5 Things to Avoid on Your ‘First Date’ With a Prospect

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You finally landed that hard-won first date with a prospect. It is exciting, yet common to get those first date jitters leading up to that initial meeting with a potential buyer. In preparation, you will probably practice and hone what you are going to say—your pitch—and maybe carve out time in your calendar with the hope of securing the second meeting if the first one goes well.

Over our many years in business development experience, and literally setting over 100,000 discovery meetings for our clients, here are the top five mistakes we see salespeople make on their first date with a prospect. These errors in judgment also happen to apply when you’re dating—so take note.

  1. Don’t be surprised by a no show—it happens.

    In our experience, no shows happen 25-30% of the time. Your prospective clients are running a business and although they’ve agreed to give you some of their precious time, unexpected fires do happen in the office and you are not their first priority. It doesn’t mean they won’t reschedule, but it’s important to be prepared for these situations and how to handle them. Sure being stood up is undesirable, but it doesn’t mean there wasn’t a good reason or they aren’t interested in you. Sales, like life, is about timing.

  2. Don’t give up on no shows.

    Your sales development team should be connecting your calls and tracking prospects down if they don’t get on the phone. Sometimes people forget or get caught up so it’s nice to have a back-up plan or wingman built-in. Be patient and continue the pursuit. Don’t give up too soon. That said, if you reach a 40-50% no show rate, you should probably take stock and evaluate your messaging and/or positioning. If that doesn’t yield positive results, there might be an issue with your qualification process. If you’re being stood up half the time, you might want to reconsider who you’re courting and how you’re meeting these prospects.

  3. Don't let your anticipation get the best of you.

    Sending lengthy emails or LinkedIn messages to your prospects before the first meeting might actually turn them off and give them a reason to rule you out. We understand you want to prepare for the call and give the prospect as much information about your company as you can, but again patience is key. Bombarding them with information before you actually meet is not necessary. Play it safe and wait for the first call—because you can handle objections far easier on a live sales call versus over email.

  4. Don’t mention the time.

    If the prospect happens to be late, don't start the conversation with how much time you have left in the meeting. If you start the meeting off by mentioning you have X amount of time left, this leaves a bad taste in their mouth from the start and sets the meeting off on a sour note. We cannot stress this point enough. A prospect has agreed to give you some of their precious time, so be gracious and make the most of whatever time you have. Potential buyers should feel like this is the only place you have to be and you have all the time in the world for them. If you hit it off, you won’t even remember they were late and if you don’t … well, that’s less time you needed to spend with them.

  5. Don't change locations or times.

    Changing locations or rescheduling is probably the biggest problem we see with clients. First, this only leads to confusion for the prospect and will boost your no show rates. Any changes you need to make should happen behind the scenes. You want to make the appointment as seamless as possible for the prospect. Altering the bridge information after the invite has already been sent or rescheduling makes you look bad before you have even had a chance to talk with them. Chances are if you need to reschedule multiple times, you will lose the opportunity to earn their business. We see it happen all the time.

Bottom line, follow these simple rules and chances are you will get through that all important first date and be on your way to building a lasting relationship.

Casey O'Leary