When Prospects Cancel Meetings: What to do and How to Avoid it

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A seminar attendee once said, “If a prospect cancels a meeting, it obviously means he/she is not interested.  Further, if the meeting is rescheduled and the prospect cancels again, he is not only uninterested, he is 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 he’s 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 he would have canceled on anyone, including his 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, 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 will 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, here’s what he told us. His son had a terrible asthma attack on the day we were supposed to speak. They had to rush 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. 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 minimize prospect cancellations?

  1. Create a sales message that communicates significant value for the prospect. How can you make his/her 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.
  2. Have a confirming protocol in place.  Confirm the day before (unless you are flying to get to the meeting) by voice mail and email. In your message (oral or written) remind the prospect what the discussion is about and why it is so important to him/her.
  3. Be sure your prospect is the right prospect. Can you really help this person?  Is he/she the right level person to be approaching?
  4. Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. In sales, the most important factor is the decision maker. It’s all about him/her.

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.


Happy hunting!

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