We’ve all been there, prepped and ready to go for an exciting sales meeting. And then the prospect or client never shows or cancels last minute. We’re left sitting there, feeling disappointed, frustrated and maybe even discouraged. The reality is, no-shows are a fact of sales life. But there’s ways to trim their occurrence.
- Set and deliver an agenda.
The prospect should have a vested interest in attending the meeting. Creating that interest means demonstrating value for the prospect in terms of what they will get out of meeting with you. One of the simplest and easiest ways to show value? Send them a meeting agenda as part of your email confirming the appointment time. Then send it again with the reminder email 24 hours before the meeting day itself. Agendas should be short – no more than five or six bullet points – and communicate what the prospect is going to get out of the meeting.
- Qualify your prospects before scheduling a meeting.
Whether you set appointments yourself, outsource the work, or a combination of the two, you need to have clear guidelines on how to qualify prospects before you start getting meetings. There’s few bigger wastes of time than meetings with unqualified leads/prospects – you’re not likely to get the sale, and they might well resent you wasting their time with something that doesn’t fit their needs (if they even bother to show up). You’ll never get that meeting time back, and it could have been much more productive.
- Schedule your meetings at a max of two weeks out.
Going beyond two weeks means there’s a greater chance your prospect will forget about the meeting, or you’ll be pushed aside by newer people who are topmost of mind because of recency. As soon as possible is best, but if the prospect’s not available within the next two weeks, follow up a couple weeks later instead.
- The best scheduling time is, weirdly enough, the afternoon. Except Fridays.
Gong Research Labs found through their market research that the optimal meeting window with the lowest no-show rate is 3-5 pm, ranging from 15.4% as the high at 3 pm to 14.68% as the low at 5 pm. The absolute worst time? 8 am – 10 am, with anywhere from a 17-19% no-show rate. While the percentages may seem small, on a long timeline, those differences add up to a considerable volume of potential sales and revenue. And yet, most sales reps are scheduling their meetings at 10 and 11 am, and one of those is one of the three worst times.
In the same study, Gong discovered that the day of the week doesn’t matter at all that much, though weekends have a 4x higher no-show rate than the workweek, which means meetings should fall on a weekday. Caveat: The consensus in the sales world is that Monday mornings and Friday afternoons have the worst no-show rates, so meetings during those times should generally be avoided.
- Confirm the meeting with a follow-up calendar invite and use it as a reminder of value.
Immediately after the call to set an appointment, send an email with a calendar invite to confirm. Also send a calendar reminder on the day of the meeting itself. To maximize the opportunity of the invite, title your subject line with the key value of the meeting – for example, Discovering How XYZ CRM Fits You. Also populate the Event Notes field with your contact information, the meeting medium, agenda (you read the earlier point, right?), and value proposition.
- Get as many people involved in the meeting as possible.
Remember, to have the best chance establishing a business relationship, you want as many decision makers, influencers, and stakeholders involved as you can. Drafting them into the meeting accomplishes three purposes: 1) You extend your reach, 2) Having them all in one meeting saves you time you would have needed to allot to other meetings with them, and 3) The more people attending a meeting, the much lower the chance of a complete no-show.
- Have a backup plan if things go awry.
Life happens. You can do everything right, follow all these guidelines, and still get hit with a no-show. Sometimes an emergency situation comes up, or there’s some other reason the meeting’s a miss. That’s a chunk of time in your schedule that suddenly opened up. It’s quite easy to fritter those minutes away unproductively, so prepare a backup in case of a no-show. Contacting other prospects, doing research, looking for leads, and a litany of other sales-related activities are available to ensure there’s no lost productivity.
- Follow up if there’s a no show.
Let’s say in spite of everything, a no show still happens. Rather than just shrug and bin the prospect, reach out to reschedule the meeting. In your follow-up, don’t get angry or accusatory. Instead, ask for a reschedule and give them two different options to choose from.
Let’s say you’re a sales rep for Snazzy Snacks, a snack food manufacturer. You’ve set a meeting with Bob, a decision maker at Metamovies to discuss being the vendor for the concession stands at their theaters. Bob no-shows. You decide to follow up with the following email:
I’m sorry we missed each other for last Wednesday’s meeting. I’d like to reschedule so I can learn about your annual objectives and share how Snazzy Snacks’ premium offerings may help increase revenue for the concession stands at Metamovies’ movie theatres.
I have next Monday, the 19th, at 3:00 pm and next Thursday, the 22nd, at 5:00 pm available. Please let me know which of those days and times you’d like to meet, and we’ll set up the appointment.
Notice how the email is specifically tailored to the prospect’s situation, focuses on learning more and how it asks Bob to pick one of the two days. If you leave the appointment time open-ended and up to the prospect, there’s a very good chance the meeting never gets rescheduled. Which brings us to our final, and perhaps most important point.
- You’re responsible for the meeting.
Remember that the prospect is under no obligation to buy or even take an exploratory meeting with you. Far too often, we see sales people craft a terrific sales email and close with an open availability line like “Let me know what days and times work best for you in the next two weeks.” This is not the best approach. Why? Because it surrenders responsibility for scheduling the meeting and puts it on the prospect.
Think about it from the prospect’s perspective. You’re deluged by emails every day from sales reps wanting to talk to you about their product or service. Each time one of them asks you to pick a day and time for a meeting, you have to go through your schedule, look for open blocks, pick a few that might work, send it back to the sales rep, then wait for a reply, and then book it into your calendar. That’s a lot of steps, time, and hassle.
Contrast that with the sales rep who has offered the prospect a choice of two meeting times. Then the prospect just needs to look at a couple of dates and see if they fit or not. Guess which one is far more likely to get a favorable response?
No-shows will happen, even under the most optimal circumstances. But sales rep can use these smart tips to cut down their no-show rate, have more meetings and opportunities to advance the sales funnel, and even when an unavoidable no-show occurs, still make productive use of their time.