You suck at asking for people’s time

You send an email to someone asking for some of their time.

At the end of your email, you write: “Let me know your availability. Thanks!”.

You get an email back from them the next day with a reply that sounds something like this:

“Yeah, let’s meet! I’m usually available on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the afternoon. Let me know if that works for you.”

As soon as you read the email, you reply with: “Yes! How does Thursday at 3pm sound?”

You hear back from them a day later:

“Oh, I just booked my Thursday afternoon. Let’s meet on Tuesday instead..”

After receiving the email, you check your calendar only to realize you’re booked for that afternoon.

So, you reply with “I’m booked that day, how does next Thursday sound?”

Then, you never hear back from them. Ouch!

You can’t help but wonder if it was something you said or if they were just leading you on. Either way, you’re not happy about it. You might even be a tad offended.

Every time this happens, your confidence fades a little. And you need confidence in tact when asking for people’s time—especially when selling!

Who’s usually at fault when meetings don’t happen?

So, what went wrong? Who’s fault was it? Was it yours or theirs?

Sorry to be the one to break it to you but…

Actually, I’m not sorry! Let me be upfront and direct about it with you.

It’s your fault the meeting never happened. You suck at asking for people’s time. It’s a fact.

We’ve all played this scheduling game before. It’s shocking to see how very few people ever master it—especially those whose business depends on asking for people’s time!

Someone who is a master at asking for people’s time can schedule a meeting in a single email. And if they can’t nail it in a single email, all they need is two or three interactions at the most.

If you’re interacting anymore than that, then you suck at scheduling meeting and you better up your scheduling game, ASAP.

You’re wasting a ton of your precious time—not to mention, other people’s time too.

So, how can you be more effective in asking for people’s time?

The bigger issue you haven’t thought about

Before I give you some tips, let’s discuss the bigger issue worth addressing.

If you tend to ask open-ended questions when trying to influence someone to do something, like give you some of their time, then you’re lacking some leadership.

Anyone running their own business needs a certain level of leadership. After all, people hire you because they perceive you to be a leader in a specific area of expertise.

Don’t fail them. Prove them right. And do it by being decisive.

Scheduling meetings is really a decision game. Click To Tweet

And people play the game all the time. It’s not only in business, either.

We’ve all asked a friend where they would like to eat and received this response:

“Oh, I don’t care, how about you?”.

And you say: “Well, I’m not a picky eater, are you craving anything specific?”

And you go back and forth until someone finally makes a decision.

I’ve thought about these occasions many times. This game is incredibly annoying to me.

So, it’s my rule of thumb to always make a decision when someone doesn’t want to, and deal with any objections later.

This approach won’t only benefit you in things like scheduling meetings, it will extend into every area of your life—from simple quick decisions to complex well-thought-out decisions, with or without people.

The point is to move you and others forward by making a decision.

(That last sentence has Leadership written all over it.)

3 Things you should always do when you ask for someone’s time.

Okay, so how can you apply being a decisive leader when asking for someone’s time?

Let’s discuss three things you should always do when you ask for someone’s time.

1. Remind them of what they’ll get out of the meeting.

Let’s face it. People are selfish to a certain degree, even if we deny it (that includes you and me too).

I don’t feel guilty about being selfish with my time. It’s mine to begin with and I decide where I spend and invest it.

So, don’t expect someone to spend time with you just because you want them to. It’s not enough. You must give them a good enough reason—one that benefits them enough to want to invest their time with you.

You know you’ll benefit from their time. It’s only right to convince them of the benefit they’ll receive from your time.

That’s how it works, especially in business.

If you can do that, then people will make time for you, because they’re really making time for themselves to receive something beneficial. Again, we’re all selfish to some degree.

With that being said, there will be times where you’ll have to depend on someone’s generosity. But try to avoid that if you can. Heck, buy them lunch or some coffee or something!

It’s much better to seduce them with something they’d want, though.

For example, if you’re scheduling a sales meeting with a prospect, then remind them of why the sales meeting is happening.

Frame it in a way that screams benefit to them.

Here’s a bad example:

“Let’s schedule a time where we can talk more about what you need.”

That’s a horrible way to ask for someone’s time. There’s no benefit mentioned. Why would someone attend?

Here’s a good example:

“So far, it seems like I can help you with problem x but we should schedule a time where we can discuss more specifics. In the meanwhile, I’ll make a list of possible high-level solutions and have them ready for you by then”.

Perfect. Not only was the person reminded that they would meet with an expert, but they also were promised some kind of solution even before discussing specifics. This invitation screams benefit all around!

2. Propose two meeting times and at least one place.

Everyone is busy. The less time you take from them, the less they’ll notice the time they’re giving you, which is a good thing.

If you’re someone who takes 15 minutes to express something you could have in 5 minutes, you’ll quickly become a threat to someone’s time. They’ll notice you for all the wrong reasons.

When you ask for someone’s time, make it easy for them to make a decision. Click To Tweet

You can do this by immediately proposing two meeting times you know you’re available for and at least one place that you both can access.

Using this approach also makes the decision process a lot quicker. There won’t be this back and forth game people usually play, which drains all of us.

Here’s a bad example:

“Let’s schedule a time to meet. What does your availability look like for next week?”

Asking for someone’s time like that sets things up for the perfect scheduling game. The person would need to check their calendar, reply with some meeting times (sometimes, that means typing it out in an email), and wait for your reply. You haven’t even started to discuss how you would meet. This has RED FLAGS all over!

Here’s a good example:

“Let’s schedule a time to meet at Cafe X. How does Thursday at 2pm sound? Or does Friday at 10am work better for you?”

This approach makes it easy for someone to make a decision. This invitation gives context to the meeting by specifying how you would meet and also provided a couple of meeting time options. The person would simply need to check their calendar and decide which times would work best. If the options don’t work for them, they’d most likely reply with other possible meeting times. People will usually follow your example, instinctively.

If you’re lucky, they won’t even have to check their calendar if they already know their availability off the top of their head. But that’s a best-case scenario.

Scheduling Cheat Sheet

Reference this quick cheat sheet when you schedule your next meeting.

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3. Make things as easy as possible for attendees

If meetings with you feel effortless, people will attend. Click To Tweet

This isn’t rocket science or some great revelation. It’s common sense that we sometimes forget.

For example, asking someone to meet with you through a software in which they’ll need to sign up for and then install on their computer right before the meeting, will not make things easy for them or you. On the contrary, the meeting will probably start late.

Here are some little things you can do to make your attendees lives easier:

  • Send a calendar invite so attendees won’t forget. There’s a huge benefit from being on your attendee’s calendars. They’ll think twice about double booking since they had to accept and approve of the meeting request before it appeared on their calendar.
  • Choose a location or medium you know is easy for everyone to access. Again, just like in the example of the attendees having to install a certain software before the meeting, not choosing a location or medium everyone can access will waste everyone’s time. This is probably the #1 culprit for wasting time in meeting that hasn’t even started, yuck!
  • Help your attendees prepare for the meeting by sending relevant information ahead of time. Sometimes, this means sending an agenda. Other times, it could be a document that helps give context to the meeting. Whatever the information, it should always help drive the meeting into deeper conversations and allow the meeting to happen as quick as possible.

Learning how to ask for people’s time is game-changing

Asking for people’s time comes with the freelancer’s territory.

You’ll use this skill for:

  • Sales meetings
  • Road mapping sessions
  • Sprint reviews
  • Follow-up meetings
  • Support meetings
  • Networking opportunities

And the list could go on and on. It’s through meetings and gatherings that you’ll move projects and relationships forward.

It’s best to master the skill of asking for people’s time. It could make all the difference—especially when it comes to selling.

So, retire your jersey and stop playing the scheduling game, which really is a decision game.

Be the leader your clients expect you to be and help them move forward. They’re depending on it.

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