We all schedule many meetings and calls, so why write a post about it? Because in sales, it's the little things that can make a big difference in how you're perceived, and how many unnecessary difficulties you face.

How many times have you called someone at the appointed time, only to learn that they were out of the office, or in a meeting, or otherwise unavailable? It's tempting to chalk it up to the person being rude or inconsiderate, and there are doubtless times when that's true, but many of these experiences can be avoided by embracing some simple disciplines.

Clear purpose and agenda. Let's get the most unpleasant one out of the way first. Many times, people double book subconsciously because the purpose of your call is unclear or of marginal importance. Make sure they have a clear purpose in speaking with you by defining the Door-Opener problem and the Cost of Doing Nothing.

Specific options, upfront. Too often, we send email requesting a call, and the prospect responds with something like, "Sure, let's talk soon." At this moment, many of us reply asking when the prospect is available over the next few days or week. We're inviting an iterative back-and-forth exchange that isn't welcome. Take control. Suggest a few dates and times when you're available and ask which is most convenient.

Availability. Sometimes, we look at our calendars and see that we're pretty open, with only a few commitments over the next week. We try to simplify by saying, "I'm available except for Tuesday at 3:00, and Friday at 9:00." How many times has your prospect chosen one of the few times you're not available? It's frustrating, but avoidable. The human brain doesn't process negatives very well (which is why we should say "stay safe" rather than "don't get hurt"). The prospect isn't reading your scheduling email carefully. His eye saw "Tuesday 3:00" and "Friday 9:00" and chose one. You don't have to offer every possible time; that would be a cumbersome email to read and process. Just pick a few and offer them, saying "if these don't work, please let me know what's convenient for you. I have some things I can move if necessary." 

There is also software that syncs with your calendar and lets those you're trying to schedule see your openings and book one without interacting with you further. They can't see the specifics of what's on your calendar, only the filled blocks and openings. Kind of like an airline seating chart. When they choose one, it shows as unavailable to others. Timetrade is among the better ones I've tried.

Time zones. In the bullet above, you'll notice that there's no mention of time zones. It's a bad idea to leave this unstated. Your prospect may not know that you're in a different time zone. How many times have you called someone at 2:00pmPDT, only to hear your prospect say, "Oh, I had us for 2:00pmEDT." For the past three hours, she's thought you didn't call as agreed. Be specific about the time zone, and make sure to select a time zone in your calendar invitation. Even if your prospect resides in the same time zone as you, she may be in a different time zone at the time of the appointment. Dates are equally important. It's not enough to say "Tuesday at 3:00pmPDT." Recently, I collaborated with an Australian consultant. For her, "Tuesday" was the 17th, whereas for me it was the 16th. Words like "tomorrow" invite confusion. Be as precise as possible to avoid missing what may be your one chance to get on someone's calendar for the next month.

Who will initiate? How often have you waited to receive a scheduled call, then after about 10 minutes you get that uncomfortable feeling that perhaps you were supposed to initiate? When you send a calendar invitation, in the subject field I always put "Albert Einstein receive Mike O'Horo call." Or, if Albert is to initiate, "Albert Einstein call Mike O'Horo." I always put the other party's name first so that it shows in the small space visible when my calendar is in "Week" mode, or when I'm viewing it on my phone or tablet. Unless your prospect insists on initiating, you should always arrange to do so. You're certain you'll make the call at the appointed time. Never leave something so critical to chance.

Confirmation. Send a confirming email 24 hours in advance of the appointment. Subject line: "Confirming our call Wed 9/17 @ 11:00amPDT." Things change. Give your prospect a chance to let you know. The alternative is you calling at the appointed time, leaving voicemail, and being frozen in place for at least 20 minutes to keep your phone line clear for the expected return call, then calling again only to hear the prospect's assistant apologize because a conflict arose and the prospect forgot to alert you.

Alerts. Always enter email and popup alerts to remind your receiver that your call is imminent. It  raises the odds of them at least trying to wrap up what they're doing and be available as agreed. 

As the seller, it's to your advantage to anticipate likely difficulties and obviate as many as possible.