Regardless of the type of business you’re running, you probably spend a good part of your day setting appointments. This appointment mastering is well worth what it will do to increase your productivity. When you book more appointments, the more business you’re generating.

At the same time, the back-and-forth of scheduling appointments can consume valuable amounts of your day. As a result, you aren’t as productive as you could be.

So, what can you do to ensure that you’re still booking appointments and remain productive? Start by mastering your appointment setting.

Lay the groundwork.

Like any other campaign you launch, you first need to determine who your audience is. How you can help your main customers and what’s the purpose of setting the appointment? This will vary from business to business. But, you should already have these answers.

Let’s say that you’re a small business consultant that helps new businesses develop strategies like organizational and functional strategy.

As a small business consultant you wouldn’t be concerned about reaching out to enterprise level businesses. Especially if this requires an IT consultant. Instead, you would focus on your niche audience and why you’re best suited to help them develop strategies to improve their business.

Strategizing for this information will help you determine SMART goals, time frames, and strategies to reach your target audience.

Regardless of the industry that you work in, the first step you need to take is getting a prospect to move to the next stage of the sales process. This may take some time initially. But it lays the groundwork for setting all future appointments — which will make setting appointments going forward much easier.

Qualify prospects.

Speaking of prospects, you want to only focus on reaching out to individuals who are a good fit for your product or service. This shouldn’t be too time-consuming process. After all, you’ve done the research to determine who were ideal customer is. This way you can call, email, or connect with them on social media to schedule an appointment.

To further narrow down your prospects, and save time so that you can focus on other areas of your business, pay attention to people who have already interacted with you. This could be the people who visited your website or social channels, downloaded a piece of content from your website, signed-up for a newsletter, or attended an event you hosted.

Offer online booking.

At this point, if you’re setting appointments, then it’s expected that you offer online booking. This way your customers and clients can schedule an appointment with you 24/7 without playing phone or email tag. This makes scheduling a breeze for your audience. More importantly, it allows you to actually do what you excel at, as opposed to scheduling appointments all day.

Because there are no shortage of online appointment scheduling tools on the market, you want to find a tool that does more than just book appointments. At the minimum you’re looking for a tool like that allows clients to cancel or reschedule appointments on their own, sends out reminders, and syncs with your calendar. It also wouldn’t hurt to use a tool that integrates with your payment system.

Automate, automate, automate.

I just alluded to automation above. But, it’s key if you want to become more productive.

If you’re using scheduling software, then it should automatically send out confirmations, reminders, and follow-ups via email or text. If your online calendar is synced with the software, then it will also automatically notify any changes that have been made to the appointment. This way you’re not spending time manually reminding a client about an upcoming appointment or if you have to reschedule.

Automation goes above and beyond your scheduling software. You can be automatically scheduling social media posts to warm-up leads. It could be automatically sending previous customers a “thank you,” coupon on their birthday, or reminder to schedule an upcoming appointment. For example, if you run a salon or auto shop, you could send your customers a reminder that it’s time for a new haircut or to service their vehicle without personally contacting each of them.

Reach out during “off hours.”

This isn’t applicable to every business. But, I’ve found that if you want to successfully reach your clients or customers, you should do so early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Obviously you don’t want to call or text a prospect or high-profile client at 6am or 9pm. But, contacting them directly before office hours or when they’re winding down for the day increases the chances of them responding to your request.

While you can set automated messages to be sent during these hours, there are times when you have to personally reach out them. Doing so during “off hours” can also be beneficial for you. Like your clients, you’re calling, texting, or emailing during times when you’re not focused on deep work. I actually make this a part of my morning routine and then in the afternoon when I’m working on soft tasks before I go home for the day.

Leverage referrals and reward existing customers.

Instead of constantly reaching out to prospects and previous customers, why not have them come to you?

One way to achieve this is through referrals. This is where where loyal customers will refer you to their network. Sometimes this requires you to ask for referrals. Other times it involves launching a referral program where existing customers receive an incentive for referring others to you. However, if you over deliver and provide top notch customer service, existing customers will do this voluntarily.

Another way to accomplish this is by offering your customers discount cards, coupons, or gift certificates. This rewards customers for supporting your business. In return, they’ll keep returning to your business again and again.

Practice your elevator pitch.

Your elevator pitch is simply a value statement or value proposition.

This should address a pain point or state how you’re different from your competitors. And, you need to be able to explain this in just one or two sentences.

Perfecting your elevator pitch gives you a chance to quickly intrigue prospects, whether if they reach out to you through or email or when attending networking events, to book an appointment with you in just a couple of minutes.

Prepare for objections.

When dealing with new prospects there will be some objections before they commit to booking an appointment. You can’t fault them. If they don’t feel like they’re a good fit for your business, then why would they waste their time meeting with you?

Take the time to prepare for these objections. This way you aren’t caught-off-guard and have an appropriate response to their question or concern.

Don’t schedule back-to-back appointments.

If you’re a service provider it’s tempting to squeeze in as many appointments as possible in a day. The problem is that sometimes a meeting runs five-minutes over. You get stuck in traffic. You also need to eat, respond to emails, and catch your breath. As a result, you get burned out and keep your customers or clients waiting.

While you always can’t avoid the unexpected, you can at least prevent mattress from getting worse by not scheduling back-to-back appointments. For example, if you’re a doctor, then you could schedule 15-minutes between seeing patients. This way you can grab a snack and review the next patients records so that the next appointment runs more smoothly.

If you’re using scheduling or calendar software, then you can do this by just creating blocks of times when you’re unavailable in your calendar.

Empower your team.

If you’re working with a team, then scheduling can be a hassle. In fact, it’s almost an art-form creating a schedule that accommodate everyone’s availability. Instead, you may want to give your team access to your scheduling or calendar software. This way they can input their own availability and when they’re away, like during a break or vacation. However, you still need someone to oversee this. You don’t want a majority of your staff on vacation at the same time!