We've seen many fence-sitters over the last few years and you wonder what it is that is keeping them from moving forward?
You've given them a great presentation, you've shown your interest and attention, you have exhibited your professionalism and know-how. So, what is holding them back?
Well, it could be several things -- some perhaps your doing or undoing. Some are matters in your client's mind that may be directly related to the work at hand or things that tangentially affect the deal.
So exactly what's going on here? From Wikipedia:
"Sitting on the fence" is a common idiom used in English to describe a person's lack of decisiveness, neutrality or hesitance to choose between two sides in an argument or a competition, or inability to decide due to lack of courage.
In my experience here are the top reasons why a deal doesn't gel immediately.
CONFIDENCE: Either you did not make your case clear enough or exhibited some weakness in your capabilities -- which caused the client to lose confidence in you. If you don't exude confidence, your client will not have confidence to proceed with you.
THE FACTS: You may not have gotten a clear understanding of what the client has in mind and your regurgitation of the facts don't match up to what the client really wants done.
TIMING: You may have understood and repeated what the client wants done, but the timing is not right for him/her to proceed. Usually this is because they have an agenda and are just looking for preliminary information. Or it could have to do with selling other assets before proceeding.
SHOPPING AROUND: You may have done a swell job explaining how you can solve their problem but this could be their first rodeo and wish to hear from others and compare.
FINANCIAL ISSUES: Your client has big dreams and a small wallet or the timing is not perfect for them to execute. High rollers throw their money at different investments and need to wait until things pan out. It could be a new venture that sucks out available cash or their credit is hanging on a few deals.
TOTAL DREAMERS and the UNKNOWN: These folks can be difficult to uncover but most of the time you need to go through your normal procedure because you really don't know who is real and who is not. There are people looking to solve problems for others rather than themselves for example. Or they can be simply tire-kickers with huge egos that were never assuaged.
How to overcome the CONFIDENCE issue.
- You are either over your head or inexperienced with the particular variables. If you sense that this is the case you will have to bolster your credibility by presenting more solid credentials and show past achievement on similar projects or bring in an associate or superior to save the deal.
- Missing information: something is not clear to your client or missing in your resume. Try to find out what that is to show that you truly UNDERSTAND what they have in mind.
- This may have been a mismatch from the beginning. Are you out of your niche? Is it worth beating a round object into a square hole? Probably not. You might just wish to pass a referral on to a friend to save the deal.
- If a client doesn't have full confidence in your abilities then you may drop the ball yourself during the project and things can get disastrous. If you've stepped out of bounds, then reassess and refer to another professional.
- Selling until it works. Very difficult to push anyone to sign a contract who has doubts. While this may work in selling cars or appliances, it really doesn't do any good in service businesses.
Overcoming any FACT gap
- You may not realize that you don't have the facts straight. Pursue this line by asking for a summary of what the client wants done. Sometimes the issues change in their minds and further discussion offers different opportunities or routes to get to the goal post.
- Offer alternatives to see if the client has considered them. Again, this may reveal other facts that might have been hidden for a variety of reasons...
- Send them the summary as you see it to make sure the 'contract terms' logically follow. The client will let you know what might be missing. This move also helps to gain confidence but showing that you are thorough.
How to deal with Timing
- Nearly impossible. You are ready but they are not. You cannot work out their other issues that impinge on this deal. It would not behoove you to inquire. People only reveal what they want you to know and some issues are very personal. Don't dig around. Only if they mention something should you delicately attempt to find a remedy.
- Let's say they are ready but you are not. You may be so busy that you can barely handle their project. I have seen some people use the 'hard to get' bluff even to work very well for them. Sometimes people have had such a good referral or your marketing is so good that they will be willing to wait a bit for you to help them. In this case, at least meet with them to discuss what they have in mind. You may have a subordinate start with initial paperwork, etc.
Are they Shopping Around?
- This is not necessarily a bad thing, perhaps the gambit of a first-timer. Clients are not just fee and service conscious, they are people conscious. You may have shown perfect competence but maybe you both don't click. Maybe they simply want to hear another presentation and approach to see what is commonly done. This is not a deal-breaker. Keep following up and dig enough to find out what makes them click and deliver.
- Send them more information and verification of your abilities and professional background. Obviously they weren't impressed by something at the initial meeting. Try to figure out what that might be and address the issue.
How to help with Financial Issues
- A lot of people, especially first-time buyers, have no idea what they are capable of financing. Even after bankruptcies, and other debt issues, many people qualify for more than they think possible.
- Try to assess if it is a Timing or Finance issue that might be holding them back. Even those looking to upgrade may not realize how their credit history and assets, years in business, etc. affect their ability to handle much more than they assume.
- Generously refer your best mortgage contact to your clients to privately go over their financial situation and get a clear number from which to work a doable deal.
Can you uncover the Dreamers and deal with the Unknown?
- We can never assume that a potential client is real or not. You must go through the typical process until you can spot a logical or ethical gap that is the flashing red light.
- You cannot typecast people either. If it weren't illegal, it just seems that until proven insane, you should assume that everything is over the top and things will come to pass. The initial conversations and discussions about their goals and interests may be simple or over the top. The simple tend to be real; those who keep repeating themselves, are over boastful, name-drop, etc. are very likely dreamers who have some kind of personal agenda to feel successful and need the interest and attention of others. Unfortunate to identify after much time and BS has passed.
- There are people who seem detached and are in a coma. They may have just endured a terrible personal loss and simply going through the motions. Being polite and understanding will be a benefit. Their attitude and focus should strengthen with your help.
- You never know... Those who absolutely do not fit the profile (in your mind) are often as real as anyone else. They are bucking the stereotype and you should treat them as anyone else. You will be surprised that they will open up eventually, after gaining more of your confidence, and find what a great client you have!