Cancelling Business Meetings: Proper Etiquette
I just got off the telephone with a business colleague a few minutes ago who was cancelling our meeting today because he had to help his dad out. This is a meeting HE scheduled and wanted! This was the fifth meeting I have scheduled in the last two months, at the other person's request to meet with me, and THEY have cancelled. If you could see me now, steam is coming out of my ears, just like one of those Warner Bros. cartoon characters! What is happening in society that we cannot keep appointments?
Please don't get me wrong, I understand that things happen. However, remember that when you are cancelling that meeting, you are saying whatever just came up is more important than you are. Ouch! That hurts! Therefore, here is what I recommend you do to keep a good business relationship:
- If you need to reschedule, call the person as soon as you know. It doesn't matter if it is 11 pm at night, leave a voicemail and, if you have time, leave an email.
- Be honest about what your commitment is and make sure that if you were in the other person's shoes you would agree it is a legitimate reason to change. Would you buy it? Remember, you are hoping to get referrals or business out of that individual, so make sure it is reasonable. Here are some excuses I have heard lately:
- "My dad needs my help doing a project" – not worthy
- "I'm under a deadline" – not worthy (means you can't handle your workload)
- "I have to meet with another client" – not worthy unless it is the only time and day the client can meet
- Before you call or email the colleague, have a plan! Your call should go something like this, "Hello ________________, I am so sorry but I need to reschedule our meeting next week because ____________________________. However, I would be happy to meet with you on (Date and time), or (Date and time) or (Date and time) – you choose! In addition, because I have had to cancel this meeting, I will pay for our (lunch or coffee)!" Please give them three options!
- Lastly, maybe you are a "casual" scheduler or last minute person. That's okay but don't assume everyone else is the same. I schedule my appointments several weeks out and I stick to my commitments unless something major comes up.
If you do this from now on, you will have more business and you will receive more referrals. Try to be as courteous to other people's time as you are with your own time. We are all busy – but don't screw up someone else's day by CANCELING!