How to stop prospects from cancelling your meeting

You've nailed your pitch and booked a meeting with a big prospect, but on the day of the call the client doesn't show. Here's how to stop it happening again

After hour upon hour of planning, nerves, and excitement; the big day is finally here. The day of the meeting with a prospective client that you’ve been fighting to nail down. You have all the necessary resources at hand, you’ve done all the possible prep work, and you dial yourself into the conference call early to make sure that you’re on time.

The minutes on the clock start to tick by. You convince yourself that they’re just running a little behind because they’re busy. But then they’re 15 minutes late and you’re forced to send them a reminder email. By this stage, the sinking feeling in your gut is telling you what your head is struggling to grasp – you’ve been no-showed.

You start to ask yourself what you possibly could have done wrong? You know that you both felt that initial spark of connection. You had planned out your whole future working relationship together… But alas, you’ve been “ghosted” as a business prospect.

If you’re wondering what ghosting is, according to google (because, yes, I too am not entirely clear on the definition), it is apparently “the practice of ending a relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” Sound familiar? Because it certainly doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships. But what do you do when a client shows initial enthusiasm, only for them to drift away? You can now at least recognise the warning signs of being “ghosted.” So, what can you do to prevent it from happening again?

Keep the emotional trigger engaged

When the meeting is initially booked, it’s likely you’ve just put forward an engaging pitch. The client is excited and fully intends to follow through and attend the meeting. However, when given time to mull things over, they may start thinking about the logistics and practicalities – often scaring themselves off the initial plan. This isn’t to say that your pitch wasn’t credible or thought provoking – its more to do with the fact that clients are often likely to talk themselves out of a commitment by evaluating priorities and reducing any potential risk. They can no longer remember the excitement that they initially felt and also why the meeting could be a potential opportunity for them.

In order to avoid the ebbing away of excitement levels it is essential to continuously reinforce the potential client’s emotive responses by adding the exciting elements back into the mix. Ensure that you only arrange meetings that have a strong and meaningful purpose. Put yourself in the shoes of a busy potential client and ask yourself if the reason for the meeting is going to be easy to ignore. If the answer to this is yes, then possibly rethink your reasons for a meeting in the first place. Also, follow up on your initial contact in ways which would be pertinent to the meeting, as this ensures that you remain constant in their mind and in their agenda. An example of ways in which you can do this could be as follows;

  • Send calendar invites to all the major attendees of the meeting immediately after the initial meeting agreement. This is another potential method of ensuring attendance as it solidifies the meeting as well as time and date, making it more difficult for the client to “ghost” you. This works equally well for both physical meetings and conference calls.
  • Perhaps a day or two later gently nudge to check if the date still suits all stakeholders of the meeting. This may be a little risky, as you don’t want to become an irritant to the potential client but judge the scenario wisely and if you feel it would be beneficial then send a prompt.
  • Email the agenda for the meeting to the client a couple of days beforehand. This will keep them engaged and excited about the prospect of the meeting. The priorities of clients shift, and a lot can change between the initial arrangement of the meeting and when it is scheduled, but the agenda may remind them of why it is important for them to attend.
  • The day before the meeting send reminders to ensure that no one forgets and also to confirm participation and details. This demonstration of dedication to the meeting will transfer to the client, making them feel obliged to attend. This is also your chance to reignite their excitement by restating why they were interested in the first place, as well as what the potential value of attending the meeting is for them.
  • An alternative to the reminder email, could be the affirmation email. This is a gentle, but firm way of ensuring that the client will attend the meeting through asking a set of questions which pertain to the meeting. If the client doesn’t respond, it gives you the chance to send another email asking if they are still planning to attend.

The learning curve

Even if you have the most fastidious preparation process prior to a meeting, no-shows will still happen occasionally. The best thing to do when this happens, is to make the best of a bad situation through implementing a follow-up process. Ignore the urge to respond emotionally to a no-show and consider sending an email with the option to reschedule the meeting to another date. This may also give you the opportunity to gently probe as to whether there was a reason for the no-show, such as a possible shift in their priorities, or even point blankly asking whether they are still interested.

Furthermore, aside from ensuring that a meeting doesn’t get cancelled by a prospective client, it may be vital to consider how often this happens within your company, and why. Examining the underlying reasons for cancellations may help to provide a deeper understanding of any inherent flaws in your system that could potentially be fixed with a little more understanding of what it is.

A cancelled or no-show meeting here or there won’t gravely affect your business, but if they happen regularly you could end up missing out on opportunities to engage with prospective clients who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. However, following the strategies provided in this article should significantly reduce the chances of this happening, as well as help turn the times when it does into a valuable learning opportunity.

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