You’re sitting on the bridge at 7 past the hour, staring at a black screen.
The prospect is nowhere to be found. They’re not replying to emails or picking up the phone. Your text message goes ignored.
It’s 12 minutes past the scheduled meeting time and you have other calls to prep for. You make the decision to pull the plug on this meeting.
But first, you fire off the “I missed you” email cadence in hopes of getting the call back on the books quickly.
Sales reps are no strangers to fall off. Simply put: sh*t happens. Sometimes it’s a miscommunication, other times an objection, and yes, even on some occasions, their kid really is sick or they’ve evacuated their home due to a hurricane.
While acts of god (or contagions or CxOs) cannot be controlled by the rep, a lot of meeting fall-off can be prevented. This blog will walk you through the typical causes, what healthy occurrence rates look like, and how to get more meetings to stick.
As an aside, fall-off rate is called many names—no-shows, hold rate, occurrence rate, and so on. They all refer to the same thing: measuring the percentage of scheduled meetings that do or do not occur over a specific time period.
Why Do Meetings Fall-Off?
If you’re going to mitigate no-shows, first you have to understand why prospects don’t show up. Then, you can focus on controlling what you can control. So, what are the most common reasons someone no-shows a sales meeting?
The prospect forgot. This is a fact of life and can happen in the best of circumstances. Calendars don’t trigger reminders, the prospect is engrossed in their task and doesn’t see the reminder, or maybe they’ve stepped away from their desk. The good news in this instance is that it’s pretty easy to get the meeting rescheduled.
The conversation wasn’t compelling. If the first interaction with your organization isn’t wow-worthy, there’s a good chance the meeting isn’t going to happen. The prospect may not see value in the meeting or they can’t remember why they accepted it in the first place.
They have competing priorities. If you sell to any level of leadership, you’re well aware that prospects are strapped for time. Just like the previous reason, communicating value is key to making your solution top of mind.
The rep did low-quality qualification. Not qualifying leads properly will come back to bite you every time. Cold calls don’t have to be full-on discovery, but it is important to get a sense of what the prospect’s appetite is for your solution and if their company is the right fit.
Benchmarks for Occurrence Rates
Now that we’ve gone over why fall-off happens, let’s talk about the data.
Pre-COVID 19, the average fall-off rate for meetings across most industries was between 20-30%. While 0% is ideal, many organizations will begrudgingly accept rates up to 20%.
Now, many predicted there would be a huge uptick in no-shows due to frozen budgets, furloughs and layoffs, and general uncertainty. However, this isn’t true for every company or industry.
After a double-digit spike in March as companies scrambled to transition to remote work, companies like memoryBlue are seeing their numbers not only stabilize but also normalize in line with prior performance. Interestingly enough, while memoryBlue saw more fall-off in March, they also saw a 2% jump in meetings booked via cold calling.
Our customers and friends at memoryBlue are helping sellers fight fall-off and step up their sales development game by offering the memoryBlue Academy for free for a limited time. Get the details here.
Ben Simms, VP of Commercial Client Services at MarketSource, noted that while first scheduled meetings are holding steady, there has been an uptick in deals being pushed.
To no one’s surprise, sales cycles are extending, forecasts are a bit scary, and budgets are drying up. Instead, sales teams are having to improvise and adapt how they hunt new business while also putting more focus on account expansion.
So, how do we ensure meetings happen now and in the future?
Rules for Setting Sticky Meetings
Some of these rules will be no brainers. Other suggestions will be more dependent on your organization’s sales process, who you sell to, and what you’re selling. Treat these recommendations like fashion advice—what works for one person is not guaranteed to work for you.
1. Don’t schedule too far in advance.
Tomorrow or the next business day is best. Next week is okay, too. At two weeks out or more, you’re playing with fire.
Pro Tip: If you are scheduling on the phone, send a blank invite while the prospect is on the line and make sure they accept it. Then go back and update the invite with the dial-in information and agenda after the call.
2. Write a great agenda.
“ExecVision demo” is not a call agenda… or meeting title. You need to write a compelling agenda that reminds the prospect why they took the meeting. Include their key priorities or challenges uncovered during your first conversation.
3. Send reminders.
An email or two plus a call isn’t enough in today’s fast-paced world. Instead, you need to take a combined approach. In addition to your email and call meeting confirmation cadence, try these:
Connect with the prospect on LinkedIn, or if you’re already connected, shoot them a message two or three days before the meeting. Say something like “Looking forward to speaking with you about [Business Challenge] on date/time.”
Text the prospect the morning of the meeting to re-confirm they’ll be joining. This way, if you text them later should they no-show, they’ll know who is reaching out.
Sending relevant content ahead of the meeting is another great way to add value to the meeting. The pieces you send should focus on the prospect, not your product, so be mindful of what you send.
4. Bring in other stakeholders.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. Always ask the prospect if there is anyone else who would feel left out if they missed the meeting. You’ll not only reduce the chance of a no-show, but you’ll also get a feel for how interested the prospect really is—the more people they bring in, the more likely there’s a strong fit for your offering.
5. Reduce friction.
If you’ve ever had to download new software to join a meeting, you know how cumbersome it can be. Make sure your prospects can easily get into the meeting by including a bridge link and dial-in information, plus any additional details if they have to download something.
It’s also good practice to include your direct line and mobile number in case the prospect has trouble getting on the bridge.
No-shows happen to even the best sellers, but you can mitigate it. Start by setting good meetings, but follow-through by providing value before you get on the bridge. Not only will this help in the fight against fall-off, but it will also build familiarity with your prospects and help move deals through the pipeline faster.