"Hi there! Do you have time for a half-hour meeting tomorrow?"
Whoa, that's direct. How many prospects would agree to a meeting if you used this approach? Maybe one in a hundred.
If you want to increase that percentage, you need to warm them up first. Try these two proven psychological techniques.
1) The Foot in the Door Technique
Thanks to the psychological phenomenon of the "foot in the door technique," people are more likely to say "yes" to a larger request after they've agreed to a smaller one. In a study conducted by Stanford University's Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser, participants were first asked to talk about what cleaning products they used over the phone. Next, researchers asked if they could visit participants' homes to conduct an in-person analysis of their cleaning product collection.
The results spoke for themselves.
"When compared with the control group, who was merely asked for an in-home product analysis, subjects who had first responded positively to the first request were 135% more likely to respond positively to the second request," Neil Patel wrote of the experiment for Forbes.
The takeaway for salespeople: Priming your prospects with a small request makes them more likely to say "yes" to a big one.
So before you ask for a meeting, consider asking for information, a referral, or an opinion first. Here are some questions that might come in handy:
- Could I get your thoughts on X trend?
- Could you explain to me how you currently handle Y?
- Who is responsible for X decisions?
- Where can I find more information about Z initiative?
After the prospect has fulfilled your smaller request, pop the meeting question. Now that you've gotten your "foot in the door" with them, they'll be more likely to block out some time on their calendar.
2) Explain Your Purpose
Telling your prospect why you'd like to meet with them -- even if that reason is self-apparent -- will do wonders for your success rate. Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer found people were 34% more likely to let a stranger cut in line when the stranger explained their hurry, i.e. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
Then she changed the question to: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”
Just as many people agreed, even though the second reason was far weaker than the first.
The takeaway: When you ask a buyer to schedule a conversation, provide a purpose. For instance, you might say, "Do you have 15 minutes tomorrow to discuss your strategy for Q3?" or "Are you available on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. so I can walk you through the product?"
With these two strategies up your sleeve, your meeting requests will land far more effectively. Start using them today, and watch your calendar fill up.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.