Arriving Late For Your Sales Call: What It Says About You and Your Company

Inevitably, you will be late to a meeting at some point; an important sales call will run over the time you allotted, there will be an unexpected traffic problem, the school will call you about your sick child at the most inopportune time. These things happen.

But some salespeople are routinely and habitually late for their sales calls, and they underestimate what it says about them and their company.

I Don’t Care About You

When you arrive late, you are sending the message that even though you promised to be respectful of your dream client’s time, and even though you promised to make the sales call valuable, that you care more about you.

Showing up late gives your dream client an insight to what you believe and what you value. It is an indication that you are going to put your needs above their needs, and that your schedule comes before their schedule. They make an assessment about you and extend that assessment to how they expect to be treated, should they choose to give you an opportunity.

Habitually arriving late is a form of selfishness.

It also causes your client to doubt whether or not they should schedule to meet with you in the future, knowing that your 1:00PM appointment means that you will arrive roughly between 1:10PM and 1:21PM. They doubt whether they should schedule you with other members of their team. Will they be embarrassed, having gathered a group only to wait on you to bless them with your presence?

I Can’t Keep Commitments

There is no doubt that keeping the biggest commitments that we make to our clients and dream clients is critical to our success, especially the commitment to helping them achieve better outcomes. Showing up late is an indication of how you feel about the commitments you make.

It tells your dream client that you believe that you don’t need to actual keep your commitments; you just need to be somewhere close. Your client will rightfully suspect that you will treat the additional commitments that you make like you treat your commitments to keeping your appointments with them.

I Am Overcommitted

Arriving late for your sales calls is an indication that you are overcommitted. It means you are going to overlook some of the details of the commitments that you make.

Since you are already overcommitted, by giving you their business, they are only piling more work onto a person who is already having trouble managing the details of the commitments that they have.

Your lateness and your inability to handle your existing commitments make you a risk.

I Am Not Hungry

Arriving late means that your dream client isn’t that big of deal, or you would have been there early, anxiously awaiting your opportunity.

It indicates that no matter what you say about how important the dream client is to you and your company, you weren’t as hungry as the last salesperson who showed up early, desperate to make a first impression about who she is and what the dream client’s business means to her and her company.

Your first impression is made only once.

This Is Extended To Your Company

Arriving late indicates that you care more about yourself and your needs than you care about your dream client, that you have trouble keeping your commitments, that you are already overcommitted, and that you aren’t hungry for the opportunity. All of these negative meanings, all of which may in fact be false, are extended to your company.

You are your company.

If you have trouble keeping commitments, then by extension your company has trouble keeping its commitments. When your dream client has to determine whether or not you are a safe choice, when they work to resolve their concerns, your ability to keep your commitments large and small will be at the forefront of that analysis.


From time to time, everyone is late for an appointment. But being habitually late for appointments is a serious problem and one that present your dream clients with an impression of you that will cost you and your company business.


  1. Are you habitually late for appointments?

  2. Are you respectful of your dream client’s time?

  3. How do you feel when you have to wait for an appointment? How do you feel when you have to wait for an appointment while you have other pressing commitments?

  4. What does being habitually late say about you?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.

Read my interview with Tom Peters (Part One and Part Two).

Read my featured guest post on the Top Ten Sales blogs.

Read my monthly post on Sales Bloggers Union.

Get The Sales Blog iPhone App to read The Sales Blog and Twitter Feed on your iPhone.



  • Dan Waldschmidt

    hmmmmm….. I think you are on to something here.

    I find myself very tightly scheduled (usually down to the 15 minute segment) both for calls and in-person meetings. Well meaning prospects and/or customers would throw me off my schedule and the rest of the day would be blown up.

    Here is what I started to do:

    After each interaction I leave a slight buffer in my schedule to record any activity, plan next steps, and/or make up for over-spill….

    Seems to add value in a big way…

    Dan Waldschmidt
    ….an ordinary dude with an outrageous vision.

  • Brian Jeffrey

    In this day and age of cell phones, there is np excuse for a client or prospect not knowing that we are running late.

    I tell my salespeople, if you’re going to be late for an appointment, call before the appointed time and let the person know. In addition, when giving your new arrival time, add 10 minutes so that you come across under-promising and over delivering when you show up ‘early.’

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Brian! Even with cellular phones, we still have the underlying problem to deal with!

  • Todd Youngblood


    Your post was too gentle! With the rare exception for a real emergency or unusual traffic, being late is inexcusable. Habitual lateness is disrespectful, downright rude and unacceptable.

    When it does happen, use your cell phone to let the other party or parties know you’ll be late, give them and ETA and upon arrival deliver a fall-on-your-sword, sincere apology.


    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Hey Todd! Looking forward to meeting up in Atlanta! You may be right; I may have been too gentle!

  • Jeannette Seibly

    Anthony, great article.

    About a month ago I had this happen to me where the person was only two miles away. Didn’t call me or call the restaurant for directions! Simply turned around and drove back to his office.

    Here’s an article that will help sales people get into the “world of their potential clients.” When we schedule appointments, we expect sales people to show up! And, on time.

    “Would you allow 2 miles or 2 minutes to get in the way of your results?”

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for the comments, Jeanette. Your story demonstrates someone with a shocking lack of resourcefulness. Sad.

  • Braden West

    I tell my salespeople, if you’re going to be late for an appointment, call before the appointed time and let the person know. In addition, when giving your new arrival time, add 10 minutes so that you come across under-promising and over delivering when you show up ‘early.’

  • joetaxpayer

    I’m the guy that feels late if I am only 10 minutes early. I’d rather get there, and wait for the client to come out. My manager, on the other hand feels no such compulsion. After the second time he made me late, I no longer ride with him anywhere. When he joins me, I leave word with the receptionist to kindly deliver him to whatever room my meeting is in when he turns up.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Hey Joe! Thanks for the comments. As for your sales manager: OUCH! So much for leading by example. . . I’d do the same thing were I in your shoes–lest my sales manager cost me a deal.