You’ve had the appointment set for weeks. Your secretary even called yesterday to confirm it. But sure enough, within an hour of the meeting’s scheduled start time, your phone dings.
Can we reschedule?
Arg! There are few things more frustrating than someone wasting your time. Sure, everyone needs to take a rain check from time to time, but when it becomes a pattern, it can feel less like an honest scheduling conflict and more like sheer rudeness.
So how should you deal with a chronic canceler? First and foremost, take a step back.
Give The Benefit Of The Doubt
It can be tempting to fire off a snippy text or email response, but it’s likely that the short-term satisfaction of doing so will quickly fade to embarrassment or regret.
Instead, give the canceler the benefit of the doubt (yes, even if this is their third time bailing in a row) and remember there could be factors beyond your knowledge at play.
I once had a prospective client who kept canceling our intake meeting—the one that typically happens right before the contract is signed. I wrote her off as a flake and stopped pursuing the business. Weeks later, I received a sobering email.
So sorry for leaving you hanging, she wrote. I was just diagnosed with breast cancer, and things have been a little crazy.
Wow. I could never have known that’s what was going on, but I’d say that’s definitely grounds for canceling a few meetings!
So while the little devil on your shoulder might be telling you to give the person the boot for wasting your precious time, take the high road and assume there’s good reason for the cancelations. Then, follow one of the paths below.
If It’s A Client
Business people are, by nature, busy. And since this person is paying you, they might have a preconceived notion that your calendar is somehow theirs to commandeer as they please.
Err on the side of utmost professionalism and say something like this:
I know you’re very busy, and I completely understand how schedules quickly become overloaded! I really need your timely input to move forward on X, but our last few meetings have fallen through. Could we do this over email if it’s more convenient?
You’re pointing out that their flakiness has become a bottleneck without being disrespectful. An email like this will often prompt an immediate phone call, which is great, because what you ultimately want out of this scenario is to clear the bottleneck so you can get paid.
If It’s A Sales Prospect
This is the most common source of cancelled meetings. If the need is not immediate or if the prospect is still on the fence, blowing you off is an easy way for them to buy some more time.
There’s no use continuing to chase down a disinterested lead; it’s time that could be better spent chasing a hot one.
On the other hand, though, they might still be legitimately interested and just sidetracked by their packed day planner. It’s best to confront the cancellations head on while making it easy for them to opt out.
Say something like this:
When we first spoke you seemed very interested in X, but I notice we’ve rescheduled our meeting a few times now. I wanted to get a gauge on whether you’re still interested. I promise, you won’t hurt my feelings if you’ve decided to go in a different direction! Let me know what you’re thinking either way so I know what the next step is.
If It’s Someone You’re Paying
Here’s an instance where repeat cancellations can be problematic. If you’re paying a service provider, multiple rain checks are unacceptable, regardless of the reason.
If there’s a legitimate situation keeping them from upholding their end of the bargain, it’s on them to be honest with you so you can assess how to move forward without losing time or money. Be polite but assertive (and start looking for a replacement).
Say something like this:
I’ve been looking forward to meeting so we can move forward with X, but it seems we’re having trouble connecting. I really need to move this project forward, so I’m going to seek out some other options. Perhaps we can circle back in the future when your schedule clears up.
It’s a tactful call-out on their cancellations that doesn’t close the door on a future relationship.
If It’s A Friend
When a colleague cancels, it’s annoying. When a friend bails on you, it hurts!
There could be many things getting in the way of your scheduled time together, from the serious (family issues) to the mundane (forgetfulness). It’s up to you to determine how much effort you want to put into maintaining the relationship.
Say something like:
I’m disappointed we didn’t get to meet today. I was really looking forward to catching up! Is everything ok on your end? I feel like we’ve been distant lately. I’m here if you need anything.
This puts the ball squarely in their court. If your friend is struggling, you’ve offered a helping hand and a listening ear. If the friendship is simply not a priority for them, you’ve given them an easy out (a non-response here will tell you everything you need to know).
How do you handle cancellations? Leave a comment and share your best strategy!
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