This is an article about a simple thing most of us do every single day, and why you should probably consider doing it differently.
It's about scheduling meetings-;and an underappreciated micro-negotiation technique that could very well help determine whether you achieve your goals or not.
Let's jump right in with an example that will prove the point.
To link or not to link
After a debate with his co-founder about whether it was smarter to send a calendar link to set up business meetings, or to manually negotiate times instead, they tried an experiment.
They split their next 10 meeting attempts in half. For five hopeful appointments, they sent a general, "What time works for you?" type of email to the recipients.
For the next five, they sent an email with a calendar scheduling link and an explanation. Results:
- Two of the five "What time works for you?" emails generated meetings: but only after an average of four more emails back and forth to set up and confirm a time.
- Four out of the five "scheduling link" emails resulted in an immediate booking. (I know that's not a giant sample size, but Bagdasarian said it's held up in subsequent, informal tests.)
If only it were that easy
So, a self-service scheduling link works best? Well, not so fast. Let's imagine a different dynamic. It depends on who wants the meeting more.
Suppose you hear from someone who wants to work for your company, or who hopes to ask you for advice or mentorship. Imagine that when they ask to set up a meeting, they do it with one of these three constructions:
Option #1: "I can be flexible and would be happy to talk anytime."
Option #2: "Please choose a time from the calendar link that works for you."
Option #3: "I'm free to talk at 9:30 a.m., or would 2 p.m. be better?"
Their choice tells you something about them, whether they intend it to, or not.
For example, I can't imagine too many circumstances where the Option #2 "calendar link" idea would yield results here.
And while Option #3 is what's advised in a lot of sales situations, there's something a bit entitled and sales-y about a job-seeker telling you to skip the part where you actually agree to meet, and asks you to just pick between two options that work for him or her.
The power moves
I thought of this whole dynamic recently as I was talking with some writer friends about people we've interviewed over the years.
Once, I interviewed a famous A-list celebrity. In setting it up, I told her publicist that I could talk anytime during a two-day period, except for 10 a.m. on the second day.
Her reply? She sent me a confirmation for 10 a.m. on the second day-;the one time I said I couldn't do. Nice power move, I thought. Still, I reshuffled my schedule, because the interview itself was the goal.
In another case, I drove to West Point one evening and checked into a hotel for an early morning breakfast meeting with a high-ranking military officer.
When I arrived, I got a call saying that breakfast was off, but if I wanted to meet the officer in an hour and accompany him on his daily four-mile run, he'd be happy to talk then.
Power move, no doubt. So, I popped two Advil, drank a ton of water, and went for the run.
Sometimes you just have to be willing to flex. But, it's important to be aware of the dynamic.
Two choices plus a flexibility option
People love choices, someone once told me, but they hate making decisions.
So, while it's going to be different in different situations, the general rule for scheduling seems to be: Be eager, but not needy or desperate; flexible, but not to the point of inaction.
"I keep my emails very brief, and like to give them the opportunity to pick a time with a few suggestions," said Brian Folmer, founder and CEO of FirstLook. "'Let me know a few times that work ... I'm traveling until Wednesday so maybe something Thursday afternoon or Friday?'"
All other things being equal, business leaders I talked with suggested (a) offering two specific times, and only then, (b) adding your calendar scheduling link, or else, (c) just saying that if the times you've suggested don't work, you'll be happy to find another.
"It's one less decision they need to make," said Brian Robben, CEO of Robben Media. "Suggest a time and then follow up with a second time. Around eight times out of 10 the person will choose your first time. ... When they can't make either of your suggestions, they'll recognize your effort and suggest their own."