Securing business appointments that matter, and how to say “no” to the ones that don’t

photoAs a business owner or sales director, you likely have a very full plate. Your day is spent managing client needs, solving problems, giving direction to employees, and all the other general tasks of doing business. But on top of that, chances are, a huge part of your job description is taking time away from all that to spend face time in business appointments with current and potential clients.

After blocking out time and arriving at the decided meeting place, few things are as frustrating as a late or no-show appointment, or spending time with someone whose needs are not in line with your business. In the world of a busy entrepreneur, it’s critical to learn how to qualify your business appointments and allow everyone to be strategic with their time.

Tips to qualify your appointments

  • Know your elevator speech. In other words, be able to communicate concisely and accurately exactly what it is your business does.
  • Identify key questions you can ask interested people to determine in a few moments whether your business can meet their needs.
  • Do your research. Did you get a business card? Then visit the website, do a Google search of their business, and find their LinkedIn profile. A little homework can save you time by answering your questions before you meet with a potential client.
  • If you are running low on time and a potential meeting doesn’t fit your target, don’t be afraid to politely decline their appointment request. Simply acknowledge that your business wouldn’t be the best fit by letting them know what your strengths are, and refer them elsewhere: “We focus primarily on this area, which does not sound like what you’re looking for.  But I can recommend someone who could help you.”

How to avoid and handle missed appointments

  • Confirm everything! A few days prior to your meeting, send a brief, friendly email noting the exact date, day of the week, time, and location (you might even include a link to Google Maps if you chose the location), as well as a quick sentence about how you’re looking forward to meeting with them.
  • Don’t assume they weren’t interested. It’s a fact of life that people will occasionally stand you up. Unexpected events do come up, calendar glitches are not uncommon, and sometimes people do honestly forget. Occasionally, you will encounter people who say “yes” to a meeting even when they weren’t really interested, but that’s a rarity. Remember the first rule of customer service: the client is always right. Simply attempt to reschedule without complaint.
  • Dealing with a repeat offender? Our best advice is to weigh the time you’ll spend pursuing the potential client against the payoff of securing their contract, but that’s a question only you can answer.

There is no way to completely dodge appointments that “waste” your time, and Propel truly believes most appointments are strategic, whether you know it at the time or not. You never know what could lead from an appointment you didn’t think would yield much results, so don’t worry if you’ve already committed to something you may be wondering about.  These are just a few tips that we have found help us identify how to spend our time strategically. And ultimately, we believe that missed appointments or cancellations provide us with the gift of time.  We wouldn’t have had that hour to work on a rush project or catch up on emails.

What are your tips for qualifying business appointments with potential clients?

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