective appointment-setting and telemarketing process is a key component of a successful direct marketing campaign. By Erick Simpson

To start your successful direct marketing campaign, you'll need 3 essential tools to maximize your success:

Compelling marketing collateral: These are the actual items that get mailed in advance of your telemarketing. These pieces of collateral should be visually pleasing and emotionally-charged that focus on your target market's pain points and show you as the solution to their needs.

Distribution strategy: The timing and frequency of the distribution of your marketing collateral is extremely important. Schedule your distribution to inform your prospects about your services at specific points of time, rather than trying to inform them about all of your services at once. The more frequently your name and message appears before your prospects, the more likely they are to accept your call when you attempt to set an appointment.

Effective call scripts: Make sure everyone who is telemarketing on your behalf knows what to say and how to say it. This keeps your message consistent and effective, and it all begins with effective call scripts.

Once you have these 3 essential tools in place and ready to go, you can begin the 7 step process for successful appointment setting:

The 7 Step Appointment-Setting Process

  1. Purchase leads

    The first step in the process is to purchase a prospect list. The prospect list should be filtered based on criteria such as your desired vertical market, number of desktops, gross yearly revenue and length of time in business, among others.

  2. Scrub the list

    All marketing lists require a certain amount of scrubbing. Scrubbing is the process of verifying the accuracy of the list and the information it contains by calling it. The goal of scrubbing is not to execute the call script to attempt to secure an appointment - it is only to gather and verify information.

    One way to scrub a list is to break it into groups of 100 leads and call each prospect to verify the information on the list -such as if the contact person listed is the appropriate person to speak to about your services, and if the mailing and email addresses are correct. During the scrub, it may be possible to discover if the prospect has the appropriate amount of PC's and servers to make the opportunity profitable for you, as well as if they have in-house IT staff or use an outsourced provider.

    Scrubbing a marketing list is the best way to ensure that your investment in printing and mailing your collateral will not be wasted, and that the leads are prequalified, which all improve your potential marketing ROI. During the scrub, it is recommended to let the gatekeeper or decision maker know that they will be receiving important information for review and that they will be contacted afterwards to confirm its receipt.

  3. Mail to the list

    The next step of the campaign consists of mailing your marketing collateral to the scrubbed list, and according to a consistent schedule. When incorporating email marketing into your campaign, you should stagger its delivery with other collateral to maximize the marketing impact of each individual marketing touch. The goal of the collateral is not to sell your services, but to generate interest and prepare the prospect to receive a call from your appointment-setter or telemarketer to begin the sales process.

  4. Conduct the follow-up call

    The fourth step in the appointment-setting process consists of calling to set the appointment. At this stage, the appointment-setter should be well armed to initiate business, as they know exactly who to engage as the decision-maker and have had an opportunity to warm up the Gatekeeper to develop a relationship and prepare them for this call. If you have scheduled the process correctly, by the time of this call the prospect should have received your marketing collateral, which the appointment-setter can confirm before executing their call script to reinforce the importance of the information it contains.

    Once the prospect confirms receipt of the marketing collateral, the appointment-setter can continue delivering their call script.

  5. Set the appointment

    During the call, it is important that the telemarketer sets the appointment for the first sales call correctly. The goal and objective of the appointment is to close an I.T. Solution or Managed Services opportunity, so it is important to properly prepare the prospect to be closed while setting the appointment for the sales professional to meet with them. In order to accomplish this, the appointment-setter should be candid and inform the prospect of your objective to meet with them to find out if there is a fit for you to engage in a long term relationship as the prospect's service provider. Setting the appointment becomes easier as the prospect is informed that the visit is free and there is no obligation on their part during or afterwards.

  6. Successful appointment follow-up

    If the telemarketer is successful and an appointment is set on the first follow-up call or any follow-up call thereafter, there are four important steps to follow that will increase your chances of closing the opportunity. The first step is for the telemarketer to send a "thank you" email to the prospect that also confirms the appointment through a calendar invitation. The second step is the mailing of a simple "thank you" card with a wet signature from either the sales professional or telemarketer.

    This step serves multiple benefits, including the execution of another marketing touch. The more marketing touches delivered to the prospect, the better your chances of closing business with them. The second benefit comes from a customer service perspective. In a world that is so email and text message-driven, the personal "thank you" card will have real impact and soften prospects up for the sales professional to walk in and close them.

    The third step is to call the prospect to confirm the appointment the day after the appointment is set. This is simply to execute yet another marketing touch and display excellent customer service. The final step is to email and call the prospect again 24 hours before the appointment for a final confirmation. As decision maker schedules change frequently, it is important to make sure the prospect will still be available to meet. This step again displays excellent customer service and follow-up and demonstrates the value placed upon the prospect's time as well as the sales professional's.

  7. Unsuccessful appointment follow-up

    If the appointment-setter is unsuccessful in setting up an appointment, there are three actions they should take. The first action is to classify the lead - is the lead hot, warm or cold? Definitions for hot, warm, and cold may differ between providers, but it is important that each telemarketer or appointment-setter work from the same definition to provide management a clear understanding of the status of all opportunities. Typically speaking, hot leads are leads that verbally accept an appointment but need to verify a date and time or check with additional personnel. Warm leads are typically those who ask for a call back to further discuss the opportunity, and cold leads are everyone else. The second action is to determine who gets what collateral after the leads have been classified. It is important to continue to send marketing collateral to prospects and call them to attempt to set appointments; however, hot prospects should not be sent the same information as cold prospects. The telemarketing staff must have a clearly defined agenda of what prospect groups are to receive which collateral, and according to what schedule. The third action is to stop calling at the appropriate time - it is important that the telemarketing team knows when to stop putting effort into unresponsive leads. Time should not be wasted chasing cold leads forever. Conversely, hot and warm leads that don't turn into appointments should be re-classified and handled appropriately. Typically speaking, calling and emailing to leads more than 4 times each during a campaign is a reasonable limit, unless they are receptive to scheduling follow up calls and progressing closer to an appointment. Rather than continuing to call cold leads, it is a better idea to touch them in a passive manner every 30 to 90 days with your newsletter and marketing collateral only. Cold prospects will respond when they are ready.


An effective appointment-setting and telemarketing process will:

  • Speed your ROI
  • Unify your marketing message and process
  • Properly lead prospects through a consistent sales experience
  • Arm telemarketers and appointment-setters with the information they need to succeed
  • Establish a follow-up process for cold leads
  • Shorten sales cycles

Learn more about effective marketing and sales techniques to increase your closing ratios in "The Best I.T. Sales & Marketing BOOK EVER!

About the Author

Erick Simpson's picture

A Technology Businesses and Channel Growth and Transformation Consultant | Business Process Improvement, M&A and Integration Expert

Co-Founder of one of the first "Pure Play" MSPs in the industry, and creator of the MSP Mastered™ Methodology for Managed Services business performance improvement and the Vendor Channel Maturity Level Index™ that identifies IT channel program maturation for strategic growth, Erick Simpson is a strategic technology business growth and transformation specialist. He is experienced in improving top and bottom-line business performance by increasing operational efficiencies, boosting marketing and lead generation outcomes, accelerating sales velocity, shortening sales cycles and maximizing service efficiencies.

With over 30 years of experience in the IT industry as an Enterprise CIO, MSP, Strategic Coach and Consultant, Erick is a Business Process Improvement Expert with hundreds of successful IT Solution Provider, MSP, Cloud and Security practice business improvement consulting engagement outcomes.

One of the most prolific, recognized and sought-after  business improvement and transformation experts, authors and speakers in the industry, Erick has contributed to numerous industry publications and spoken at hundreds of events.

His published works include "The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice"; the definitive book on Managed Services, “The Best I.T. Sales & Marketing BOOK EVER!”, “The Best I.T. Service Delivery BOOK EVER!” and “The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations BOOK EVER!”, along with 50 Best Practice Guides.

Consulting Services for MSPs and Channel Vendors:



ChannelPro SMB Magazine

Get an edge on the competition

With each issue packed full of powerful news, reviews, analysis, and advice targeting IT channel professionals, ChannelPro-SMB will help you cultivate your SMB customers and run your business more profitably.