Appointment Setting vs. Sales Development: Key Differences


Aoife Daly

Appointment Setting vs. Sales Development: Key Differences


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Appointment Setting vs. Sales Development: Key Differences


Aoife Daly

Content Marketing Manager, Operatix

When exploring the world of sales and business development, you’ll likely have come across the terms ‘appointment setting’ and ‘sales development’. In fact, they’re often used synonymously with one another. While there may be some similarities, appointment setting and sales development have some key differences, unique processes and likely outcomes. 

Understanding the main differences between appointment setting and sales development is vital when it comes to choosing the right strategy for your revenue growth efforts. After all, you don’t want to invest in one service only to realise the other was likely the better option for you. Below, we explore the ins and outs of both appointment setting and sales development, outlining the aforementioned differences, benefits and strategies to help you take your sales strategies to the next level.

  • What is appointment setting?
  • What is sales development? 
  • What’s the difference between appointment setting and sales development?
  • What are the duties of an appointment setter?
  • What are the duties of a sales development representative?
  • Appointment setting vs sales development: which is the right option? 

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What is appointment setting?

Appointment setting is a sales and marketing process in which a representative reaches out to prospective clients in an attempt to schedule initial meetings to continue the sales process. The primary objective of appointment setting is to create an opportunity for a more in-depth meeting with a member of the sales team. The appointment setting process tends to follow a set script and targets a broad range of people – basically, anyone who is willing to talk. Appointment setting is done primarily via cold calling.

What is sales development?

Sales development is a popular strategy used by companies to find and convert potential customers into sales opportunities. It involves identifying, engaging, and qualifying leads or prospects, utilising outbound sales activities to do so. A multi-touchpoint approach is utilised across various platforms, including cold calling, social media, voice notes, email cadences and video.

This phase in the sales cycle involves proactive and targeted engagement with potential clients to establish and nurture relationships, comprehend their needs and challenges, and prime them for a sales pitch or demonstration. Sales development focuses on the most promising leads with decision-making power, tailoring each engagement to suit their specific needs to increase the rate of conversion.

What’s the difference between appointment setting and sales development?

The main goal of both appointment setting and sales development is to schedule a follow-up meeting on behalf of the sales team. However, there are some core differences between the approach that set them apart. 

With sales development, engaging with the right person and creating SALs (sales accepted leads) is extremely important. They go after decision makers, typically within the C-Level Suite, that have a need for the solution while appointment setting targets just about anyone who will pick up the phone regardless of whether they can make a purchase or not. 

This means that appointment setting isn’t as tailored as sales development services. As they target a broader range of prospective customers, they don’t delve as deeply into the unique pain points of each client. While appointment setters tend to follow a set script, sales development representatives tailor their conversations to engage the prospect and build a genuine relationship. Doing so results in much more productive conversations that are more likely to lead to a conversion. 

While more meetings may be set by an appointment setter, they are likely to be of a lower quality. By opting for sales development, you’re ensuring that resources are engaging with the right people 

appointment setting vs sales development

What are the duties of an appointment setter?

Lead identification lists: this step will vary depending on the appointment setting services you use. Some will request that you pass over a list of target accounts, while others will do this on your behalf. 

Cold calling: a large part of the appointment setting process revolves around cold calling in order to secure an appointment on behalf of the client. These are typically done using stringent scripts and aren’t overly personalised. 

Appointment scheduling: the priority for the appointment setter is to convince the lead to book a meeting with an AE or other member of the sales team. They aren’t trying to sell the product during the cold calling phase, but rather the value of booking a meeting in order for the solution to be pitched. 

Confirmation and handoff to the sales team: after confirming an appointment time and date, the appointment setter will then pass the details to the sales team and upload details to their CRM system.

What are the duties of a sales development representative?

Prospecting and lead qualification: finding the names and contact details of decision makers within the client’s ICP, all while undergoing a needs assessment. This is where they investigate the unique pain points, challenges, goals and needs of the lead, determining if there is a need for the solution/service. The sales development representative will not initiate contact if the lead isn’t a good fit.

Outbound activities: unlike appointment setting which relies heavily on cold calling, sales development representatives utilise a multi-touchpoint, ABM approach when engaging with prospects. This includes social media outreach, voice notes, cold calling and email campaigns. Sales development representatives will typically reach out to a prospect multiple times across different platforms, ensuring to tailor content to avoid ‘spamming’. 

Objection handling: Address any objections or concerns the lead may have and provide solutions, information or content such as case studies and reviews to alleviate their doubts.

Scheduling next steps: once a lead has agreed to a further meeting, the sales development representative will schedule the call/meeting as well as update the CRM system with details of the conversation and next steps. 

There are a number of other activities that fall under the responsibility of sales development, including relationship management, following up on engagements, using sales enablement tools and nurturing cold leads. 

Appointment setting vs. sales development: which is the right option? 

While both appointment setting and sales development play have their benefits, sales development offers a more comprehensive approach to converting high-quality leads, meaningful interactions, and building lasting relationships via a more selective, tailored approach. 

Sales development excels at converting quality leads by nurturing and qualifying them, addressing their specific needs, and ensuring each engagement is valuable. This process not only increases the likelihood of successful conversions but creates positive brand awareness, positioning companies for long-term success and customer loyalty. While appointment setting is vital for securing initial meetings, sales development truly shines when it comes to transforming those meetings into valuable, long-lasting partnerships.

appointment setting vs sales development

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About Operatix

Operatix is a Sales Acceleration company specialized in supporting B2B Software vendors to identify new revenue streams, increase qualified sales pipeline, and accelerate channel development across Europe and North America. Operatix has a wealth of experience in working with the biggest tech players worldwide as well as a multitude of emerging software vendors.

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