Sales Development vs. Appointment Setting

Appointment Setting vs Sales Development

Sales Development is an umbrella term used to describe many different functions. It is essentially a new way of doing sales – one that combines processes, people, and technology. The idea behind it is that it’s much better to sell to someone who is interested in your product or service rather than a complete stranger. 

Sales development focuses almost exclusively on the early stages of the sales process. It’s not concerned with closing the deal – that’s up to the sales department. It also doesn’t worry about promoting the product or service – that’s for marketing.

Appointment setting, on the other hand, is considered to be one of the most difficult parts of business development and also the most typical barrier to growing a company by increasing its sales. Selling won’t even be possible without directly speaking to a prospect first. This is especially true for start-ups and small businesses that are very eager to grow – and growth isn’t also possible without profitable sales.

Now, if you’re a little confused as to which of these two you should use, we’ve made a list featuring the main factors that set sales development apart from appointment setting. 

The Focus

The focus of appointment setting is exactly what it says; getting an appointment with someone who fits a basic set of criteria and is open to talking. While the assumption is that someone who is open to talking is open to a sales conversation, that is not always the case.

While in sales development, the focus is all on creating sales-qualified leads (SQLs). So while appointments are certainly set through sales development efforts, that’s the byproduct, not the focus.

The Depth

A major difference between the two approaches is the depth in which they go. Sales development goes much deeper and is fully integrated into the new sales process. Since the focus is on the creation of SQLs, the sales development function must dig deeper than appointment setting approaches. With sales development, you’re moving through the vast majority of the discovery phase and into the needs assessment/diagnosis phase.

With appointment setting, since the focus is on the appointment, the process doesn’t dig as deep. The reality is that often the incentive is unintentionally in conflict with your end goal. The “sale,” for lack of a better word, is on setting the appointment, and therefore receptivity is overvalued and appointments are often set with people that are not ready or qualified.

The Process

Appointment setting is a simple process. Frankly, this is the reason that there are so many firms that offer outsourced appointment setting services. With this approach, you simply work a list of contacts and set appointments with as many of them as you can. Once the appointment is set, you turn it over to the salesperson and the appointment setting process is complete. It’s very simple, and there are clean lines of separation and responsibilities.

Successful sales development is an extraordinarily complex process. Because it’s integrated with the overall lead generation effort, that is a multitude of ways that a lead enters the process.

Additionally, the sales development process works in concert with the new sales process in many instances. Where appointment setting has a very simple hand-off, sales development is far more like a relay race where the SDR and the salesperson work together for a period as the SQL is passed on.

The Impact

The biggest difference between the two is in the impact. Sales development, while typically requiring a bigger commitment and investment, yields far greater ROI in most instances. The ability to manage more complex scenarios and the fact that it goes deeper into the sales process enables you to leverage your sales resources far more effectively. Sales development also produces more predictable results.

Appointment setting often creates more activity – after all, it’s much easier to get a meeting than to create a sales-qualified lead. The problem can be that activity and results are not always connected.

Check out the beginners’ guide for successful B2B appointment setting.


With the list we’ve just provided you, by all means, we do not mean to say that the appointment setting approach is wrong all of the time. There are two scenarios where appointment setting is the better choice.

The first is for companies that have a very clear path to a sale. If you know precisely who a meeting should be held with, the profile of the company and you know that the companies being pursued by the products/services you sell, then appointment setting can work very well.

However, if you’re selling a solution, there’s any complexity in your sales process or you need to create demand in any way, you’ll typically find that sales development is the superior choice. We hope that we were able to at the most shed light on the differences between sales development and appointment setting so that you can determine for yourself which fits your needs the best.

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