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Why Don’t Clients Make Decisions? Turn Hesitation Into Action

Uncover the reasons why clients avoid making decisions and learn strategies to guide them towards choices they feel good about.

Ever find yourself in a situation where you’ve offered your client some incredible advice?

Advice that’s so obvious it screams “Just do it!”

Yet, despite your best efforts, they remain indecisive, leaving you stuck in a never-ending limbo?

Believe me, I understand your frustration. How can you make progress and achieve your goals if your clients won’t make a decision?

But fear not! In this article, we’re diving deep into the mysteries of why clients don’t make decisions and, more importantly, I’ll share some tools to help you guide them towards choices they’ll genuinely embrace.

So, let’s unravel the secrets together and pave the way for confident and decisive action!

Table of Contents

Why don't clients make decisions?

Lack of interest

Sometimes, clients may not seem interested in your suggestions—because they’re not.

So, they avoid making a decision because they just don’t care enough.

But don’t worry, there are ways to change their minds and get them on board with your ideas. The key is to show them that your proposal is truly valuable and worth their time and effort.

(I mean really worth it.) 

You can do this by sharing persuasive evidence like:

  • success stories from satisfied customers
  • real-life examples of how your solution works
  • opportunities for them to see your product or service in action
  • visits to relevant locations
  • and data-driven information that proves your claims.

When you provide solid proof of the benefits they’ll gain and establish the trustworthiness of your solution, you’ll catch their attention and inspire them to take action.

Lack of information

Sometimes, your clients may not have all the information they need to make a decision.

It could be that they lack the necessary data or simply don’t have enough time to fully understand it.

If that’s the case, it’s essential for you to step in and provide the evidence they require.

Gather and present relevant data from both their side and yours, making it easier for them to analyze and evaluate. Your goal is to ensure that they have access to as much information as possible.

And if there’s any uncertainty, don’t hesitate to ask your client directly, “Do you feel like you have all the information you need to make a decision?”

By addressing this concern, you can assist them to move forward with confidence.

Too many options

Having too many options can leave your client feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to choose. As a result, they may end up delaying the decision-making process indefinitely.

To help them overcome this challenge, present a limited number of choices. I suggest offering no more than three options to consider:

  1. Preferred option: This is the recommended choice that aligns best with their needs and goals.
  2. Low risk/low reward option: A safe choice with moderate outcomes.
  3. High risk/high reward option: A more daring choice with the potential for greater rewards.

Presenting all the options at once, rather than one after the other, is key.

Research conducted by The Centre for Decision Sciences has shown that when options are presented together, individuals tend to be  more committed to their decisions when options are presented at once.

By simplifying the decision-making process and providing a manageable set of choices, you can guide your client towards making a confident and timely decision.

No urgency

Have you explained, or made it clear enough, why your client should act now, rather than later?

They may put off a decision because they didn’t realise there was any urgency or a deadline.

Don’t manufacture fake urgency. Like a carpet store that’s been going out of business since 2001. That just puts your client under pressure and more likely they’ll say no then make a rash decision.

Lack of engagement

Clients won’t make decisions if they’re disengaged and unresponsive. When that happens, it’s essential to take a moment and reflect on the situation. It’s possible that you may have unintentionally bored or frustrated them. However, don’t worry—we can turn things around!

To re-engage your clients, bring some (or more) enthusiasm into your interactions. Show them that you’re genuinely excited about working with them and helping them achieve their goals. Demonstrate your passion and expertise in a friendly and authentic manner.

Listen attentively to their concerns, needs, and preferences. Tailor your approach to align with their interests and objectives. By building a connection based on trust and mutual understanding, you can reignite their excitement and regain their trust.

Remember, enthusiasm is contagious. 

By sharing your genuine enthusiasm and commitment, you’ll inspire your clients to become more engaged and make decisions that move them closer to their desired outcomes.

So let’s inject some energy into your interactions and get them excited about collaborating with you!

Too many decision makers

When it comes to making decisions in a business-to-business (B2B) setting, it’s important to recognize that it’s not just one person calling the shots. A Gartner study found the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers. Each individual comes to the table with their own unique ideas and information gathered independently.

Navigating the dynamics of a decision-making group can be challenging. Conflicts may arise as people defend their differing points of view. However, there are strategies you can employ to help your client navigate this minefield and reach a consensus.

One effective approach is to provide valuable information that supports your client in making informed decisions. Share practical advice on what steps to take and offer guidance on how to execute those steps successfully. 

By equipping your client with the right knowledge and support, you can help them present and defend their recommendations to their internal stakeholders. That will facilitate smoother decision-making processes and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.

Remember, collaboration and understanding are key when dealing with group decision-making. By actively engaging with all stakeholders and providing the necessary information and support, you can contribute to a more cohesive decision-making process.

Coping with decision fatigue

Did you know that as humans, we make as many as 35,000 decisions in a single day? It’s no wonder that all that thinking and deciding can leave us feeling exhausted!

When we experience decision fatigue, it’s like being overwhelmed by too many choices. This can negatively impact both the quality and quantity of decisions we make.

Consider your client’s current situation. Are they dealing with a lot of demands and responsibilities? Try to simplify the decisions you’re asking them to make or possibly even postpone them if feasible. By reducing the number of choices they need to consider, you can alleviate some of the burden.

Another strategy is to establish routines that minimize the need for frequent decision-making. This can be achieved by creating structured processes or guidelines, reducing the number of decisions required or eliminating them altogether.

By being mindful of decision fatigue and implementing strategies to alleviate its effects, you can support your client in making better choices and preserve their mental energy for the most important decisions they face.

Remember, simplifying and streamlining decision-making processes can contribute to improved overall well-being and effectiveness.

Managing decision anxiety

It’s not uncommon for clients to feel anxious and hesitant when it comes to making significant decisions, especially those that McKinsey refers to as “big-bet decisions.” These are infrequent, high-risk choices that have the potential to shape the future of their company or business unit.

Given the potential consequences of these decisions going awry, it’s understandable that clients may worry about the outcome.

As their trusted advisor, you’re there to provide reassurance and support. Start by assuring your client that all the options you’ve presented are well-suited to their needs. Take the time to outline the advantages and disadvantages of each choice and emphasize the risk mitigation measures you have in place.

If practical, offer the possibility of reversing the decision if it doesn’t deliver the desired results.

Engage with their stakeholders and assist them in building and presenting a solid business case. Let your client know that you’re there every step of the way, offering guidance and support throughout the decision-making process.

By instilling confidence, addressing concerns, and actively supporting your client, you can help alleviate their anxiety and foster a sense of security in moving forward. Building trust and providing a supportive environment are essential ingredients for making informed and successful decisions.

How to move clients from thinking to doing

Navigating the path from client thinking to action is crucial for successful collaboration.

To help clients make decisions, you must gradually earn trust, respect client boundaries, practice patience, and address their pain points. 

Trust takes time. Don’t rush the process of building trust. Start with small requests and celebrate quick wins. These early victories lay the foundation for more significant decisions and foster stronger client relationships.

Don’t ask too often. Imagine repeatedly asking your client for favours. Every day it’s something new. At some point you will exhaust their goodwill. Instead, respect their boundaries and avoid taking advantage of their kindness. Building trust requires balance and ensuring your requests align with their interests. 

Practice patience. Avoid pressuring clients into making hasty decisions. A rushed approach signals desperation (or worse, commission breath) and undermines the goal of cultivating enduring relationships. Embrace patience and prioritize long-term benefits over quick wins.

“Commission breath is an expression used to describe a person who is so hungry for a sale; they will say or do anything to get it. They need a commission so badly that prospects can smell it on their breath a mile away. … They are more interested in the commission than the relationship.” ~ Liz Wendling

Address the pain. In The Persuasion Code, authors Morin and Renvoise identify three sources of pain.

  1. Financial pain. Refers to economic aspects like revenue loss, profitability or return on investment. Use evidence to reassure clients you’ve considered risks and made contingency plans.
  2. Strategic pain. Anything that may impact the delivery of products and services. Typical pains are poor quality, complaints, inefficiency, delays. Share information on historical performance, benchmarks, testimonials and industry analysis. It will help reduce fear of lack of control.
  3. Personal pain. Any negative impacts on your key contact’s personal life. Job insecurity, long working hours, stress are some emotions they might feel. How can your solution reduce, or even eliminate, these?

Explore each area and provide reassurance by demonstrating your understanding of risks, contingency plans, past performance, benchmarks, testimonials, and industry analysis.

What if I don’t have time to wait for a decision?

In time-sensitive business scenarios, waiting for client decisions can hinder progress and impact outcomes.

If you’re faced with a client who continuously stalls on making critical choices, you must take proactive steps.

  1. Clearly communicate the time sensitive nature. Begin by clearly conveying the urgency and time constraints associated with the decision at hand. Articulate the potential consequences of delay, emphasizing the impact on project timelines, deliverables, and overall success. By setting clear expectations and highlighting the urgency, you create a sense of importance and encourage your client to prioritize the decision.
  2. Address concerns and hesitations. Identify any concerns or hesitations that may be causing the client’s hesitation. Take the time to listen to their perspectives. Provide additional information, data, or testimonials to address their doubts and build trust in the decision-making process. Reassure them that their concerns are valid and that you are there to support them throughout.
  3. Explore compromises and alternative solutions. When it’s a race against the clock, it may be necessary to explore compromises or alternative solutions that can speed up the decision-making process without sacrificing quality or outcomes. Collaborate with your client to identify creative options that meet their core objectives while respecting the urgency of the situation. By presenting viable alternatives, you can help them get to “yes” faster.
  4. Offer assistance and resources. Demonstrate your commitment to their success by offering your assistance and providing any necessary resources. This may include arranging meetings, connecting them with relevant stakeholders, or providing additional data or insights. By actively supporting them in the decision-making process, you share the load and make the path to a timely resolution more efficient.
  5. Maintain professionalism and collaboration. Throughout the process, it is essential to maintain professionalism and a collaborative approach (even if you want to scream at them to hurry up). Avoid applying excessive pressure or creating a sense of urgency that feels forced. Instead, focus on fostering open dialogue, mutual understanding, and a shared commitment to achieving the desired outcomes. By maintaining a positive and collaborative atmosphere, you can navigate the time constraints while preserving your relationship.
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