Ever been stood up by a prospect? Of course you have. All too often, new prospects don’t pick up the phone when you call back for that initial substantive discussion, even though both of you agreed quite cordially on an exact time and date when you first spoke.

A good thing to remember is that some of this is pretty much inevitable. Sales experts warn that you should expect a no-show rate of 20% or so for initial appointments. (No-shows shouldn’t be higher than about 10% as you move toward the latter stages of the sales process.)

You’re always going to get some no-shows because, for one thing, prospects will sometimes have a legitimate emergency that requires them to blow you off. At other times, the prospect will simply have a higher priority than picking up your call at the time you’ve agreed on.

Notwithstanding, there are steps you can take to hold your no-show rate down

The 5 Techniques

  1. Schedule for the near future. Appointments set for more than about two weeks ahead easily get forgotten or brushed off. If the prospect won’t give you a meeting date within two weeks, don’t set one. Instead, call them back after two weeks and try again. If they still won’t commit, they’re probably not worth pursuing.
  2. Avoid bad times. Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are notoriously difficult and/or busy times. If you suggest a time like that, the prospect may agree, but is then less likely to actually take your call. Late afternoons on most days are also not great, because people are tired and more likely to duck an appointment they would otherwise honor.
  3. Make your reminders persuasive. Use your reminder e-mail(s) or voice mail message(s) to re-sell the prospect on the appointment. Communicate a short agenda, the value the agenda items will have for the person, your contact numbers, and a confirmation of who is going to call whom. (As a rule you should initiate the call.)
  4. Build the prospect’s commitment to the appointment. In your reminder, let the prospect know how much effort – in terms of hours expended – you devoted to prepare for the meeting. Or you can invite the prospect to take action, such as preparing two or three key questions to ask you on the call.
  5. Minimize appointments altogether by making the first call count. Think of it this way: The prospect has already shown up by taking your cold call, so you’ve achieved a no-show rate of 0% with this person. Boldly communicate as much as you can on that call, rather than routinely resorting to setting an appointment. Don’t cut yourself off at the knees by assuming you can’t present then and there. (Although obviously you want to let people get off the phone rapidly if they need to.)

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