You’ve invested a lot of time and energy into getting a call scheduled with your prospect, and now it’s in the calendar. You did your homework, prepared for the call, opened the meeting early, and now you are waiting for your prospect to join.
It’s five after. You send the meeting reminder. You call and leave a voicemail.
No response. Now you feel the sting.
You’ve been no-showed.
Fortunately, this is a situation you have influence over—no, really!
In this article, I’m going to outline specific actions you can take to increase your close rate by reducing your no-show calls. I’m going to give you templates you can use to reduce the rate of lost and stalled sales opportunities caused by no-shows. With the right approach, you can increase sales velocity, set the stage for a productive sales process, and be more effective and efficient with your pipeline.
Why Preventing Sales No-Shows Is Critical to Sales Success
Every business is trying to figure out how to acquire more new customers and increase the value of a customer over time. This is your sales velocity—the measurement of how quickly opportunities move through your pipeline and the value of each customer over time.
In short, you want to acquire more revenue in less time.
If the goal, then, is to close more revenue in less time, then decreasing your sales no-show rate and increasing your close rate are two major levers you can pull to achieve the goal.
Reducing Your No-Show Rate
What’s your current no-show rate? Given your current close rate, how much more revenue would you secure in a quarter if you were able to reduce the rate of sales no-shows by 80 to 90 percent? How about in a year?
Increasing Your Close Rate
If you were able to establish greater authority and influence in the sales process and, as a result, increase your close rate by 50 or 100 percent, combined with the increase in the number of sales conversations, what would that mean for your quarter? For your year? If you’re a sales rep earning commission, what would all of this mean for your income? How would that support your personal goals?
In this article, I’m going to share practical ways to reduce your no-show rate and increase your close rate, so you can boost your sales velocity and be on your way to closing more deals in less time.
The Importance of Pre-Meeting Communication
There are two main things you can do to influence no-show rates and, ultimately, increase your close rate as well. Keep in mind that how you approach pre-meeting communication and exactly what it is that you communicate will increase or decrease those rates.
Setting Clear Expectations
Before the call happens, you’re setting expectations for your prospect. You’re communicating the purpose of the call, what your contribution and their contribution will be, and how they ought to communicate with you if there is a change in these expectations. This is an important part of pre-meeting communication, as it puts the prospect at ease and helps them mentally prepare for what’s to come.
Framing the Sales Experience
The second purpose of pre-meeting communication is to frame the sales experience. This means shaping the prospect’s concept of how valuable the meeting is and how valuable your contribution will be to their business and life.
Let’s say you find a pen lying in a cardboard box on a plastic table at a neighbor’s garage sale. How much would you guess the pen is worth? Ten cents? Fifteen?
What if that same pen were on display in a mahogany box lined with velvet in your boss’s Manhattan office, would you assume it’s worth more than the pen at the garage sale?
Now, what if that exact same pen in the mahogany box with velvet was encased in glass under a spotlight, and you could only enter the room to view the pen when escorted by Pierre, who wears a tuxedo but has no viewings available for another three months.
Now, how valuable do you think the pen is? That’s framing.
How valuable you are perceived to be by your prospect and your market will be influenced by how strategic and methodical you are in framing the sales experience. How you communicate and frame will influence the rate of prospects that show up to speak with you.
4 Proven Methods to Get New Prospects to Show Up
1. Schedule the Call Sooner Rather Than Later
Do not let weeks go by before your meeting. Follow these guidelines to decrease sales no-show rates:
- For leads generated from outbound sales efforts, schedule the call within the next five business days—ten business days at the latest. The sooner, the better.
- For inbound leads, reply within five minutes of the inquiry and be available the same day to talk, even if it’s just for an introductory five-minute call to get the basics and schedule your next call.
The more time passes, the more likely you are to be no-showed. The sooner you get on the phone with your prospect, the better!
2. Provide Value
Providing value should be built into your prospecting and sales process. You can learn more about how we provide upfront value as a part of our prospecting efforts in my article Get a Prospect to Open Your Sales Email (Our Proven Process).
If providing value is not something that’s strategically built into your sales playbook, you can still do your homework before the call.
Any relevant observations you can make about their business or the state of their industry to provide value will show that you’re invested in their success.
Leveraging any content that you or your team has created that is particularly relevant and valuable for your prospect is a great way to establish your authority and build trust. See my article Using Content to Support the Sales Process for tips on how to do this effectively.
3. Send a Reminder
Take the responsibility of remembering there is a call scheduled off your prospect’s shoulders.
Here’s an example of a reminder that we send the day of a call:
Hi [FIRST NAME],
I wanted to put this at the top of your inbox for quick access.
[MEETING BRIDGE INFO]
This appointment is important to me, and time has been specifically set aside on my calendar for you.
Please send me a courtesy email if your schedule changes or a sudden conflict occurs.
We can easily reschedule.
[YOUR FIRST NAME]
Your tone in this reminder should make it clear that you’re providing a reminder as a courtesy. Communicate the importance of this call to you and that you have actively and intentionally reserved time for them. If something comes up, you are asking them to let you know in advance. This is respectful of the prospect’s time, as well as your own.
4. Prepare an Agenda
You might choose to send an agenda via email prior to the call. At the very least, we always recommend having an agenda prepared for your call.
You might ask, what does an agenda have to do with preventing no-shows? Once you’ve got your prospect on the phone for the first time, you want to conduct the process in a way that decreases the likelihood of future no-shows.
Set clear expectations for your time together by going over the agenda—state the purpose of the call, how much time you have scheduled for the call, what you’re looking to accomplish on the call, and what this call will (and will not) include. You should also see if your prospect has a hard stop, confirm what your prospect wants to get out of your call, and ask if there’s anything else to add to the agenda.
Once you have agreed on the agenda, watch your time carefully and be sure to leave enough time to schedule your next call while on the phone—this is very important.
If your prospect says they’ll “get back to you,” this is not a good sign. They are probably just trying to get off the phone and don’t want to hurt your feelings.
In this case, keep the tone light and fun and recommend penciling something in while on the phone to avoid disruptive back and forth via email.
If you agree to schedule another call via email and close out your meeting with no solid next step in the calendar, the probability of having another meeting is dramatically reduced. So, be sure to schedule your next step with agreement from your prospect while on the phone.
4 Steps to Take if Your Prospect No-Shows
In real life, things come up that truly are a greater priority than being on the phone with you. I know. It hurts, but it’s true.
Usually, a no-show is an indicator that at least one of three things is true:
- Your prospect is not very organized.
- Your prospect is organized but values your time very little.
- Your prospect is organized, values your time highly, but something truly urgent came up and could not be avoided.
No-shows are usually a combination of one and two, but every once in a while, three happens. And you don’t want to be a rude salesperson when something genuinely important comes up for your prospect. Give your prospect the benefit of the doubt. Always.
So, you’ve done all the things you could do to prevent being no-showed, but it happened anyway. Now what?
Step 1. Assess Your Prospect’s Commitment
There are a few factors that come into play when deciding what action to take next.
What’s your sense of your prospect? Do they seem disorganized? Have they no-showed you before? Take these things into consideration.
Has your prospect accepted your calendar invite? If not, take into consideration their responsiveness in the past. If you emailed them yesterday saying you noticed they had not accepted the invite and asked if the time still works for them, did they reply?
If they are usually punctual, and if they have accepted the invite, I’m usually willing to wait a little longer for them to join before shutting down the conference bridge.
How long do you wait? Stay with me. We’re getting to that.
Step 2. Call Your Prospect
If you’ve got their office or cell phone number and five minutes have passed, call them. Of course, if they’ve emailed you ahead of the meeting to let you know they’re going to be late, then there’s no need to call.
But, if they have not given you a heads up and they are not on the call after five minutes, calling is appropriate and courteous. If they do not pick up, feel free to leave a voicemail.
Step 3. Send an Email to Reschedule
Be proactive. If five minutes have passed and you have either called or you do not have their phone number, send an email.
There are three important rules with this email:
- Keep it simple—be brief
- Keep the tone light—be courteous and fun
- Keep it helpful—provide value with every communication
Here’s an example of an email I send after waiting on a call for five minutes:
Hi [FIRST NAME],
I’m on the GoToMeeting conference, but it looks like you won’t make it to the call. Rather than rush, how about we reschedule?
[YOUR FIRST NAME]
Note: If this is a call you really want to take, wait ten minutes total before closing down the conference bridge.
You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you don’t have enough time to accomplish what you set out to accomplish during your call.
Say twenty minutes after the call was scheduled, after you’ve moved on to other things, you get an email reply from your prospect asking, “Are you available now?” Unless this is a very important opportunity and you believe you can accomplish everything you need to during the time that’s left, I recommend rescheduling the call.
Step 4. Assume the Best
Important things really do come up. It may be rare that a prospect has a valid reason to no-show you, but I recommend always assuming the best of them.
Give your prospect the benefit of the doubt. Stay positive. After five or ten minutes, if you haven’t heard from them, close the call.
How to Prevent Requests to Reschedule (and Protect Your Close Rate)
Even though a request to reschedule is more desirable than a no-show, requests to reschedule can prolong sales cycles until the deal goes cold. This can decrease your close rate and should be prevented whenever possible.
Technically speaking, if you’ve followed all of the steps outlined above, you should have already reduced requests to reschedule initial calls a great deal. With any luck, you’ve already increased your close rate and are on your way to improving your sales velocity tremendously!
However, in case there’s still room to improve, here are three more things you can do to reduce requests to reschedule from opportunities in your pipeline.
1. Recap the Sales Call
If you’ve taken good notes, you should be able to recap at the end of your call by following these steps:
- Re-state your prospect’s situation, challenges, goals, plans, timeline, and any other details that were important to your prospect.
- Welcome any clarification your prospect provides and get an agreement that you’re in sync.
- Set expectations for the next step and the value of that next step.
After the call, I also recommend sending a recap email so that your prospect is reminded of what was covered and the importance of the next meeting. If your next call is scheduled for a week out, for example, your prospect will likely forget most of what you discussed by then. It’s your job to keep it all fresh.
2. Schedule Your Next Call During the Meeting
I mentioned this above, but it is worth repeating.
Confirm your next meeting during your call. If you close out your meeting without agreement from your prospect on the date and time of your next call, the probability of having another call is drastically reduced. Let this happen time after time, and you will see a serious impact on your close rate.
3. Have the Call Anyway
Even doing the above, your prospect will sometimes request to reschedule, usually via email the day before or the day of your meeting.
This is sometimes because they did not accomplish a task they were supposed to finish, or do not feel prepared to accomplish the expectations that you had agreed to for this meeting. If this is the case, and it’s not a conflict in your prospect’s calendar, I recommend having the call and changing the agenda.
You can be productive by recapping the last call, confirming if anything in their situation has changed, and reviewing some other productive items—like timeline or budget.
4. Note Objections and Create Template Responses
A request to reschedule can be a difficult thing to effectively reply to off the cuff, so I recommend crafting optimal responses to objections and having them ready as email templates you can customize when the time comes.
Your Meeting, Your Responsibility
There are countless competing priorities vying for your prospect’s attention at all times. We know this in advertising, but the same is true in the sales process.
When you book that first meeting, it’s exciting, but the battle isn’t won. Your prospect is weighing other priorities against your meeting and wondering if it’s worth their time.
It’s a valid question.
It’s your responsibility to ensure that they see the meeting coming, have clear expectations as to what they’ll get out of the call, have all they need to be prepared for the meeting, and are in a position to successfully attend and contribute. Setting your prospect up for success is the best way to set yourself up for success and, in turn, see a decrease in no-shows, an increase in your close rate, and serious improvements to your sales velocity.
Your meeting. Your responsibility.
For more information on how to improve your sales process, discover 9 Key Sales Techniques Every Sales Rep Needs to Know. This blog has everything you need to know to improve your sales velocity—from identifying prospects to upselling after you’ve closed a deal. These sales techniques will help you develop lasting relationships with prospects that turn into customers and, ultimately, increase your close rate and revenue.