How to Set Meaningful Follow Up Times

Gold is a scarce resource.

So are diamonds and platinum.

And so is time.

When you set a follow up time with your client, you are committing valuable time; time that ideally results in a return on investment.  When a customer or prospect  misses an appointment, you squander time and opportunity.  The trick, then, is to do the utmost to ensure that your follow up calls occur when it is supposed to.  The trick is to ensure your appointment is important and that it’s not forgotten or delayed. Here’s how:

Typical Appointment Setting

The vast majority of appointments, whether by phone or face to face tend to occur at the top and the bottom of the hour. For instance, we set up a follow up call at, say, 9:00 or 10:30, 1:30, 3:00 …you get the picture.

And on the surface, you might think that is fine but for two points.

First of all, virtually every sales rep sets appointments at the top and bottom of the hour. Your competitors do the same thing. In fact, virtually every organization has their meetings set at the top and bottom of the hour. It is traditional. It is routine.  Everyone follows the norm. It also means your time is not a scarce resource but rather a commodity.

And that’s precisely the problem.  The time you set for your appointment is part of the clutter and the noise at the top and bottom of the hour. It does not distinguish you.

The second point is a little more insidious but I’ll bet you’ll agree. More or less, corporate North America never starts a meeting on time. If a meeting is set for 10:00 people drift in sometime after.  By 10:15 or so, everyone is assembled.  It has become acceptable that meetings start late.  The preciseness of time has no real meaning anymore. So, what this means to you is that when you do set an appointment at the top or the bottom of the hour, most people feel that it is acceptable to be late. “It’s no big deal.”

In essence, they are saying your time can be squandered. Well, it is a big deal if you are in sales. Call it trite, call it a cliché, but TIME IS MONEY!

For every follow up you make, something else is put aside. For every time you play telephone tag, something else is delayed,  forgotten or lost. Opportunity lost. You don’t want to make a dozen follow up calls and waste your time.  You don’t want to play telephone tag. You want to maximize your time.

The last point is this:  because so many events occur at the top and the bottom of the hour, they are easily confused and forgotten. Clients blithely agree to an appointment without checking their calendars.  When your ‘sales appointment’ conflicts with an internal meeting event or appointment, guess which one wins out?  You bet! The sales appointment always drops to the bottom of the list.

Getting Through Appointment Clutter

So what can you do to eliminate or reduce the clutter and get more clients to be ready, willing and able to take your call at a given time?

  • Make time a valuable resource.
  • Position it as scarce.
  • Dole it out carefully.
  • Be chintzy.
  • Let your clients realize its importance.
6 Different Times

And how do you do that? The answer is to set a unique time; a time that catches your client’s attention; something that stands out; something that is not readily dismissed.

I recommend six different times in any given hour to set an appointment. These times are at 10, 15, 20, 40, 45 and 50 minutes after the hour. For example, instead of setting an appointment for ll:00 try setting it for 11:10, 11:15 or 11:20.  Or instead of 3:30, set if for 3:40,  3:45 or 3:50.

Putting it altogether, here are a couple of examples of what I mean:

“Ms. Trempe, I would be glad to e-mail this proposal to you tomorrow. And what I would like to recommend is that we set up Tuesday, the 21st, at 8:40 to review it in detail. How does your calendar look for 8:40?”

“Tim,  I’d like to set up an appointment to provide you with a demonstration on how the unit works and how it could reduce printing and binding costs. How are you set for tomorrow at 2:15? Do you have your schedule handy?”

(Incidentally, once you’ve established the date and time, be sure to send a meeting request reminder using Outlook. The audio message (above) combined with the visual message of an e-mail increase the odds of call occurring on time).

Why This Works

These times tend be more effective because they are slightly  unusual for the client. (NOTE: they are not bizarre. Setting weird times like 8:18, 1: 14 or 4:43 is bizarre…and ridiculous). Because they are unusual, they tend to be written (or typed) in their day planners; they tend to be remembered; and they tend to be honored more times than not. Ultimately, they place a value on time.

Apart from an unusual time, this technique tends to work because the client must reach for their calendar, or log into their Outlook or whatever.  They must interact with something. When they interact, they participate, and when they participate they are more likely to remember than to forget.

But there is more to it than meets the eye. By setting one of these times it implies you have other things on the go. It suggests you have other appointments.  It indicates that you are busy and remember, busy sales reps are very well regarded.

There is one other implication:  there is a suggestion that you have other appointments set within the half hour. Not only do you appear busy but it implies your call will be short and to the point. Clients like this. It seems fast, hassle free and painless. It just might be the thing that ensures that they are ready and able for a call.

In short, you have positioned time like a rare jewel.

Summary

Time is indeed money. Spend it wisely. Avoid squandering this precious resource.  By positioning your time to your client as important and valued, they are more apt to respect the times you set for appointments. You’ll move your sales cycle faster and further by using this little known technique.

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