Let’s see if this sounds familiar:
Your Prospect, by email: “Hello, I was looking for [insert your service here] and your company was recommended to me by [a mutual connection]. I would like to get some more information about working with you.”
You: “Hey, thanks for reaching out! I’d be happy to answer your questions. When would you like me to call you? Or, if you’re in the area we can grab coffee.”
Your Prospect: “Can you give me a call on Tuesday?”
You: “Sure, what time works best?”
Your Prospect: “How about 1pm?”
You: “Actually I have a conflict, can we do 1:30?”
This correspondence could last for a couple emails more, eventually pinning down a time. For some prospects it might take place over a half-hour span, for others it may take three days to get to a conclusion (we lead such busy lives, after all).
This was my experience, and I tired of it quickly.
The year was 2018.
After starting Clarity Business Design in the previous September, I was reading books like The E-Myth, Revisited and The Four-Hour Work Week to gain insight and inspiration around running a business efficiently. Both of these books focus on creating systems and leveraging repeatable processes to create a consistent customer experience and use less of one’s time, and the back-and-forth email pattern surrounding meetings stood out to me as an opportunity for optimization.
In the spare moments I had to work on my own website, I began to research options for automating appointments with prospects, clients, and networking connections.
The initial experiments went smoothly.
At first I explored Acuity Scheduling, a popular option which I used for about a year. After learning the interface, I grabbed the embed code and placed it on my website where I had created a page specifically for this purpose.
The next step was to replace my communication practices. I began to use this phrase at the end of an email that concerned setting a meeting:
Please pick a time that’s great for you: https://claritybusines.wpengine.com/schedule/
The intent was twofold: present my scheduling link, and reinforce the idea that it was in the recipient’s best interest to use it.
Convenient for me? Yes, but the benefits were shared. Without a string of messages back and forth, the recipient was also able to save time by seeing at a glance the openings on my calendar that they could choose from.
I expected some pushback or objections.
If you’re considering the integration of a scheduling tool into your business, perhaps you are worried about some of these reactions from your recipients, either in direct response or internally:
- “Why am I no longer getting white-glove treatment?”
- “Why should I do the work of visiting this link and making the appointment?”
- “Do they (you) think their time is too important to communicate with me?”
To which I propose the following counter-arguments:
- Everyone’s time is valuable and limited, so we shouldn’t waste it on trivial matters
- Booking tools (if working correctly) are equitable and save everyone time
- Nothing is stopping the recipient from simply proposing a time irrespective of the booking tool (some are simply more comfortable with the old ways)
I’ll add as a footnote, that none have complained to me in over two years that I have a booking tool in my scheduling system. Some have manually scheduled their meetings, but most use the booking tool (or even send me their own).
Additionally, I’ve noticed that many more people I interact with started using booking tools during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Like other technologies that create efficiency, such as virtual meetings, necessity appears to have resulted in faster mass-adoption of scheduling systems.
Practice has made progress.
As always, the most important thing is to start!
Since my initial launch of my booking page, I have transitioned from Acuity Scheduling to Calendly, though I also looked at HubSpot’s meeting feature since I use their CRM tool.
Calendly, however, has been my favorite to date. I find it easier to use than Acuity and more visually pleasing, which to me is important. I continue to experiment with adding different appointment types to serve different audiences, but at the end of the day I am certainly pleased with the impact that booking tools have had on my productivity.
How do you choose a booking tool?
I recommend looking at the following factors:
- What email do you use for your work calendar? I recommend Office 365, Gsuite, or any other professional email where you get to attach your own domain to the address. Regardless, you’ll want to ensure that your booking system directly and easily integrates with that email service.
- Which do you feel looks ‘right’ on your website? Most offer free trials, so you can test this out and determine which one you would like to mesh with your existing aesthetic.
- Do your other softwares integrate cleanly? Though Zapier makes many integrations possible, I suggest that you look for native connections to your CRM (HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho, etc.) and Zoom or Skype.
How do you get started with your new booking tool?
It’s very simple: pick one, setup the first appointment, and ask your clients to use it every time.
By now, its usefulness should not be in question. If you choose to integrate it, reinforce it with every opportunity.
It is the best option for scheduling meetings by email. It should be a part of your company culture, because it is convenient for most of your prospects.
It may take some time before it’s fully adopted, but I assure you that it is worthwhile.