I just wrote my 7th email requesting a prospective client to let me know the status of my proposal for coaching. Last week a colleague cancelled a meeting at the last minute for the 3rd time; I told her admin not to bother rescheduling. And I’ve been tracking people down who said they wanted to meet with me and then never responded to my meeting invitation.
What makes scheduling and following-up (or following through) so difficult for people? Could somebody help me understand this please, because I apparently missed the class on effective scheduling for entrepreneurs.
To me, the way we manage our schedules and follow-up with people is a window into our character. Maybe I am fanatical about this now after 14 years in business, but when I accept an appointment with someone I book it in my calendar and make a commitment to keeping that appointment. I don’t double book. I space out my appointments so I have time to get to each one on time. And sometimes I even turn away opportunities that might be more profitable because I’ve made a promise to someone that I’d spend time with them.
It is true that I am FAR from perfect at this but I take time seriously – it is the only truly scarce resource we have in life. So when people cancel on me, especially at the last minute, I take it as a lack of respect and accountability unless it is an absolute emergency. I recently had someone say that they were cancelling because another client wanted to meet with them at the same time we had scheduled – in essence telling me I was less important than that other client. Well, that’s certainly something that should inspire anyone to continue being a client, wouldn’t you say?
And then there is what I call the follow-up merry-go-round. Round and Round and Round we go until finally someone decides to take an action or just say no. I try not to annoy people too much but when someone says they’re interested in working with me I tend to trust their word and believe they will follow through. I’m told by experts it takes 7 touches for people to respond. Really? Are we truly that Inundated with information that it takes 7 times to get through to us? I’m getting better at giving direct answers when I meet with people so I don’t leave them hanging for too long. The odd thing about it is that when I do this people have thanked me for being honest and for saving them time and aggravation.
As an entrepreneur I wear a lot of hats and have had to learn skills I never imagined I’d ever need. Discerning who to meet with and whether or not they will honor their time commitments with me is just one of those things I never expected would be so difficult to master. I certainly didn’t expect this to cost me in terms of business relationships, but I refuse to show any level of loyalty to those who don’t respect my time.
Here are a few tips I offer anyone wanting to be more successful in managing their time and their business relationships.
- Book everything on your calendar, including tentative meetings, follow-up time and personal time.
- Be realistic in the number of appointments you can accept in a day. (In person meetings require more time than on-line or phone meetings.)
- If you accept an appointment and something else comes along, please be courteous in telling the new appointment you’ve already got a commitment.
- Carve out time every day to review your upcoming meetings and follow-ups.
- Respond to emails and requests for follow-ups – even if it is just a note to say you’ve got a heavy workload and will get back in touch when you get a free moment.
Do you have a tip you’re willing to share? Let me know! I’m always interested in ways I can make life a little easier! And thanks for sharing!