We’ve all been there. A prospective interior design client appears gung-ho to begin a project then suddenly cools, stalls or can’t make up their mind. More than frustrating, these indecisive clients can consume a considerable amount of your time and energy with potentially little or no payoff in the end. In such cases, you need to take the initiative and decide whether to hold on or cut them loose.
Prospects sometimes have legitimate reasons for not getting back to you right away. They may suddenly get busy or have to respond to an emergency. They may decide they want to shop around a bit more or do more research. Maybe they want to talk things over with a partner or family members. Or, they may want more time to assess the financial and logistical impacts of undertaking the project.
On the other hand, a prospect may not be as eager as they claim to be. A sure sign that you’re dealing with an indecisive client is that they are avoiding responding to your follow-up attempts. Other common tactics include:
- Stalling by requesting more information
- Trying to renegotiate terms
- Saying they need more time to think it over
When pressed, they may plead that they want to do the project with you but later on, maybe in a few months from now. Here are a few ways to handle these indecisive clients and close the deal!
How do you decide whether such a prospect is worth pursuing or closing the book on? Try to sound them out a bit more on their reasons for delaying the project. Offer them some alternatives and see if they respond to any of those or continue to make excuses. If they resist giving any reasonable explanation, hem and haw, or try to divert the conversation in another direction, you know you’ve hit a stalemate. This may show that they are not interested in finding a solution.
In your discussion with the prospect, look for clues that may reveal what’s really going on with them. Maybe, for whatever reason, they’re not really your type of client. In which case, it’s time to make a polite exit.
It could be that the prospect isn’t well-informed enough to make a decision, especially if they’ve never worked with an interior designer before. They may realize their budget is insufficient to achieve the result they want but are reluctant to say so. It may turn out that they are not the decision-maker, or need the approval of a third party. Or maybe they are being influenced by another individual.
Of course, every once in a while you may have come across someone who’s inherently indecisive or insecure about spending money. Worse, you may have run into a manipulator. They enjoy the feeling of having the upper hand in a negotiation. If you push them a bit, you’ll discover that they’re just fishing. They have no immediate plans to undertake the project, or they’re shopping around to see who will give them the lowest price. Avoid these people when possible, and know how to spot them.
Move forward or move on?
If after talking with the prospect you believe the project is viable, you can try to nudge them toward closing the sale. One approach is to act as though the project is more or less a done deal. Send a follow-up communication in which you express how much you are looking forward to working with the prospect. Remind them of how much better their home or business will be once the project is completed. Suggest a date/time to meet to finalize the sale and to discuss next steps. Be confident and positive. You just might rub off some of that positivity on the wishy-washy prospect. You may want to create a sense of urgency by notifying them that although you are currently available to take on their project, that could change if they are not ready to make a decision.
If you sense the indecisive client is feeling insecure, be understanding and reassuring. Let them know that they will have opportunities at each stage of the project to review and approve plans, purchases and decisions. Assure them you will address their concerns to their satisfaction. Point out that they are making an investment in their home or business that will add value and enhance its utility.
Some prospects will be working with a designer for the first time. Or they may have had a bad experience with a designer or contractor in the past. Arrange a meeting to review the design process with them and to answer any lingering questions they may have. You may also want to offer a one-time sweetener of some kind, such as a discount or guarantee, to reduce their sense of risk. Reiterate how much you value their business. Be prepared to put them in contact with some referrals so you can prove how trustworthy you are.
When you sense the client is not serious, cannot afford your services, is not a good fit, or is unable or unwilling to commit, it’s time to cut bait and move on. As politely as possible, explain your reasons why you feel this is not the right time to undertake their project. End on a positive note, but don’t waste any more time discussing or negotiating with the prospect. Time spent of them is time you could have sought out more clients, or worked on existing projects.
Whatever the outcome, always remember to trust in yourself. Not every prospect will value you and what you have to offer. Direct your efforts toward finding the kind of client who does.