how to make a sales appointment via email

by Jeff Molander, Conversation Enablement Coach, Speaker & Founder at Communications Edge Inc.

Time to read: 2.5 minutes. Oddly, the best way to make a sales appointment via email is to avoid asking for it. Seriously. You should too. Instead, help the prospect self-qualify the appointment.

Hear me out. This is what I’ve learned from my (and my customers’) experience.

Through a quick exchange of short emails, prospects will become curious about your solution to their problem or goal. Curious enough to ultimately ask YOU for the appointment.

The more my clients and I practice this, the more appointments set. Can’t argue with that!

The short version

Success at making appointments via email is mostly about:

  1. not saying “too much, too fast” about you—and NOT asking for the appointment;
  2. helping prospects feel an urge to tell you what is most important right now;
  3. sparking the buyers’ curiosity about how you might help (not your solution).

Avoid telling them how you can help. Instead, be super short and use a mental trigger to spark curiosity about a conversation (not a meeting).

Learn more about using mental triggers consider joining our conversation-starting Academy.

Attract them—just like a date

Think about the last time you were on a date. Flash back.

Smart daters have a secret weapon. Process. A template of sorts.

Let’s say you decide “I want another encounter with this person.” You’re attracted to them. The most effective strategy is to help the other person ask for the next date. Why?

Because their request confirms attraction to you. Bingo. You’re in.

Effective daters know dating is a process, systematic. Template-able.

The output of a rock solid dating system is quality leads. The process filters good candidates from the poor ones.

Making an appointment via email is the same. But it takes a mind-shift… away from asking for meetings, toward provoking. Yes, sometimes a bit of seduction.

Don’t rush the meeting

Your “first touch” message is probably coming on too strong—saying too much, too fast.

Your goal is NOT to book a meeting on first contact. Using InMail? Standard email? Connecting on LinkedIn first?

Be warned: Asking for calls and meetings, right away, usually fails.

Whether you’re trying to provoke a discussion or continue one that’s stalled… you’re not selling. You’re facilitating.

Facilitating a conversation about a possible meeting.

Any time you begin with an attempt to get an appointment you are being rejected by 90—97% of perfectly good prospects. Because most of your targets are not ready for the solution yet. They’re unaware they have a need to meet with you.

Are you giving prospects the chance to understand why they need to talk with you—and decide (for themselves) when? 

Get invited into the discussion first. Because this helps the buyer understand why they want the appointment.

Spark curiosity

When prospecting, your goal is to create an urge in the potential customer to talk.

No urge created? No chance to talk with them.

Making qualified sales appointments via email (faster, at scale) is mostly about:

  • not saying “too much, too fast” about you; 
  • not asking for the appointment;
  • helping prospects want to reveal what is most important right now and
  • sparking curiosity in how you might help them (not your solution).

Come learn how to do this with us. It’s fun.

Quick example…

Subject: this a fit for you, ___ [first name]?

Savings accounts, bonds, and CD’s are currently earning less then 1%. The cost of living rises at 1.7%. There are other places to invest offering a competitive rate and low risk. They even come with tax advantages.

Would a short email conversation makes sense? You can decide if an appointment is justifiable. Let me know what you decide, _____ [first name]?


The prospect responded with,

“Yes that is something I would be interested in discussing. What kind of options can you offer?”

Connor didn’t respond asking for a meeting. Nor did he respond with options. Instead, he asked the prospect more about their status quo situation and did not rush into his sales pitch about solutions and options.

Why this worked:

  • Subject: Used trigger word (“this”) & provoked curiosity by being a bit ambiguous
  • The ask was not too large (he avoided asking for too much, too fast … no meeting request)
  • Cold first reply messages focused exclusively on prospect, not Connor’s value proposition
  • Time to read was minimal (could be read & acted on via a mobile device)

What to say—so prospects will reply again?

Since then, Connor has been using a set of effective templates we developed.  He emailed me recently…

“Your technique for getting permission to have a longer conversation is working great, Jeff. What angle I should take once permission is given… or the curiosity has sparked a response? Do you have a proven approach to moving this situation forward and getting the appointment … or should I explain what the product I was referring to in my response?”

Short answer:

  • Beware, do not start talking about your solution/product… even if invited to.
  • Instead, ask a question to your prospect that is not biased to selling to them.

In other words, ask a neutral question… one that does not make customers vulnerable to a possible sales pitch when answering you. Focus attention on them.

This effectively earns another response (keeps the conversation going).

Example: Instead of Connor describing investment options he can offer Connor allows the prospect to continue describing why they just became provoked. Here is an

Glad to talk about the options, Susan. First, what is causing your interest? Savings? Tax advantages? Is something happening with family life?

You cannot rush a sales appointment via email. It won’t work. Instead, spark the prospects’ curiosity. Again. Just like you did in your cold email template. However, now is also the time to over-focus on your prospect’s pain, fear or goal.

This often means resisting the urge to pitch even when invited to!

They will tell you how to respond

Help the potential buyer to guide you … so you can make the best response. Here’s how it’s done.

In your first reply, ask them to talk more about their situation. Also, if needed, reveal “just enough” about what you have in mind to keep them curious about what (exactly) you’re thinking about recommending.

This helps build a conversation about what is most important to them—not what you’re selling. Show the prospect you only want to talk about them (for now). Write in a way that helps the other side feel safe. Help them to vent frustration, fear or excitement about what’s important to them—at this exact moment.

This helps the buyer become more open to being curious about your solution. Even if they may not (yet) realize they need what you’re offering.

Want to see this in action? Join us in this live, online workshop

Over-focus on a pain/goal (not the appointment)

In Connor’s case, the prospect responded by asking about investment options. That’s what Connor sells. He used a “near-term buying first-touch” approach. And the buyer is curious about his solution to the problem. Success!

However, this can be a dangerous situation.

The best way forward in the “second touch” email is over-focusing on the prospect. Here’s what I mean.

In Connor’s case, the buyer is opening the door to talk about his solution, the product. However, it’s best to resist this temptation. And never ask for the meeting via email.

Instead, attract the appointment to you. This is how to make email work for you. (not the other way around!)

To earn another reply, ask one brief but purposeful question. Two max. This will prompt your reader to reply in a way that qualifies the lead. It also helps you know how, exactly, to respond and move the discussion forward.

For example, Connor should reply,

“I will be glad to talk options, ___ [first name]. But I need to know more about you, please, to help. Are you invested in CD’s, bonds (low rate options) now? Are you doing everything possible to protect yourself from outliving your retirement savings?”

Also, notice above how Connor plants a seed of doubt in the mind of the prospect in the final sentence. This helps the prospect want to hit reply without delay—telling Connor what is on their mind right now about protecting themselves.

Take it slow. This may feel un-natural at first. But that’s why we practice it… using templates and guides. A few of us also get together in twice monthly workshops … to perfect our techniques at earning sales appointments via email. We also offer a conversation starting Academy to learn this technique.

Trigger an avalanche

New customer prospects will actually tell you what will (eventually) trigger them to buy. Sometimes in the second email you receive from them. Choosing your words carefully will trigger what I call an avalanche response. You’ll get a bunch of information back, fast.

The goal of your second email message is not to pitch your wares nor set an appointment. Instead, it is to:

  1. earn another reply, (keep it very short!)
  2. trigger an “avalanche” response, (allow your buyer to become emotional)
  3. pin-point the buyer’s exact pain or objective. (so you can address it)

By identifying what matters most to the buyer you’ll know exactly how to reply. You’ll do so in a way that builds credibility and curiosity in your solution. Remember: An emotional reply from a prospect validates how important a given issue may be to them. Additional curiosity (more questions) indicates the lead is a good one.

Bottom line: Your second email message should yield a response that qualifies the lead. Try to trigger an avalanche by tapping into the emotional element. Each reply a prospect sends you should be telling you exactly what to talk about in your next email message. That’s how to make a sales appointment via email!

A stream of curiosity

In your replies, always answer questions the prospect asks—but do so in ways that create more questions in their minds. Hold a little back. This helps create more curiosity. This helps you attract the appointment to you. The buyer will see the appointment as a way to short-circuit all of this emailing. He or she will want to get right to the point with you!

Structure the way you reply. Be deliberate about it.

Don’t be coy. This isn’t about trickery or dangling a carrot in a way that will annoy the prospect. Be direct and specific. Yet hold back on the details. This will help your prospect feel an urge to ask you about them.

Good luck! And remember if you need help a community is here to help you practice!

In 1999, I co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc. where I helped secure 2 rounds of funding and built the sales team. I've been selling for over 2 decades.

After this stint, I returned to what was then Molander & Associates Inc. In recent years we re-branded to Communications Edge Inc., a member-driven laboratory of sorts. We study, invent and test better ways to communicate -- specializing in serving sales and marketing professionals.

I'm a coach and creator of the Spark Selling™ communication methodology—a curiosity-driven way to start and advance conversations. When I'm not working you'll find me hiking, fishing, gardening and investing time in my family.

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  • hasan all banna says:

    It was the best… Helped me a lot.

  • Maria Carmencita Toledo says:

    It was a great idea and learning to know how to be an appointment setter.I could use it for self training and read more about this. Please let me know.

  • When they reply to the second email with the message that qualifies them.
    What would you say to reply with because at this point one still hasn’t given them value yet.
    And surely more times than not, the seller would still be the one to recommend an appointment?

    • Not necessarily, Michael. Some of our best students practice the tactic of “attracting the meeting” to them. This way the short email exchange qualifies the conversation — for both sides. It’s best to hold back each time — keep:

      a) PARTIALLY satisfying (answering) the prospect
      b) stopping short of fully satisfying — creating a natural urge to request more contact

      …. IF the prospect is honestly interested they’ll reply. If they’re not (not a good lead) they will not reply. Each side wins. But this takes practice and patience.

      Offering value is part of the problem. Offer too much and guess what? They don’t need to reply do they? 🙂

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