Declined: What to Do When a Prospect Cancels Your Meeting

Have you ever had a strong, clear next step scheduled with a prospect—an accepted calendar invite on the books—only to suddenly have them cancel the meeting?

When you get that dreaded email that says “declined,” what do you do?

In this video, I’m going to take all the guesswork out of how to respond to a canceled meeting.

Here’s exactly what to do when a prospect cancels your meeting. Check it out:

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1. Ask yourself: How solid was the initial interaction in the first place?

1. Ask yourself: How solid was the initial interaction in the first place?

If you want to know what to do when a prospect cancels on you, here’s the first step: Always start by asking yourself, “How solid was the initial interaction in the first place?” While there are ways to try to recover or bounce back after a prospect cancels your meeting (which we’ll explore below), the best solution is not to have them decline in the first place. This might sound obvious, but it’s critical that we keep asking ourselves about those initial interactions to understand why a prospect might have declined the meeting. It’s the only way we can improve.

So, when a prospect cancels your meeting, consider: How solid was the initial interaction that you had with that prospect? Did they give you the impression that your conversation was a real priority for them? Did it seem like talking to you was worth their time?

By being a little bit more introspective when a prospect cancels a meeting, you can start to work backwards to answer some really profound questions about yourself as a salesperson. Did you really do everything you could have during that initial interaction? Did you follow your process? If you didn’t, chances are that the declined meeting is just another way of the prospect saying, “You know what, I’m not seeing enough value to waste my time here…”

2. Immediately pick up the phone.

2. Immediately pick up the phone.

This aspect of what to do when a prospect cancels is counterintuitive to many modern salespeople. Throughout my community and within the Sales Insights Lab Accelerator, people always ask, “If someone declines or cancels a meeting, what should I say in my email to them?” And I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Immediately pick up the phone.” Don’t just send an email right away. Get on the phone instead. In sales, you can always deal with things more effectively on the phone. You may not get them on the phone on the first try, and that’s fine. But you should try a couple of times, because that’s going to be your best bet at actually salvaging the situation.

3. Email to see if they actually meant to cancel.

3. Email to see if they actually meant to cancel.

When it comes to what to do when a prospect cancels your meeting, email does have an important role to play, of course. If the prospect doesn’t pick up when you try to get them on the phone, it’s time to send a quick email to see if they actually meant to decline the meeting.

I find that about a quarter of canceled appointments actually weren’t intended to be canceled at all; the prospect just pressed the wrong button. Depending on their comfort with technology, people accidentally cancel appointments all the time. Rather than just freaking out, simply send them an initial email back to say, “Hey George, I saw that you declined the appointment. Did you actually mean to cancel?”

Since this language is a bit assumptive, it will push the prospect to say either, “No, I didn’t mean to cancel,” or “Yes, but let’s reschedule.” While this isn’t a guaranteed move, it can often help you get the situation back on track.

4. Get them on the phone.

4. Get them on the phone.

Here comes the phone again. It’s just that important when a prospect cancels your meeting. Even after you send your email asking whether they meant to decline the meeting, do everything you can to get them on the phone. You want to avoid any back-and-forth over email. The phone is a salesperson’s best friend when trying to figure out what to do when a prospect cancels the meeting. In fact, the phone is the single best way to salvage any deal gone wrong—or any sales situation gone wrong.

Chances are, if you’ve already had a meeting with them, you have their phone number already, or at least some way to easily find their phone number. So, after you send that email, immediately try to get them on the phone again. If you’re always willing to just pick up the phone, you’re in a really good place as a salesperson.

5. Send three new options.

5. Send three new options.

If you’ve already gotten through to your prospect and they’ve said something like, “Yes, I meant to cancel the appointment, because it’s not a fit and doesn’t make sense to meet anymore,” then it’s time to move on. But if the prospect seems to have just canceled the appointment because that time no longer works for them, the next goal is to reschedule that appointment. At this point, you want to send them three new options for a meeting. Don’t send them a call-only link or some scheduling link. Instead, just offer them three new options: “Monday at 3:00 PM Eastern, Thursday at….Friday at….Do any of those options work for you?” When you do the little legwork to show your three options, it’s far more effective.

At the end of your message you can say something like, “If none of these work, here’s a call-only link so you can schedule a different time with me.” But remember, that call-only link is really giving up control of the sales interaction, so be sure to give your three options first.

6. Keep reaching out to them if you don’t hear from them.

6. Keep reaching out to them if you don't hear from them.

My rule of thumb for what to do when a prospect cancels is that, even if you can’t get in touch with them, you should keep reaching out to them unless they specifically tell you to go take a hike. If they say, “Go away! I never want to hear from you again,” then fine—go away. But if for some reason they just don’t respond to you, you should keep reaching out to them. Email them, call them, send them LinkedIn messages, whatever.

Assume that they actually want to engage with you. If you just give up, there’s always a chance that they were just being lazy or didn’t get around to responding to you yet, and then you’ve blown your opportunity with a good prospect. If you consistently reach out to prospects until they specifically tell you to go away, you’re much more likely to re-establish that interaction.

7. Get better buy-in next time.

7. Get better buy-in next time.

This might go without saying, but the one thing that solves all problems when it comes to prospects canceling on you is to simply be better at sales in the first place. We must always push ourselves to think about how we can be better next time. How can you get more buy-in from the prospect next time? Once you’ve let a deal go astray, it’s a lot harder to try to get it back on track. But by being stronger throughout the entire process, you’re going to get more buy-in—and the prospect will be less inclined to cancel your meeting.

So there you have it. Now you know what to do when a prospect cancels on you. Which of these steps will you take to get sales back on track after a meeting is declined? Be sure to share below in the comment section to get involved in the conversation.

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About the Author Marc Wayshak

Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.

Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.

Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.

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