No-shows killing your quota? Here are 9 steps to make prospects show up

by Steli Efti

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Monday morning, 10:00 a.m. Meeting time.

You’ve got an appointment with a major prospect who seems really interested in your product. You take a deep breath, lean back in your chair, and stare at the phone in eager anticipation. Any time now.

  • 10:05 a.m.: Nothing. But they’re probably just late, right? These things happen.
  • 10:10 a.m.: That’s odd. But they’re probably on their way to the phone right now.
  • 10:15 a.m.: Still nothing. You decide to take the initiative and call, but get no answer.
  • 10:30 a.m.: No call. No text. No email. No doubt: You’ve got yourself another no-show.

Maybe they just forgot, or perhaps they lost interest. Either way, it doesn’t make the situation any less frustrating, especially when they’re the ninth no-show this month (and you’re not even halfway through the month yet).

There’s nothing more infuriating than investing your time in a prospect only to have them go dark without warning.

Sure, you can argue that no-shows are just a part of the sales process. And you’d be right: Occasionally they are just a part of the job. But if they’re a regular occurrence, you’ve got a problem.

Let’s talk about the steps you can take to ensure that your prospects don’t just show up for meetings; they’re excited to be there and eager to move forward.

How many no-shows is too many?

Think you’ve got a no-show problem? Let’s confirm that. What’s your no-show rate?

Most people I ask have no idea. If that’s you, here’s a quick way to calculate it: Divide your total number of no-shows by the total number of scheduled meetings.

For example: If you had 50 meetings scheduled for the last month and 15 of them were no-shows, your no-show rate would be 15/50, or 30%.

So how many no-shows are too many? That depends on what stage of the sales funnel your no-shows happen.

Top-of-funnel no-shows

No-shows at the top of the funnel are prospects you’ve only just met.

If you do a lot of cold prospecting, no-shows are just a part of the deal; it’s almost impossible to entirely eliminate them. But, as a general rule, these no-show rates should never exceed 20%.

Bottom-of-funnel no-shows

No-shows at the bottom of the funnel are those you’ve already invested substantial time and energy into. You've pitched them, managed their objections, learned about their needs, and have done everything you can to schedule them for a meeting.

If you’re getting cancellations and no-shows at this stage of the sales process, something is wrong. As a general rule, your bottom-of-funnel no-show rates should never exceed 10%.

“Is it something I said?” Why prospects don’t show up

Before we talk about reducing no-show rates, let’s take a look at what’s causing them in the first place. Generally speaking, no-shows happen for one of two reasons: Emergencies or priorities.

Emergencies

Emergencies are the reason it’s impossible to have a “zero” no-show rate. Unexpected crises happen and, when they arise, they often make it inconvenient or impossible to meet.

This could be anything from a family emergency to a last-minute board meeting. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to eliminate external emergencies.

Priorities

More often than not, no-shows are the result of a prospect prioritizing another task over your appointment. Sometimes this is intentional, other times it’s accidental.

This could be anything from the prospect just forgetting your meeting to actively choosing another meeting over yours. Thankfully, you have almost full control over your level of priority with a prospect.

9 scheduling tips to get prospects to show the hell up

When a prospect no-shows, it’s tempting to place all the blame on them. How dare they, right?

But more often than not, most of the blame is with the salesperson. The scheduling process directly influences the likelihood of no-shows and cancellations.

As a salesperson, think of the scheduling process as a sales pitch. Manage their objections first (we put together a free objection management template to help). Then, offer an irresistible value proposition that makes your prospects interested not only in your product, but in your meeting.

Here’s how.

1. Own responsibility for scheduling

In any sales process, it’s not the prospect’s responsibility to buy. It’s the salesperson’s responsibility to sell. [Tweet this!]

Many salespeople claim to know this, then go on to delegate all scheduling responsibility to the prospect. They’ll write a great sales email then end it with something like, “Let me know when you’d like to connect in the next few weeks.”

With a sign-off like that, you’ll probably never hear from them again; they don’t want the pressure of making that decision so they’ll put it off until they forget about it.

Instead of delegating responsibility, take full ownership of scheduling by providing a clear call-to-action. This call-to-action should communicate the following three elements:

  • Two different meeting times: Always offer at least two options to your prospect. If neither work, they’ll either let you know or offer a few alternatives. Be sure to include the length of the meeting as well!
  • Value: What exactly is the prospect going to get out of this meeting? Why is it worth their time? What are you going to accomplish?
  • Medium: Where will the meeting take place? In-person? Over the phone? Via Skype?

As a salesperson, the entirety of the sales process is your responsibility. If you start delegating control now, you’ll never get it back.

2. Be respectful (and use common sense)

It doesn’t matter what you’re selling or who you’re selling to; certain times and days just suck for meetings. Use common sense and don’t schedule during those times. For example, no one wants to meet during:

  • Monday mornings: Monday mornings are usually a hectic time of internal meetings and weekend catch-up.
  • Friday afternoons: On a Friday afternoon, the only thing on your prospect’s mind is wrapping up work and getting to the weekend as soon as possible.
  • Holidays and vacations: The days immediately before or after a holiday/vacation are incredibly busy, and prospects aren’t likely to prioritize your meeting over their time off.

The problem is, most of your prospects don’t realize they feel that way. They’ll gladly schedule something for those times but, when the meeting finally rolls around, they’re likely to no-show or cancel in favor of something or someone else.

Each prospect will also have their own scheduling preferences. Find out what those are early on, because your effort to make their life easier won’t go unnoticed and you’re less likely to have to deal with a no-show situation.

3. Never schedule more than 2 weeks in advance

Whenever possible, don’t schedule anything more than seven days in advance. If that isn’t realistic, take a look at the next 14 days. And if even that doesn’t work, don’t schedule a meeting at all.

Sure, your prospects are probably willing to schedule something for next month when their calendar is clear. But in the next 30 days, that calendar is going to fill up. And the more time passes between your initial meeting, the less important you’ll be.

By the time that appointment finally rolls around, they’ve likely forgotten who you are and why they’re meeting with you. And you know what happens then: Another no-show.

So as a general rule: If you can’t schedule a meeting within the next 14 days, agree to touch base again in two weeks and take another look at the calendar.

4. Use the power of "right the fuck now" to set follow-up appointments

When you’re on the phone with an interested prospect, you have their full attention; they’re engaged and you’ve got a comfortable, influential rapport. So why would you end the call with a comment like, “I’ll send you a few meeting times once we’re off the phone and we’ll get something on the calendar.”

In the best case scenario, the salesperson sends an email within 15 minutes. But even after 15 minutes, much of your prospect’s excitement has deteriorated because they’ve moved on to other tasks.

So why wait? If you’ve got them on the phone, use the power of "right the fuck now" and schedule something then and there. Even better, send the calendar invite while they’re still on the line.

5. Turn event invites into sales pitches

Speaking of calendar invites, are yours optimized to reduce no-show rates? Probably not. When most people send a calendar invite, it looks something like this:

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But let’s be honest: Does that invite make you want to follow-through on the appointment? Sure, you might out of obligation, but it definitely doesn’t leave you feeling excited. Is it any surprise prospects opt out?

Instead of simple reminders, think of calendar invites as sales emails.

And what’s the most important part of an email? The subject line. Like a subject line, your event title should be attention-grabbing.

Instead of something vague and uninspiring like “Demo,” why not try a title like:

  • "30 minutes to decide your next CRM"
  • "Deciding if Close.io is the right fit"
  • "Exploring Close.io’s CRM capabilities"

But don’t stop with the title. You can also use the notes section as a mini-pitch for the event. Here are three things to include in your event notes:

  • Contact information: Include your name, company, website, and the medium you’ll be communicating over (including the phone number/Skype username, and who will call whom).
  • Agenda: Clearly communicate the action items you’re going to accomplish at this meeting.
  • Value: What value are those action items going to generate for the prospect? What are they getting out of this exchange?

Your calendar event should be a mini sales pitch. That way, even if you aren’t actively talking with your prospect, you’re still selling them on your product and appointment every time they review their schedule.

6. Follow up. Relentlessly.

Although calendar invites are a great reminder, don’t assume they’re enough to get your prospect to show up. As with any part of the sales process, the key to success is following up.

A few days before the meeting, reach out via whatever medium is most effective. This could be phone calls, texts, emails, or even social media. (Our inside sales CRM makes all of this very easy. Integrated calling, emailing and texting enable you to send reminders with a few mouse clicks, and using integration links makes it very easy to send tweets at prospects. With our Clearbit integration, you can automatically enrich your leads with their social media profiles.)

But remember: You’re not just there to remind them of the appointment. You’re there to remind them of the value they’re going to get out of the appointment. Don’t sell the product, sell the meeting.

Quick note: Following up doesn’t end just because someone was a no-show. If someone doesn’t show up, don’t assume they aren’t interested. Assume they either forgot or had an emergency, then continue to reach out until you get a response.

If you’ve sent six to eight follow-up emails and still haven’t heard back, send the break-up email. You’ll be amazed at how many responses you get with a subject line like, “Goodbye from Close.io.”

7. Lay a (gentle) guilt trip

This next tactic should be used cautiously. It can be very effective, but it’s also easy to cross the line of sales ethics and honesty.

But first, a quick psychology lesson. As humans, we’re driven by two forces: Experiencing pleasure and avoiding pain. And most people will do more to avoid pain than they will do to seek pleasure.

When following up on a scheduled appointment, you can dramatically increase the likelihood of your prospect showing up by leveraging their desire to avoid pain with a (very) gentle guilt trip.

Here’s how: A day or two before the meeting, send an email outlining the time and energy you’ve invested. For example:

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Canceling a meeting after an email like that would mean wasting a large chunk of your time and disappointing multiple people. With that on the line, your prospect is much more likely to show up.

But don’t go overboard. There’s no need to embellish or exaggerate to get your point across. No deal should be built on a false foundation.

8. Leverage your time with a virtual assistant

You weren’t hired to set appointments; you were hired to close deals. But the busier you get, the more time you’ll spend managing your calendar. And the more time you spend managing your calendar, the less time you spend selling.

If you spend more than a few hours each week on scheduling, you might want to look into a virtual assistant. They’ve become increasingly affordable over the past few years and, in many cases, if they allow you to close even one more deal, they’ve paid for themselves.

This arrangement isn’t right for everyone but, in many cases, it’s a valuable investment with a high (and near-immediate) ROI.

Not ready to commit to a virtual assistant? Check out these 13 scheduling tools for salespeople.

9. Show the hell up

The example you set is the example your prospect will follow.

Even one cancellation, reschedule, or no-show is enough to tell your prospect, “There are more important things than this deal, and it’s okay if you feel that way, too.”

Nothing short of a major emergency should stand in the way of your commitments. And if something does come up, let your prospect know as soon as possible. Then make every effort to set up another meeting. For example:

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Note how the email doesn’t excuse the cancellation as “no big deal,” clearly communicates the value that would have been generated at the meeting, and offers alternate times for the prospect to receive that value.

Wait, I’m still getting no-shows! Now what?

Even if you do everything outlined above, you’re still going to get no-shows. It’s just a part of the sales process.

As a salesperson, you need to accept that. But more importantly, you need to plan for it. The worst thing you can do is assume it won’t happen. It will and, when it does, you’ll suddenly have a 30–60 minute void in your day.

Unless you prepare for that void, you’ll end up filling it with random, pointless, unproductive crap. And there are few things that will stymie your success as much as wasting time.

So any time you have a meeting scheduled, have a backup plan. If the appointment falls through, you need to know exactly how you’re going to spend that time.

Ultimately this can be spent however you see fit, but try to find tasks that are just as valuable as the appointment would have been.

It won’t necessarily take away the sting and frustration of a no-show, but it will give you something productive to channel that energy into. That can make all the difference between a total upset and a minor annoyance.

And with that, you’re ready to crush your no-show rates. Give these strategies a try and, in a couple weeks, come back and share your experience in the comments below. I’ll look forward to hearing how it went!

 

 

Frustrated by prospects' objections or excuses on why they can't attend meetings? The objection management template will have you handling objections like a pro in no time. 

Get your FREE objection management template

Recommended resources:

13 scheduling tools for salespeople
Want to optimize your scheduling process without hiring a virtual assistant? Take a look at these 13 tools and reduce one of the biggest time-wasters in sales.

10 time management tips to crush the coming year
Not sure what to do with the extra time following a no-show? Check out these 10 tips and you’ll be productive in no time.

10 prospects that are wasting your time (and how to spot them)
Some prospects are better off as no-shows. In fact, some prospects shouldn’t be pursued at all. Make sure you’re chasing the right prospects with this handy guide.