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How to Deal with a Client's Indecision

Catalina Butnaru - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 |

A Strange Inability to Decide

Straight and simple: a client's indecision can be a pain, especially when it keeps you from actually implementing a solution that would fit their needs, preferences and - yes - budget.

It is not necessarily the best thing to assume that decision making is purely an intellectual process. Decisions are important milestones for you and your client, but even when you have all the data you need, you will often find it is harder for your client to make up their mind, than you thought. When a client cannot decide on a design, there will frequently be a fine line between them suggesting that something can be slightly improved and suddenly realizing that everything needs to be changed (re-designed).

So how do you deal with that?

Josh
Photo by: Soundman

First - reaching a decision is a tricky thing to do. Decisions arise from a pretty intricate mix of personal preferences, feelings, expectations and outside influences, which are validated against actual resources, goals or measurable parameters. If you think your client suffers from a severe inability to decide, you may be wrong. In fact, he is going through a more elaborate process of figuring out what's the best balance between what he feels is right for him and what he obviously understands it could be a safe way to go.

Sometimes it can be distracting, figuring out things for a bit too long - on your client's side. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. The creation process involves lots of intermediate stages that seem to take forever. Help your client focus on the bigger picture and that will make your life easier too.

Know Your Client

Everybody is different. Everybody has something special about their personality that shines through what they do. This is more obvious with clients, that is - people with initiative, really passionate about their businesses, who usually have a story to tell, besides the main brief they give you. It is actually fascinating and inspiring to find out what's the story behind their business.

For the most part, it is up to you, how you communicate with your client and how you present things, if you make this precious discovery about your client's story and mindset with regard to their work in general, or not. From that you can easily narrow it down to what's truly essential and relevant for you, even before you start working on the project.

We found a pretty interesting article about various types of entrepreneurs. You may want to read it and think about how you can relate to each type of entrepreneur and if your style is complementary to their story, character and style of handling things. (see link - What Type of Entrepreneur Are You?)

Creative Organization

Write it down and act on it, that's a good thing to do. When we find ourselves stuck and wondering what to do next and we call it indecision. It's not that we don't know what to do or can't decide, it's just that - since we just sit on it, nothing will ever come out of that type of inertia.

Organization is clearly essential in any business related activity, even in our relationship with clients. But what one may find surprising and related to that is - although decision trees and action methods are pretty interesting - things don't really work that way. Concepts such as mind-maps, chart flows, structured action steps and so on can help you and make your life uncluttered and almost panic-free, when indecision strikes in. But in the end it all comes down to how you communicate with your client. Organization makes sense in words and as part of a continuous interaction with your client, who is going to validate that - yes! - you're on the same page.

organization desk
Photo by: Slimninja

If your client is undecided, you presentation style could really make him feel comfortable and help him see what you mean. Communication is not about sending out messages, it's about helping another person absorb new information in a way that is really useful. Therefore, the relationship you build around your project, with your client, must be determined by the way you communicate and click with one another. Make sure you are in sync with your client, so that you don't loose momentum. See why this is important in this article from 99Percent - The Art of Momentum

The Chemistry Behind Your Work

Rationality is still a decent model that approximates how people work with one another. We choose clients and our clients choose us based on a very simple price/value estimation from both sides. Then we make important discoveries like - although we may act very much like homo economicus, we actually work together better as partners or friends.

The bottom line is: how deep you and your client are willing to get involved in this project? You really need to figure out the answer to this question first, or else you may find that adjusting your lenses can be a bit too frustrating when your client thinks you should.

Ideally clients should find you and prefer you over other people or companies based on how attractive working with you really is. That is why presenting yourself and your work the right way will attract the right type of clients: the clients you do want to work with, the clients who can keep up with you and the clients that let you go as far as you think is necessary to come up with something really different for their business.

Endnote: Better understanding, communication, organization and chemistry: the building blocks of authentic work relationships, where indecision is not a burden, but an intermediate step between one milestone and another. Working with your clients indecision is a great skill that both your clients and yourself will get to appreciate in time! Share this article with your friends and let us know how you handle indecision in the comments below.

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