Inside Sales and Appointment Setting

Build or Buy

One of the questions I hear the most is how can we get more leads so we can build our business. Well, there are a few ways you can do it, and today I want to share with you my experiences with telemarketing or appointment setting. At our MSP we have experience in both building an in-house inside sales program and more recently outsourcing it to an industry-specific appointment setting service.

In the next two episodes of the IT Provider Network Podcast, I’m going to be talking about the ugly truth behind appointment setting, inside sales or telemarketing or what every term you use for dialing for dollars.

Today lets talk about building an inside sales operation.


Building your Team

As I am recording this February is coming to a close. We have had a wild two months so far this year at our MSP. We have two new people on our sales team, and my a-number-one closer has been promoted to our chief revenue officer.

It’s always great to promote from within, but it presents some level of risk as well. What if your best salesperson is not a great leader? Have you just simultaneously lost your best salesperson and made a bad hire? It happens all the time. Like any hire, you want to do your best to make sure the candidate you’re considering is the best candidate for the job.

Lucky for us, this internal promotion is working out great. He is building a team and doing his best to do what he always does take care of our customers and help us build the company.

My First Salesperson

If I flash back to 2008, I hired my first salesperson for the MSP side of our business. It was an older guy that was seasoned in sales or though I thought. It’s hard to remember the details now, but I know my thought process was “let’s bring on a sales guy” and build an MSP. One guy can handle everything, cold calling, networking, proposal generating, and closing.

In reality, he wasn’t a great salesperson, and I was nuts to think that any one person could be truly proficient in all those sales activities. Luckily both of us knew we needed some help and this “older guy” and I say this in quotes, recruited one of his former co-workers. This former co-worker was now out CRO and in late 2008 my inside/outside sales team was born.

That’s what I called it inside and outside sales. Inside sales were responsible for two main things cold calling and database maintenance. Outside sales were responsible for everything else. Everything after the 1st appointment was scheduled, that was the responsibility of outside sales.

Building an Inside-Outside Sales Process

There were a bunch of things we had to do to get this inside-outside sales process to work, and I guess it started with finding and buying a cold list. Back in 2008, we decided on using Hoovers for our list purchase because they had an offering that was pretty unique at the time. Instead of just buying a list with some defined criteria, we could use a data selection form and just export records from Hoovers into our PSA. In our case, this was ConnectWise Manage. As our needs changed we could change our export criteria.

Hoovers is now part of D&B, and they seem to offer the same type of service. I haven’t purchased anything from D&B Hoovers since 2016, but back then it was about $5000 a year for 10,000 downloads.

About two bucks a record if you manage to extract all 10,000 leads. For the 5k you were able to have up to 3 users and use more functionality. For me though all I wanted was the data extract.

We also have bought “lists” from places like the local chamber of commerce, the local TIP club, and other vendors but the bulk of our original list which we still mine today is from Hoovers.

Whatever service or list you buy know that it is a cold list, meaning that these companies and contacts have probably never heard of you and the data in the list is going to need some work to be useful. You will find that some of your newly purchased contacts are irrelevant, outdated or just plain incorrect.

This is where having an in-house sales person servers double duty, he is not only calling for appointments but with every dial, it’s a chance for him to groom and clean your data. In our operation, we used every call to refine our database. Even if our caller was unable to get through to the decision maker, the person capable of buying or for that matter, to the gatekeeper, the person that answers the phone and would love not to put the caller through, he was still able to work to maintain the contact record.

It’s an Iterative Process Man!

He did this by using our good friend the Internet. While the phone was dialing he was checking out the contact on Linkedin and other social media sites and looking at the company’s website to verify the address, phone number and in some cases even the general description of the company. Often the ancillary data in the lists you buy is wrong or incomplete. Having an inside salesperson gives you a built-in check on your data.

He was also able to use some social engineering to add to our database. If the person he was asking for was no longer with the company, he might ask who was now responsible for IT within the company. If he was lucky, he got a name. If he was even more fortunate, he got the name, and the gatekeeper put him through to the new decision maker.

Every bit of information he received from the company and the contact he updated in the CMS or PSA. This became a treasure trove of information after building it for the last ten years.

One of the beneficial things we did was to document every call. We had a shorthand that we added to a Connectwise activity. It doesn’t matter what the shorthand is, just decide on some abbreviations and standardize on this. Shorthand codes like LM for Left Message. VM for Voicemail, GK for GateKeeper, DM for decision maker OOO for out of office and so on.

If you CRM can copy an activity and then add to it, use it. Being able to do this is a great feature. In ConnectWise this is called “Close+New Followup”. If you close an activity with “Close+New Followup” it will close your existing opportunity and set up a new one for you to schedule, BUT it also copies all the previous notes into the new activity. Think about the power of this.

Five Years to Get an Appointment – Yeah sometimes it takes that long!

Some prospects we have called on for 5+ years before we ever received the first appointment. Our outside sales person walked into the first appointment with five years of history on the prospect. All of the uncovered data, pains, people, contact dates, previous service providers, line of business applications. All of it in ONE activity record shared between the caller and the closer and available to our outside salesperson before he steps into the room. Brilliant!

Another big part of our successful inside / outside team was the process. We have detailed procedure for the flow from cold call to the first appointment. Every activity, opportunity, and ticket is created with the same verbiage, the same statuses, and the same detail. Not only does this give us a process but it also gives us the metrics we need to manage our sales metrics.

Inside Sales Metrics

We measure a lot of things at our MSP, but for inside sales, we concentrated on the following metrics:

  • Dials – How many times did we attempt to reach a prospect
  • Calls Connected – How many times did we connect to a live human.
  • 1st Appointments Booked – How many 1st appointments did we get.
  • 1st Appointments Competed – How many of these happened.

The last one, 1st Appointments Competed was the status assigned by the outside sales rep when he was able to attend a booked appointment.

Why is it important to track these metrics? Well, you need to know how successful your inside sales person or team is doing. We always strived for 80 dials a day and one new appointment a week. This gave our guy plenty of time to stay on top of the database as well as plan his next work day.


Talking about the next work day, usually, a part of the inside salespersons calling schedule for the next day was made up from past attempts where he couldn’t connect. Remember that “Close+New Followup” status. Well, the new follow-ups are scheduled for the future, and with a little care, the inside sales rep should be filling a part of his future days with re-attempts.

I mentioned 1 new appointment a week; it is important to say that these are usually really good, qualified appointments. If you outsource your appointment setting it is essential to qualify as well as quantify the appointments you are getting.

The actual conversation

So now the time has come. Your inside salesperson has connected to someone on the phone. Someone that could be the one who decides if you are going to be of service to them. Now what?

Now is where you need someone that can think like an improv artist. Have you ever seem a TV show like “Whose Line is it Anyway?” If you haven’t seen it, check it out on YouTube. An improvisational artist must be quick on their feet; they need to react to an unknown situation in seconds. So does your inside sales person.

We did this by developing and implementing a decision tree for our inside sales person. If the person on the other end of the phone said this, you say this, if they say that then you say something else. This gives your inside sales person a quick way to be fast on their feet, and he can use the document building blocks to refine future conversations based on his actual calls.

We also came up with several premises or reasons for our call. Most of the time our inside sales person just introduced our company and said we were able to help many companies in the local area, save money, improve efficiencies or get more out of their technology spend.

I talked a little more about the importance of your message in Episode 1 of the IT Provider Network Multi Pronged Customer Communications – ITPN-EP001


Process and Belief – That’s the Key

Like everything in sales, dialing for dollars is process and belief. The callers needs to believe in the company, the team and the services you provide. If you are going to build an inside sales process, you need to include your inside sales person on the wins so that he has the gas to keep dialing.

So that’s it…easy peezy. Not really but I hope you get some takeaways from this episode of the IT Provider Network Podcast.   I’d love to hear what your doing to address lead generation.  Tell me about your inside sales initiatives.   You can write me at


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In episode 31 we’ll talk about outsourcing your appointment setting and some of the pros and cons of doing so. Until then have a great day and remember We Are IT!

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