Sometimes the people we find most enjoyable to deal with can be the most frustrating — that is, if we’re trying to get them to make a decision. Those of us in fundraising and in sales know this experience well. We establish a wonderful, warm relationship with a prospect. We build rapport over time. We gain trust. They seem to look forward to our calls or visits. Eventually we earn the right to ask for the order, or the gift, so we ask. And in return for all our work, we get — indecision. Vacillation. The sound of crickets.
The problem is, some of our most warm-hearted, most relational prospects seem to have a terrible time making a decision!
Why does this phenomenon happen? Why do some of the nicest people we deal with turn out to be the most indecisive? Seems to me there are a couple of common reasons. Maybe we haven’t given them enough information. Maybe we haven’t given them enough time. Or maybe — just maybe — they don’t want to hurt our feelings.
Whatever the reason, when this happens, you and I are in a bit of a dilemma. Push too hard for the order or the gift and we run the risk of alienating the prospect. But if we tread too lightly in the interest of maintaining the relationship, we remain in a state of indecision and paralysis. If we’re intent on closing the sale or getting the gift, it’s incumbent on us to figure out what’s going on. The best way to do that, as we know, is to ask.
Maybe our obvious first question could be a simple one: “Have I given you enough information?” Chances are we have, but it’s good to double check. Pinning down any missing data might help us get the conversation off dead center.
The second question, about whether they need more time, is trickier. If we ask, “Have I given you enough time?” they may say “No” just to keep on delaying. It’s probably better to pin down a specific time when we can ask again. We might say, “Will there be a better time soon when we can talk about this again?” Or “I understand if you’re not sure right now. How about if we talk about this again next Tuesday?” Our goal is closure, and this might help.
But I’ll bet you a dollar (just a figure of speech…) that the real problem with the indecisive prospect is quite likely that they don’t want to hurt our feelings by turning down our proposal. If we suspect that’s what’s going on, we can make it easier for them to be honest with us. If the trust level in the relationship is as high as we think it is, it should be fairly simple for us to have an honest conversation that can put them at ease. Let them know they can be straightforward with us. Let them know we appreciate the relationship very much. And let them know that it’s okay if the answer is “No” or if our proposal was somehow off target. Hopefully our honesty will defuse the tension our relational prospect is feeling and open the door to continued conversation, and maybe a positive decision down the line.
Note to self: when I have a highly relational prospect who can’t make a decision, I owe them the gift of honesty. They’ll thank me for it — and we’ll keep the relationship alive and productive. Maybe they just like me too much to say “No!”