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3 Strategies to Make Sure Even the Flakiest Prospects Show Up

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After weeks of emailing and calling, you finally land a meeting with one of your more elusive prospects.

When the big day rolls around, you've done your prep and are raring to go. You dial into the call early just to make sure you're on time.

Five minutes go by and your prospect hasn't called you. "They're probably just running a little late,"

After 10 minutes, you send the "reminder" email.

You're still more alone than Will Smith in I Am Legend (and he at least had a dog) 15 minutes in, and that's when the realization sets in: You've been no-showed.

If you're most people, your first reaction to this scneario will be: "Is there anything I could have done differently to prevent this?"

Why Preventing No-Shows Is Important

No-shows are a silent quota killer.

Ask any salesperson why they missed quota on a given month, and you can pretty much expect to hear the same laundry list of explanations:

  • "The leads were bad."
  • "I did not do enough prospecting."
  • "All my big deals fell through at the last minute."

I've never heard someone say "I got no showed too much," but no-shows are just as dangerous over time as any of the above for two reasons:

  1. They prevent active deals from moving forward.
  2. They represent a large opportunity cost on your resources.

The first harm is obvious and needs little explanation, but to illustrate the second, here's an example:

Recently, I had a day of back-to-back sales meetings, when a prospect -- let's call them Company X -- that was a great fit popped up on my radar unexpectedly that morning.

Company X was hoping to meet ASAP because they were on a tight timeline, but their only availability was during a slot I already had a meeting booked with a different prospect. We were able to make something work a few days later, but this cut it close with their decision date.

Fast forward to the slot they'd wanted, and lo and behold, the original prospects I was supposed to meet with no-showed.

I frantically tried to see if Company X was still available, but their schedule had long filled up. I ended losing the deal to a competitor at least partly due to their immediate need for a solution.

This story exemplifies that the real cost of a no show is not just the time you spend waiting -- it's the other deal you could have been moving forward during that time.

After all, there are a finite number of hours in a day that you can spend actively having coversations with your potential buyers. To sacrifice any of them to someone who stands you up has a large cost that compounds over time.

How to Combat No-Shows

There are two kinds of personas who will no-show you:

  1. Prospects who are no longer engaged in the sales process, but are not upfront about it ("Ghost Gary")
  2. People who are actually engaged, but have a ton on their plate ("Busy Brianne")

You can use the three strategies below to deal with both of these persona types effectively and reduce the cost of no-shows on your resources.

1) Book meetings with a purpose.

Much of the time, the manner in which meetings are booked holds the greatest weight in determining whether or not the other party shows up.

Avoid scheduling 'update calls' or 'check-ins' -- you're just asking to be blown off by a "Busy Brianne." Be explicit about why the meeting is important, and give your prospect a real reason to show up.

Here's one way you can phrase the follow-up meeting request so this so that the other party understands the value of the meeting and shows up:

Typically I find that after you see our competitors' solutions, it is beneficial to go over the differences between the platforms so you can make an informed decision. Do you think you would benefit from this? If so, what times work for you this week?"

Instead of booking an ambiguous check-in call, you have now given your prospect an explicit agenda for the meeting that is tied to an incentive they have as a buyer.

Not sure if your next meeting is built on a solid foundation or quicksand? Before proposing a meeting with a prospect, ask yourself the following: "If I was a busy person with a packed calendar, and I saw this meeting on my calendar with a salesperson I just met, would I show up to it?"

If the answer is no, rethink why you are requesting a meeting in the first place.

As salespeople, we often think that deals are dead in the water if there is not another step with the potential client on our calendars. That's often true, but I would rather have an empty calendar than a calendar full of meetings that are empty of purpose. Let dead deals lie and spend your time on ones that could close.

2) Send a pre-meeting "affirmation email."

Even if you've booked a meeting with purpose, the battle is far from over.

Priorities shift -- you are not selling in a vacuum. Your prospect is likely meeting with other companies as well as internally with other stakeholders, and a lot can change between the day you book the meeting and the day it happens.

For that reason, I always send a pre-meeting "affirmation email."

For an early discovery meeting, this email might be just be a list of qualifying questions. I sell HubSpot Sales, and the following email is an abbreviated version of an email I might send:

 

Hi <<first name>>,

I am looking forward to our meeting this week. In order to help me prepare could you please answer the following questions:

  1. What CRM do you use currently?
  2. What email client do you use?
  3. Is there any particular part of your sales process you are hoping to improve?

Best,
Sam

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This email helps you gather important context to make the meeting productive (or disqualify right off the bat). It also plays an important role in preventing no-shows by reminding the prospect of the impending meeting, and provides an implicit contract through their response to the questions that they will be attending.

If you do not get a reply to this email after a friendly reminder or two, odds are you're dealing with a "Ghost Gary." It may be worth canceling the meeting altogether so you get the time back in your day to book with someone who is actually an active buyer.

For a meeting later on in the sales process, the email would probably look more like this:

 

Hi <<first name>>,

When we last met we agreed that you would __________ , and we would then meet to ____________. Is this still your expectation for our meeting this week? I want to make sure I am prepared if so.

Best,
Sam

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I recommend saving these emails as templates so you can easily automate sending and personalizing them out from your inbox or CRM.

3) If they no-show, implement a follow-up process.

Even with flawless preparation, no-shows will always be a fact of life. How you respond to a no-show is equally as important to how you prepare for your meetings.

Your immediate emotional reaction may be to say "screw it," shut down the deal, and never follow up again. While this is advisable for a "Ghost Gary" who was never worth your time in the first place, it is important not to lose the "Busy Briannes" who are still engaged.

A good way to deal with this situation is to send automated personal emails to re-schedule meetings with the prospect. This way you do not waste too much time on the Garys, who won't respond anyway, but still capitalize on the Briannes. Here is an example of a three-email sequence I use:

Email 1:

Meeting today?

Hi <<first name>>,

I waited for 10 minutes today on the line before ending the call as I did not hear from you. Don't worry, I know how busy things can get this time of year.

Let's find a new time to meet? You can see my availability here: <<insert link to calendar booking tool>>

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Email 2:

Re: Meeting Today

Hi <<first name>>,

I wanted to follow up as you had not responded to my initial email to reschedule -- any particular reason I have not heard back yet?

If this is still a priority, please find sometime on my calendar here: <<insert link to calendar booking tool>>

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Email 3:

One final try

Hi <<first name>>,

At this point as I have not heard back from you after missing our meeting, I am assuming you are no longer interested in __________.

If you have just been jammed up, please let me know or grab sometime with me here: <<insert link to calendar booking tool>>

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You Are Not Powerless To Stop No-Shows

A no-show here and there won't make or break your success any given month. But at the end of the day, every extra hour you spend with active, engaged buyers counts.

If you do not combat no-shows, your sales cycle will get longer and the amount of calories you spend closing deals will increase, but you'll only be working more to generate the same output as your peers who manage their calendar more adeptly. Even more importantly, you might miss out on opportunities to spend time with engaged buyers if you fail to manage them effectively. The techniques above could make the difference between good and great long-term sales performance

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