If you google b2b appointment setting you get 972,000 results.  Some of them actually do a great job. The fact is anybody can hang a shingle out and say "we do appointment setting".  They need a phone line and a list.  In fact that is how some of them still do business.  Full disclosure, I am an investor in a b2b appointment setting company that has grown to 75 inside sales reps over the past 8 years.  In my present role as President of Salesvue, I have met with or discussed varying philosophies with probably 50 more b2b appointment setting firms.  I find it interesting how some of the good ones are very similar in their approach while some of the others puzzle me as to how they can actually win business. Here are the things I invite you to think about -

  1. Who is doing the calling?  Can you meet them?  How long have they been doing it?  Education level?  How are they paid?  You may ask why the concern about the above.  If they are calling on behalf of your company representing your brand and they are horrible, what does that say about your brand.  How would you like to be the rep that has to follow the person into a territory that has had huge activity with a lousy message or delivery... "we already talked to your company 3 months ago and we're not interested" would be the typical response.   Show me how someone's paid and I will show you how they will act.  Firms that just pay on the appointment may generate a lot of "meetings" but are they type of meetings your team wants.   If you can't meet them what does that say about the potential vendor...
  2. Who owns the messaging?  What is being said to attract new prospects?  Believe it or not some vendors actually state that you cannot know what their "secret sauce" is to get a meeting.  That's really scary to me, but evidently not to their clients.
  3. How many accounts/clients do reps work on?  Can you imagine trying to schedule meetings for 6 to 8 different offerings and keeping them all straight.  That's what some vendors do is their reps are pooled and they may work on client a for an hour then client b then client c etc. etc.  Once again, I believe it is hard enough to represent one or two products/brands effectively without trying to leverage 5 to 8 at the same time.  I guess one could represent 8 storage vendors at the same time, but if you're one of those vendors how would you feel if you're competition is being discussed at the same time your product is.
  4. Who owns the data?  A lot of times appointment setting vendors use their "proprietary database".  That is not uncommon as most b2b appointment setting vendors do have large lists they have captured over time.  I would make sure that you know who they are calling though so there is no redundancy with your sales team.  I would also make sure that if you are using a pay by appointment model vendor you make sure they aren't selling your appointment to 10 of your competitors as some blatantly do.
  5. How are they paid?  A lot of people initially like the idea of pay for performance vendors.  For $ 750 you can buy an appointment with a Director of IT at a company.  For $ 1250 you can get a CXO meeting.  In my discussions with various prospects who discuss this type of relationship, I always ask if you took your best rep and had him make 100 calls a day for 4 weeks how many appointments would he/she get.  Inevitably the prospect doesn't know.  My point is if you don't know what it takes for your offering to get to the right person with the right message, how could someone price an appointment at a specific fee.  I am not saying they can't do it I would make sure that they are not mining their database of Directors of IT who have a propensity to take a meeting.  If that's the business model, I am not sure I want to meet with a guy who likes to take meetings but can't make a decision.
  6. Do you get value out of every phone conversation?  Yes, the ultimate goal is to drive meetings but is your vendor updating your CRM tool with attributes from the conversation that will help you in the future.  Attributes like, no I am not interested in having a meeting because I am under contract thru October with my current vendor.  That would be great information for targeted marketing in September.  There are all types of information that can be gained besides appointments.  Having access to that information enhances your company's database.
  7. Is the vendor familiar with your industry?  Some b2b vendors cater to tech, others to other areas.  Make sure they understand what it is you do and have experience in your industry.
These represent some of the best ways I have seen to judge whether the vendor you are evaluation is worthy of your business.  If they can't answer above questions to your satisfaction, I would pass and go find one that can. Best of luck,