Ty Collins, April 02, 2021
Even in today’s world of the self-educated buyer, meetings are the best way for a sales representative to work with a prospect. There’s just no replacement for the opportunity to sit down with that prospect and talk through their needs, use cases and potential objections.
That’s why there’s so much out there about how to land more prospect meetings and how to get the most out of meetings when they happen. But the meeting lifecycle, a critical period in between those a prospect’s request for a meeting and when it actually happens, doesn’t get the attention it should.
Once a lead expresses interest, you have a limited amount of time to get them into a one-on-one conversation. Half of all deals go to the first vendor who responds. Yet many sales teams still rely on outdated technologies and inefficient manual processes.
By breaking these conventions and implementing meeting lifecycle automation, sales teams can gain a huge advantage over their competition.
For most teams, time-to-meeting is unnecessarily long. The biggest culprit is a lack of understanding of what has to happen during that period. Most teams don’t understand the meeting lifecycle, usually because they’re hyper-focused on the meeting itself.
The result is an inconvenient series of unnecessarily manual tasks:
Back-and-forth emails to find a time
Sending and confirming web conferencing links
Writing and sending reminders
Logging a meeting in your CRM
These are steps of the meeting lifecycle, a process that hasn’t received nearly enough attention in the world of sales.
The meeting lifecycle is everything that happens between the moment a lead requests a meeting and when that meeting actually occurs.
Unsurprisingly, the quicker you can get in touch, the more likely you are to convert. Statistics show that conversion rates are eight times higher if you make contact with the lead within the first five minutes.
You’d think that metric would have sales teams rushing to automate and fast-track the meeting lifecycle. Yet only 0.1% of inbound lead requests get answers in less than five minutes.
So, what’s the hold-up?
Most of the time, the problem is that sales teams are trying to connect manually. They take a meeting request and think that they need to send an email with a few possible times, or even pick up the phone and try to work out schedule conflicts that way.
It’s an understandable assumption, especially for teams that haven’t yet discovered a better way. The email back-and-forth of scheduling is familiar, so no one questions it.
This is not how it needs to be, though, and Calendly is working to change the paradigm with meeting lifecycle automation.
The meeting lifecycle is much more complex than it appears. It’s not just a matter of settling on a time, though that can be time-consuming and frustrating all by itself. There’s a lot more that has to happen between a meeting request and when the meeting actually happens, including:
Matching the lead with the right person on the sales team
Suggesting potential meeting times and formats (phone, videoconference, in-person, etc.)
Collecting availability from multiple decision-makers
Sending pre-meeting resources, e.g. agendas, product resources, etc.
The meeting lifecycle doesn’t end with the meeting itself. There’s more to do even if the lead has expressed a clear intention to convert. You still have to:
Record the meeting in your CRM
Take any agreed-upon follow-up actions
Schedule the next sales or onboarding meeting
It’s difficult to accelerate these steps manually. That’s where meeting lifecycle automation comes in.
When you can automate multiple steps of the meeting lifecycle, you can reduce lag time between touchpoints. A shorter lag time always equates to less of a chance that a competitor will swoop in and convert your lead before you have a chance.
The key to automating the meeting lifecycle is figuring out which steps you can fast-track, then finding a way to automate those steps.
Take the infamous search for a mutually convenient time. Without automation, there are two ways this can play out:
The lead requests a meeting at a time that’s convenient for them and the sales rep either accepts the time or presents another one, possibly launching an extensive back-and-forth
The lead doesn’t suggest a time, at which point the sales rep has to suggest something, again possibly prompting multiple emails
This is an ideal place for automation to happen. If your meeting schedule process encourages leads to select a time and that time is almost guaranteed to be workable for at least one member of your team, you can significantly shorten your time-to-meeting and streamline your meeting lifecycle.
Calendly makes this process easy and intuitive.
Calendly automates and streamlines your meeting lifecycle by eliminating unnecessarily manual steps.
Working out availability is one of the biggest culprits of an extended meeting lifecycle. Calendly eliminates nearly that entire process by allowing you to publish your availability, based on parameters you set.
With Calendly, you establish your availability through your account. You can set preferences like:
How much notice you need before a meeting
How many meetings you’re willing and able to have per day
How much time you need before or after meetings
What you want your daily start and end times to be
Calendly uses these preferences to create a master availability schedule for you. You get a link to that schedule and can either send the link directly to leads or publish it on your website, so leads can choose a convenient time no matter when and where they request a meeting.
Confirming a scheduled time can also extend the meeting lifecycle if you have to do it manually. Calendly automatically adds each meeting to your calendar, automates calendar invites, and marks that time as filled.
Calendly also integrates with the most widely used calendar apps including Google, iCloud and Office 365. You don’t have to take the time to check your calendar when a lead requests a meeting. It all happens automatically, so you can focus on making meaningful connections with prospects.
Calendly’s team scheduling tool automates this part of the meeting lifecycle. You can auto-assign meetings to available team members or allow invitees to choose which team member they meet with, depending on what the situation calls for.
Within a month of adding this tool to its website, data platform Virtru activated the round-robin scheduling tool and automatically distributed meeting requests. Prospects found their way into the pipeline faster and Virtru more than doubled the number of leads who scheduled calls.
Calendly also offers collective event scheduling, which is great for meetings involving multiple members of your team. You can use this feature for prospect meetings and internal team events, which also benefit from a shortened lifecycle and more time given back to individual reps.
Videoconferencing makes it easier to connect with leads despite geographic boundaries, but the technology can add unnecessary steps to the meeting lifecycle.
Picture a sales rep that schedules a Zoom meeting via email, then has to send the meeting link under separate cover. This lengthens the time-to-meeting by at least one step.
Then, there’s the risk that the invitee will struggle to find the link on the day of the meeting, increasing their frustration and making the sales rep’s job harder.
With Calendly, you can choose a videoconferencing platform like Zoom or GoToMeeting as your event location. This automatically saves the videoconference details to your Calendly event, so they’re easy to find.
Reminders are a necessary part of the meeting lifecycle. Without them, a lead can easily forget to show up or simply lose interest and decide to drop out of the conversation.
Calendly keeps you connected with automated email or text reminders to your invitees. You can even customize these reminders with meeting details, personalized updates and resources to help your leads prepare for the upcoming meeting.
To date, no-show rates have decreased for 88% of Calendly users who apply this feature.
Integrations also allow Calendly to add meeting information automatically to Salesforce and other popular CRMs. Calendly will automatically add a new contact or opportunity to the CRM, so records stay accurate without the rep having to go in and make manual changes.
Calendly gets rid of nearly all of the manual work that extends the meeting lifecycle. By eliminating the back-and-forth of scheduling and integrating meeting times into CRMs and calendars, Calendly users connect with prospects faster.
According to random survey results, 93% of sales teams are able to shorten their meeting lifecycles with Calendly, and 89% close more deals by doing so. For one user, a 10-minute integration of the Calendly tool sped up selling time by 50%.
Most users can get started with Calendly in under an hour. Start for free today and find out what meeting lifecycle automation can do for your team.
Ty is the head of digital acquisition and content at Calendly.
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