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I've been dealing with a potential client lately, and they are very slow with their correspondence and decision-making.

We've had several meetings going over my proposals, but they're delaying their decision citing that their internal discussions. I've been politely following up every two-three days, which they are responding positively but they're still not finalizing a deal.

It's been over a month and I want to let them know that if they are not going to commit to a decision (positive or negative) I'm going to move on to other clients. (I'm already talking to other clients.)

I don't want it to sound like an ultimatum or a marketing technique to create the feeling of scarcity. I just want them to understand that I cannot spend any more time waiting on this project.

How do I go about expressing the situation politely to force a decision out of the client?

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You don't need to be so polite. Business is business.

I'm not suggesting being rude by any means, but being forthright and upfront will serve you best. You pretty much have to provide an ultimatum. There's no way around it.

Here's how I would handle it....


For a gentle nudge......

Hi [Client],

I'd really love to get started on [project name].

Has there been any decision regarding confirmation to move forward? Are there more concerns you may still be deliberating?

Year's end often presents more work than my time will allow and I would love to ensure we're moving forward and I can dedicate my time to your project.

Thanks!

Essentially you start dropping hints that you're busy and they need to jump on the fact you are available. With every conversation try and insinuate that if they don't grab your time, it may not be available.


I'd love to get started! I'm concerned my window or opportunity to work on this may be drawing near.


Any progress with the signing of the contract? I need to schedule my available time and I'm unsure if I should factor in this project.


For a more definitive deadline....

Hi [Client],

This time of year often brings in a great deal of work for me. Often, much more than my time will allow. To this end, I need to pick and choose which projects I feel I can best serve.

I would truly enjoy the opportunity to work on [project name]. However, in order to sequester the time necessary to complete the project I need to confirm we are moving forward before [November XX, 2017]. Otherwise I'll need to move on to other opportunities.

I would be very happy to discuss concerns or answer any questions you may still be deliberating over. I really do want to work on [project name]. Unfortunately, I need to consider scheduling.

Thank you for your understanding.

With that... they either confirm by the date or you move on.

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As a rule of thumb, you should never "wait" for a client. Instead, only make binding offers which are time-limited (i.e. valid for two weeks or a Month) and keep talking with other clients. Also, if you know you have something else in the pipeline you know you´d rather do, put depending on availability on you offers.

There are some clients who ask for a quote and then keep talking for a year, so you could easily do several projects in between. If an offer is due to expire, you always have a reason to contact your client again an push for approval.

Also, I would encourage you not to invest too much unpaid time in the proposal-process. As a rule of thumb, I invest 1-2 days and if the clients needs further counseling for their decision-making, they have to pay it by the hour. Some just need to get the message that your time has value!

  • I prefer this answer to the accepted one, which to me comes across as pushy and no one wants to work with someone who is pushy. My quotes are valid for one month. Some companies just take ages to make a decision. Respect that, give them time. Finish each call with an agreed call back timescale. Even if that is in four weeks time. Do not badger them. They usually have other more pressing or important things to do. – PaulD Nov 18 '17 at 13:10

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