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Meeting a client or a vendor for a business lunch is one of the best ways to build rapport and develop deeper relationships.  However, many times, some clients may need to cancel the lunch plans.  Whether this cancellation is done well in advance or last minute, there are certain steps and processes you will want to take to reschedule and get that meeting on the books.

Business lunches are by far the best method for meeting a client or vendor face-to-face.  It allows for a more relaxed, intimate moment, with the food being a great source of common bonding.  We’ve spoken in-depth regarding business lunches and the etiquette that come with it.  As you will not only be representing yourself, but also your company, you will want to ensure that you have everything taken care of before the lunch meeting.

When setting up a business lunch, you will want to invite the client or vendor.  Be sure to book reservations to the restaurant in advance.  As the lunch will occur during regular business hour, you will want your attire to reflect professional, business wear.  Be sure to pay for the bill in full and to treat the wait staff with kindness and respect.

Client’s First Cancellation

The client’s first cancellation should always be understood and forgiven.  No matter the reason, you will want to be understanding and appreciative of the notification.  Most individuals do not mean to cancel a previously scheduled meeting, especially not a lunch.  But it does happen, and you should try to be as respectful and understanding as possible.

In these situations, you will want to utilize the ECS acronym.  ECS stands for Empathy, Consensus, and Solution.  The ECS solution should be used in situations where you want to show understanding, agree on a common problem, and come to a solution agreeable for both parties.

As an example, when utilizing the ECS solution, you will want to approach the email in a similar manner as below:

[Empathy] I truly appreciate the head’s up regarding the fact that you will not be able to make the lunch and fully understand the challenges in finding a time that works for everyone.  [Consensus] I’ve heard similar challenges from other small business owners and understand the constant demands which are placed on the owners.  [Solution] However, I would love to reschedule this meeting at the same location.  Would you be able to let me know your availability?

This response builds on a level of understanding with the client and lets them know that you understand their challenges.  It allows you to show empathy and warmth and to leave open the possibility of meeting at a later date.

Client’s Second Cancellation

A client’s second cancellation is more difficult than the first.  If the client has cancelled for a second time, you will need to determine why they are cancelling.  Again, it could be a simple coincidence, but you will want to rule out every possible scenario to ensure the meeting is conducted.

Ask yourself the following questions.  If you feel that any one of these messages are missing or that you may not be providing enough value or detail in the meeting, then feel free to try a new methodology when reaching back out to the client.

  • Am I providing value in reaching out to the client? Do they see the value clearly?
  • Am I confirming the appointment? Have I received an explicit date and time which works for the client?
  • What are the expectations with this meeting? Have I sent the client an agenda of what will be discussed and how it is beneficial to them and their business?
  • Is the lunch meeting scheduled for too long? Is the restaurant too far from their office?

Although you will still want to reschedule the meeting, you will need to be a bit firmer in your expectations.  A phone call to confirm a rescheduling of the appointment is probably best.  While on the phone with the client, you should express the benefits of meeting and what the agenda item are.  But, don’t make the call about yourself, make it about the solutions you have.  You are meeting with the client for them and you are providing a solution to a problem of theirs.

While on the phone with the client, be sure to have them confirm that the date and time work for them.  In addition, send out the meeting invite while still on the phone, having them confirm that they’ve received it and can confirm it is on their calendar.

Client’s Third Cancellation

If a client cancels a business lunch for the third time, it is safe to assume they are no longer interested.  You should send a respectful email, detailing your attempts to meet, but state that it does not appear that they are interested.  Remain professional and respectful throughout the email and remind the client towards the end of the email of your offerings and that you are available for a call if they would like.

Although it may be tempting to cast aside their information, you should continue to hold onto it.  Send them an email every few months with any new offerings, solutions, or just to drop in.  Although they may not respond, you will want to be cordial and respectful in every interaction.

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