Many salespeople waste a lot of time and energy on “no show” appointments. We’re so eager to get appointments on our calendar that we do not take enough time to pre-qualify and test the commitment of our prospect. Here’s how the scenario typically goes:
We (the salesperson) speak with a prospect for the first time to measure their interest and try to get them on the calendar. We convince them to schedule an appointment with us and we hang up the phone thinking we have made the first “close” of our sales process.
Of course we do the normal things to “confirm” the prospect’s commitment; we send them a calendar invite immediately, which they accept; we send them an email reminder; we call them the day before; and then they either cancel at the last minute (typically by email) or worse yet, they just don’t show up.
Has that ever happened to you? For some salespeople it happens all too frequently. So, what else can you do?
First, you must understand the power of “buyer’s remorse.” People will make a verbal commitment to meet or even buy something, but they are often not committed. They are simply “compliant” with a strong salesperson. After a few hours or days to process their emotions, they back out. It happens when you tentatively close a sale as well as when you tentatively have a commitment to an appointment.
It feels great to the salesperson to hear an interested party say yes, they would like to meet. It feels even better to watch the prospect sign the sales agreement. It feels frustrating to have a prospect cancel the meeting or not show. It feels worse to have them back out of the deal before the ink is dry! In order to avoid these disheartening experiences, you must preempt buyer’s remorse.
The way to get ahead of buyer’s remorse is to check your gut. Have you ever ended an appointment-setting call (or even closed a sale) and had the uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong? Whatever was making you feel uncomfortable was probably nagging at your client too. This is typically when buyer’s remorse takes over and the prospect’s “commitment” begins to deteriorate. If you have any sense of this happening it is usually best to address it immediately.
Test the Commitment
It may feel a little uncomfortable to question or test a prospect’s commitment but it’s important to do so, especially if you have any intuitive indication that the commitment may be weak. One of the best ways to do this is by using “third-party” stories. It might sound something like this –
“Kim, a couple of weeks ago I was scheduling with a client and, similar to you, they were very busy and I started feeling a little uncomfortable about whether or not they really would prioritize and keep our appointment. Sure enough, at the last minute, they cancelled. The whole scenario made me feel uncomfortable. If we schedule this today, that won’t happen with us will it?”
What you’re doing here is giving the client the opportunity to back out now while the two of you are talking. If they start to back down and become non-committal, they will likely not keep the appointment, so don’t waste your time. Let them off the hook until they can assure you that they are committed to meet with you.
However, most of the time the prospect will reaffirm and reinforce their commitment to meet. Once they do this, they are much less likely to cancel on you at the last minute.
You can’t stop buyer’s remorse because it’s a natural phenomenon. And you can’t stop prospects from second-guessing their decision to meet with you. But you can reduce the impact of it by giving them the opportunity to reconsider their decision while you’re still having a conversation. Then once they pause and recommit, they make a psychological commitment to themselves and are less likely to back out.
Practice Reinforcing Client Commitment
I have found this to be a powerful tool and technique to help both the client and me. It takes the pressure off. It gives them a moment to pause and feel good about their decision. And it saves you time and energy!
However, it will likely be uncomfortable the first time you do it. So, practice it. Role play it. Script it. But do it, and you will get better and save yourself a lot of grief.
If you are looking for a coach to help you improve your selling skills or to help you get better at having respectful but difficult conversations, contact us. We’re here to help you be a better leader and a more effective sales professional.