Home > Closing > Turning wishy washy idea stealers into closed sales. help!

Turning wishy washy idea stealers into closed sales. help!

Maybe my subject line sounds negative, but I have to break out of this problem. I have a horrendous problem with potential clients sucking the life out of me asking question after question for months. They email me. They call me. They call me at inappropriate hours of the day. I ASK POINTEDLY for a down payment to get their project started, and yet it rarely comes.

The clients I have been able to secure seem to suck my brain out and then leave me feeling used. They get much more time and product than they were meant to and I end up shorted.

HOW do you handle clients like this? Am I doing something to them that says, "hey, use me, I don't mind?"

I have two clients on the line right now. One has been dragging his feet for 6 months on this project. Now he decides it is urgen to get started, so he is emailing me night and day about what he wants. I have said 3 times in this last week that he needs to send his down payment before we begin anything. He said, "how is half now and half when complete?" I said, "Great". But it never came and he is still telling me more details about what he wants out of his project.

The second client nearly shafted me by stealing my ideas and an inside person at their company tried to sell themselves as my replacement. Their management said, "no dice" to the thief and is forcing them to work with me again. I have provided two proposals. In between time, they also almost dumped me because someone offered them a FREE version of what I do. When that freebie turned out to be smoke, they came crawling back yet again asking me for ANOTHER proposal. I gave them pricing yesterday. They haven't responded. What is my next step?

I would like to know if I'm causing their behavior. What should I say to force them to act? Customers generally love working with me and think I'm sweet as pie ---- but I'd rather they paid me and think I"m sweet as pie!

I'm between a rock and hard place for cash - so I have to solve this dilemma. Can you suggest anything please?

PS: I no longer give customers any IDEAS which they can steal from me prior to getting down payments. - by LM-2008
They've got you by the tail it sounds like. How does that happen? You ask the question if you are causing it to happen. Go into that question: how could you be causing it to happen? What are you doing or not doing to cause it to happen? In other situations outside your business do you find the same thing happening? If so, what's the reason - what's the similarity? How have you resolved these situations in the past in business and other situations.

Do a little soul searching for starters.

MitchM - by MitchM
Very good recommendation. I do have to do some soul searching and introspection.

Right now, however, I'm too bruised to do it. Just got a call from client #2 and they've hired another firm. They explained all the details and it really rankles me. Supposedly the other firm promised them FREE service forever after the project is complete. No one can do that. Give me a break. The other firm also sells template based work. I explained that I was extremely disappointed. I explained that as a small business person I couldn't make up all the many months and hours they took from me. I said I wished their chosen company would give them a competant job and she said she wasn't sure they would, but that the higher powers made the decision. She seemed sorry, but I'm the one who is really sorry. No more of these shenanigans. I'm contemplating charging all new prospects a $200 consultation fee before they get any proposal or pricing etc.

I sent customer number 1 an email saying basically let's get started now. Deposit $xxxx today via check or paypal today. End of email.

What a crappy ending to client #2. But you know, they did admit to me that they couldn't keep employees for more than 3 - 4 years max. Gee, I wonder why? *sigh* - by LM-2008
Servicebiz to prevent this from happening again my suggestion is to set up standard operating procedures which include what or how much time/work is allowed prior to a deposit.

You've already sent the email requesting payment for the remaining deal so there's not much left to do but see how they respond.

Best of luck. - by Houston
Thank you for your thoughts.

Yes, I think somehow I need to be more strict in the first stages of discussion.

Somehow they need to be made aware that I'll give them a basic estimate for no charge. But any details or further information or proposal (and most certainly mockups!) will require their buy-in with money down within a specified amount of time. How does one word that without scaring away honest clients?

One thing I must admit, if I was not hard pressed for money I would not even give the time of day to some of these thieving people. Somehow I have to get the cash flow going so that I can be more selective.

And yes, in my personal life, I think I have been a doormat. So I guess I'm being a doormat to these people too. Somehow I must word things to make it clear I won't put up with ill behaved clients without scaring off the honest ones. - by LM-2008
And yes, in my personal life, I think I have been a doormat. So I guess I'm being a doormat to these people too
Hi Servicebiz, its great how you know the answer already ;bg

I empathise - knowing how to stop giving great stuff away for free is something I've been working on. An example, a few weeks ago, I started recording a series of audio testimonials for a local client. After the first one was in the bag and edited, she called to tell me she had x y and z problems and would have to shelve the project.

Its taken me about 3 weeks to put an invoice in the post for the work already done which goes to show how difficult I still find it to value my time. And it's getting better - a week ago, I put a full price on a couple of event feedback recordings that a client was clearly hoping for some kind of contra-deal on.

Every time I strike a blow for respecting my value, it feels good - and healthy AND it's still a challenge sometimes! - by Sam Deeks
Thank you for your thoughts.

Yes, I think somehow I need to be more strict in the first stages of discussion.

Somehow they need to be made aware that I'll give them a basic estimate for no charge. But any details or further information or proposal (and most certainly mockups!) will require their buy-in with money down within a specified amount of time. How does one word that without scaring away honest clients?

One thing I must admit, if I was not hard pressed for money I would not even give the time of day to some of these thieving people. Somehow I have to get the cash flow going so that I can be more selective.

And yes, in my personal life, I think I have been a doormat. So I guess I'm being a doormat to these people too. Somehow I must word things to make it clear I won't put up with ill behaved clients without scaring off the honest ones.
S.b., is there anyway you can explain (preferably in writing) to prospects up front how your prospects can hire you? In doing so, you can teach your prospects about the process they need to follow if they want to work with you. Then you just have to follow your process yourself, and if someone tries to get free work without a deposit or a signed agreement or whatever, you have to be assertive enough to put the brakes on the whole thing.

I don't understand your entire situation, but I see in your profile you're a graphic designer. So I'm making some assumptions about your situation, but I may not be completely accurate.;sm

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
Thank you for your further thoughts and comments. It helps to hear others have had trouble valuing their time and billing for it when clients try to turn invisible.

I would have replied sooner, but I didn't realize there were more comments on this thread. I'll have to see if my settings are correct for email notifications in the forum.

I am having further difficulty with one of the original clients I've described. The owner of the company was referred to me by someone we both know quite well. Since my posts here, I have had many conversations both on the phone and by email with the company owner. He has promised, a minimum of 5 times, that he is sending his downpayment by a specific date. Each time the check never arrives and he makes a new promise. I thought possibly he was unable to come up with 50% down payment, so I offered to accept 25% down just so we could get started properly. He wrote back and said, "No, the original deal is fine with me. I'll have the check out on Friday." Still, no check. So I left three voicemail messages last week - two of which did not ask about money but merely for content for his project. The third message I left asked for content AND mentioned that his check hadn't arrived and maybe we could double check the address he was using for me. No reply. Now he seems to be hiding from me. Won't answer my calls. Won't call back. Won't email. The person who referred him is very embarrassed and tried to go visit the company owner. The owner hid from him - even though he was in the office. This is very confusing for me. Why doesn't he just say, "I can't do it right now." or "I have changed my mind." He's not exactly a mild mannered person. He's a very "in your face" type of guy. I'm the shy one - and he's hiding from me?

What, if anything, do I say at this point? Do I leave one last voicemail asking, "have I offended you?" or "I get the idea you're no longer interested in the project, could you please confirm so that I don't spend any more time on it?"

I am concerned, obviously. I did draw out clear terms to him. He verbally accepted - numerous times. I gave him the opportunity to leave, numerous times. However, he keeps choosing to say, "the check is in the mail" rather than telling me whatever the truth might be.

What is my next / last step here? - by LM-2008
Thank you for your further thoughts and comments. It helps to hear others have had trouble valuing their time and billing for it when clients try to turn invisible.

I would have replied sooner, but I didn't realize there were more comments on this thread. I'll have to see if my settings are correct for email notifications in the forum.

I am having further difficulty with one of the original clients I've described. The owner of the company was referred to me by someone we both know quite well. Since my posts here, I have had many conversations both on the phone and by email with the company owner. He has promised, a minimum of 5 times, that he is sending his downpayment by a specific date. Each time the check never arrives and he makes a new promise. I thought possibly he was unable to come up with 50% down payment, so I offered to accept 25% down just so we could get started properly. He wrote back and said, "No, the original deal is fine with me. I'll have the check out on Friday." Still, no check. So I left three voicemail messages last week - two of which did not ask about money but merely for content for his project. The third message I left asked for content AND mentioned that his check hadn't arrived and maybe we could double check the address he was using for me. No reply. Now he seems to be hiding from me. Won't answer my calls. Won't call back. Won't email. The person who referred him is very embarrassed and tried to go visit the company owner. The owner hid from him - even though he was in the office. This is very confusing for me. Why doesn't he just say, "I can't do it right now." or "I have changed my mind." He's not exactly a mild mannered person. He's a very "in your face" type of guy. I'm the shy one - and he's hiding from me?

What, if anything, do I say at this point? Do I leave one last voicemail asking, "have I offended you?" or "I get the idea you're no longer interested in the project, could you please confirm so that I don't spend any more time on it?"

I am concerned, obviously. I did draw out clear terms to him. He verbally accepted - numerous times. I gave him the opportunity to leave, numerous times. However, he keeps choosing to say, "the check is in the mail" rather than telling me whatever the truth might be.

What is my next / last step here?
It sounds to me like you've reached the point that you need to bring this to closure, by your own actions if your prospect isn't going to do it.

I would suggest that you consider writing him one final letter, a brief one, asking for his down payment. I would recommend against the "have I offended you" discussion, because he isn't likely to respond to that anyway. In simple, business-like terms, ask for the down payment by such-and-such a date, and tell him that if you don't receive it, you will understand that he's no longer interested in the project.

Leave it at that, short and sweet, and see what happens. If he doesn't respond, let go of it and move on. If he does respond, then you need to have a serious discussion about your business relationship before you do work for him, in my opinion.

Again, I probably don't understand all the particulars of your situation, but there certainly reaches a time when you have to make a decision for yourself, even if you want/need the business very badly.

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
You have an expectation to earn a living. What do your clients expect?

Also - do you have enough prospects? If you do, you can afford to be selective and basically ignore those who will not follow through with a commitment. That doe snot mean be ignorant ... what it means is you simply notify them that you are busy with clients, that your schedule fills quickly based on commitments you already have, and if they cannot make a commitment you will not have time for them now or in the future!

This is like the takeaway close.

The sole searching recommended above will undoubtedly lead you to the question; when should I close. The answer "too soon and too often" is better than a pattern of none-ending question answering, much better. Using lines like; "Once you become a client I will be able to provide you with that and much more too" will lead to an "on or off the pot" decision, turn the question into a close instead of answering it!!!

Another variation is; "I beleive I have answered enough questions n ow that you are aware that I can help, otherwise you would not still be asking them. <do not pause and add the above> Once you become a client I will be able to provide you with that and much more too!" And, a no is great, as you are free to prospect for paying blood suckers instead of the non-paying kind ... LOL.

Best of luck. - by Gold Calling
Thank you, Skip. I'm going to word it as you suggested. I'll let you know what, if anything, happens. This contact with this client is my last attempt to stay in my current business.

I do have a new venture in mind. In it, someone else will provide new client leads and handle most new sales. That person is experienced in sales and already has an extensive network with the exact clients I need to sign up. We are trading her sales for services I provide. And, since the sales person is a relative of mine (and we have a clear agreement) I think this will work out to both of our advantage. I am clearly not cut out for handling all aspects of sales and production on my own. - by LM-2008
Thanks Gold Calling. Your post really makes me think. You've clearly given me statements that will be perfect for weeding out this problem. Thank you VERY much. - by LM-2008
All,

Just FYI, the service you're providing through this site has been more helpful than the help I received through S.C.O.R.E. The response I was given from a SCORE counselor was contained in one sentence, "This happens in business."

So thank you all, here at Sales Practice, for supplying more in-depth replies and help. It really makes a difference to my future. - by LM-2008
After one final drive to the post office to see if his payment arrived - and finding nothing there - I sent the following with return receipt request via email. It doesn't get much shorter and more to the point than this.

Hello (name),


In order to proceed with your project, I need to receive
your 50-percent down payment of $x,xxx by Wednesday December
19, 2007.

If I do not receive your payment, I will understand that you're no longer interested in the project.

Best regards, - by LM-2008
After one final drive to the post office to see if his payment arrived - and finding nothing there - I sent the following with return receipt request via email. It doesn't get much shorter and more to the point than this.

Hello (name),


In order to proceed with your project, I need to receive
your 50-percent down payment of $x,xxx by Wednesday December
19, 2007.

If I do not receive your payment, I will understand that you're no longer interested in the project.

Best regards,
Excellent. If it works, great. If not, at least you can emotionally let go of it and concentrate your mental energies elsewhere.

It sounds like you have a workable plan for the future of selling in your company. That's great. - by Skip Anderson
If I do not receive your payment, I will understand that you're no longer interested in the project.
From a standpoint of dropping a time waster this is okay I guess but it is not selling. Again, my next comments would assume that you were not caught in a position that you were basically answering questions for free that are part of your service, which appears is what happened, but I will say it anyway;

Instead ...

If there is some reason why you cannot proceed at this time, it would be helpful for me to understand why. One way or another, please let me know how you intend to proceed.
Of course, it would be better to be face to face but ... !?! - by Gold Calling
Thank you, Gold Calling. I do like the diplomatic style of your reply. I can see where, for most customers, it would have been preferable . If he was located within my region, I would visit him in person. Many of my clients have been long distance (half way across the country), and this one is as well.

I looked up some of the recent conversations (phone and email) and I see that on November 30 he asked me if I could provide one aspect of his project free of charge. His reason: he'd already contracted with a local woman to provide the service and although he'd rather use my work because it is professional vs the home-spun flavor he would receive from the other party. When I said I could not do the work for free, but I could change his billing so that portion would come in 6 months, after he'd been receiving plenty of sales, he replied: "no, that's okay, I'll pay you, I haven't given "her" any money and I'll just skip paying her." My radar went crazy at that statement.

On December 5th when his check didn't arrive (again) I offered to accept 25% down instead of 50%. I also offered to accept credit card payment so that he'd have effectively financed his venture. Again, he said, "no, the original plan is fine. How about I send the check today?" No check arrived.

He has not replied to yesterday's email.

I asked the person who referred him for an opinion. His thought was, this business man has several businesses running. He just bought a third brick and mortar venture. He may have been dreaming when he wanted to start this project with me. He may just be one of those who talks a good talk. Based on the above comment about not paying the small time local provider, I am less than hopeful. In fact, I think the project never was a project after all. - by LM-2008
Additionally, there is a quote from the book, "The Science of Getting Rich" which reads:

He must give to every person a use value in excess of the cash value he receives, so that each transaction makes for more life, and he must hold the advancing thought so that the impression of increase will be communicated to all with whom he comes into contact.
I'll continue to try to give more to my subcontractors, to my clients, to everyone I deal with, so that they can support themselves reasonably. I'll continue to try not to undercut and undervalue. From reading that book, one thing I've realized is that unless you give fair compensation and respect, you'll never be rich. So I'll come away from this experience having learned signs and signals to watch for.

This morning I have more peace in my heart than I have for the last several months. I've been thinking about the two last experiences as I've described here. If I had taken on the first one, I would have been busy, round the clock, through mid-March. Now that I have lost that contract, after my initial disappointment and panic, I have finally realized that it would have taken all my time away from this new venture which needs to be in place by mid January. I received a call from my relative outlining aspects of this which need to be nailed down sooner rather than later in order to be the most successful with several clients who are already anxious to become involved. So that was a blessing to lose that particular project. And really, it is the same with this one, today. I have been spinning my wheels on fruitless efforts when I could have been spending all my time on my new venture. So I am glad to be done. I am glad to have created closure for myself. I didn't think I would feel that way, but I feel like I'm light as a feather and ready to focus on my venture now. :) - by LM-2008
Many in service related businesses report the same. Clients who really are abusing their consulting service.

One must have enough prospects and clients where you can comfortably FIRE A CLIENT or turn down a job/contract. Otherwise you feel a bit like a slave.

Great expereince for you servicebiz ...

As your expereince grows and you get former about your services, prices and minimum deposits, you will find these type respect you more. Even then, do you really want 'em for clients?

If your spider sense was tingling, you knew right then that this was a poor prospect. Replace them. You will have less hassle later on because even if you got them as a client they would ride you into the desert away from the water (so to speak).

I think there is a far more important question. How do you find your prospects? Since they are at great distances I am led to believe it may be online (or else you would just prospect locally). If this is true, we can eliminate many of your problems by recognizing that those searching for what you provide are entertaining your competition. Meaning you are asking for problems.

I am not saying stop advertising. I am saying work in more prospecting, less results from the Internet or yellow Pages. You will be more profitable and have less challenges, trust me. - by Gold Calling
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