When “I don’t know” is the best answer
When prospective clients ask how many appointments they can expect from a pilot program, I normally say, “I don’t know. That’s why we do a pilot.”
This is not usually the response companies planning to invest money with VSA are hoping to hear. I might give the impression that I’m a beginner in B2B cold calling, or that I don’t care about achieving a positive return on our clients’ investment.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The non-definitive response is actually a reflection of our years of experience and knowledge, which have shown that it is nearly impossible to predict results of a calling campaign at the outset. Of course, we can give broad estimates, but even these are subject to wide variations.
Here are a few factors (of many) that play a role in the success of a campaign. Hint: Once a pilot is underway, we can alter some of these to increase response, as needed:
• A good list – This may be obvious, but the list should be targeted to companies who need the product or service. The more targeted a list is, the greater the results will be.
• A clean list – If the list has correct contact names and direct phone extensions & emails, this will speed up the entire process of navigating to the right contact(s) and sending email follow-ups. Reaching decision makers faster gives us more time to set appointments.
• A clear pitch – The product or service should be able to be understood within 10 seconds on the phone. Otherwise, results suffer.
• Points of differentiation – Prospects like hearing how this product/service is better/different than the competition. Better listening leads to more appointments.
• The decision maker’s title: – In general, the higher up the corporate hierarchy we need to go, the harder it will be to reach those contacts. Targeting mid-level executives will help get to the decision maker faster. More time talking to decision makers results in more appointments.
• An easy decision – Your response rate will be much larger if we are asking for a telephone “chat,” versus a longer on-site meeting.
• A low price tag – In general we see more results for clients whose products or services cost less than $2000. Less expensive services/products require fewer layers of decision making and therefore make it easier for prospects to agree to meet.
I have rarely seen a program where all of the above criteria are perfectly aligned. And, VSA does not work with cookie cutter programs.
VSA supports with complex products and services, and complex prospecting approaches. Clients hire us to navigate and reach C-level executives. Even ongoing clients who change lists or product offerings, see drops or improvements, as a result. That’s why predicting results is so difficult.
So how do we handle the question about results?
We need to know what kind of investment return our clients require, and their targeted budget for an appointment.
While we cannot predict with great accuracy, we can estimate a range:
• If we’re targeting small business owners to meet at a trade show booth, the results might be between X and Y
• If we’re targeting CFO’s of a hospital for an on-site appointment, the results might be between A and B.
We match our estimates against the ROI needs to assess the viability of moving forward. In the end, however, the actual pilot will enable us to truly measure results.
So, my first answer, “That’s why we do a pilot,” is the most honest answer.
Note: VSA’s programs contain exit clauses.