A seminar attendee once said, “If a prospect cancels a meeting, it obviously means the prospect is not interested. Further, if the meeting is rescheduled and the prospect cancels again, the prospect is not only uninterested, but also rude and unworthy of my attention.” Ever? Really? Wow. Whatever happened to giving someone the benefit of the doubt? That attitude will assuredly result in lost relationships and missed opportunities. Here are my thoughts on this subject.
A prospect canceling once, even twice, does not mean the prospect is not interested or rude. What if the decision maker had something that came up at the last minute that held a higher priority and therefore had a good reason to cancel? What if it was an emergency and the prospect would have canceled on anyone, including their boss?
A few weeks ago, I had a follow up conference call scheduled with a prospect from California. My assistant confirmed the call the day before, reminding the prospect why he said the meeting was important to him, which is our protocol. At the agreed upon time, I left one message, then a second and finally sent an email asking him if he needed to reschedule. It was days before we heard an answer.
It might seem to you that he wasn’t interested. It might seem to you that I should take his hint and move on. However, here’s what I know. In the absence of true information we tend to fill the story in with our own narratives, with our own insecurities but certainly not with facts! You may never know all the details of what is happening behind the scenes in your prospect’s work life and home life. But these details are what drive their responses to us. What happened with my prospect?
When we finally reached him, he told us his son had a terrible asthma attack on the day we were supposed to speak. They rushed him to the hospital and the following week was a myriad of doctor visits. Finding time to work had become an incredible challenge for this decision maker. He asked if we could hold off on our discussion for a few weeks until things calmed down for him. His canceling had nothing to do with his interest level. He was apologetic for the delay. And, I was understanding and empathetic instead of annoyed and angry. As a result of my response to him, our relationship moved to a new and better level.
There is no way to prevent a cancellation due to a business or personal emergency. There are ways to minimize cancellations that occur for other reasons (i.e. prospect places higher priority on other tasks).
What can you do to avoid prospect cancellations?
- Create a sales message that communicates significant value for the prospect. How can you make the prospect’s life better? If the prospect doesn’t believe that time spent with you would be better spent than on the 40 other priorities that day, you are more likely to be canceled.
- Send a meeting invite immediately following the prospect agreeing to the meeting. Include the agenda and reason why the prospect said the meeting was so important IN the meeting invite. Also include cell numbers for all attendees in the meeting invite. That way if attendees are running late or technology fails you can reach each other to have the call by phone.
- Make sure the prospect accepts the meeting. You can do this by sending a quick email a day after you send the invite asking the prospect to go in an accept to be sure the meeting is on the calendar for you both.
- Have a confirming protocol in place. Confirm the day before (unless you are flying to get to the meeting) by voice mail and email, not just email alone. In your message remind the prospect what the discussion is about and why the prospect said it was so important to the prospect.
- Be sure your prospect is the right prospect. Can you really help this person? Is the person the right level person to be approaching?
- Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. In sales, the most important factor is the decision maker. It’s all about the prospect.
What I’ve learned through all my years of sales and studying human behavior is that if you focus on the health and depth of your relationships, the money will follow.