How to deal with procrastinating clients
About once a year, procrastinators start to get to me. My leads list becomes full of ditherers but I want to focus on the doers. So I’m ready to cull.
I’ve always been polite to potential clients who say they need to get X, Y and Z finished before they can start (aka procrastinators). I say, “Okay, so I should call you again in [insert date and time exactly three months away].” It’s funny: I’ve never even challenged them to get X, Y and Z done sooner or to put these tasks lower on the to-do list. Maybe I knew deep down they were just excuses.
This week I spoke to two people about dealing with procrastinators; one is my business coach and one is a client. I must state from the outset; neither is a procrastinator.
I asked what they say when they hear the words, “Yeah that sounds great. I’d like to get started in a few months when I get [insert business action] out of the way.”
The client I asked is as far from a procrastinator as you can get. Only a month after making contact with me, he was having his first development session, and now he’s on TV and radio. Everything I’ve asked him to do, he’s done. In fact, today he asked if I could give him an extra day in the week to get everything done (I told him that day was called Friday night!).
"There is never a perfect time to get started and in my experience, people who delay never get started."
When I asked how he handles procrastinators, he said he requests a straightforward yes or no; he’s too busy to be chasing people who should have said no. That’s playing it straight.
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My business coach has a really interesting way of dealing with procrastinators. When he encounters one, he asks them: “How has procrastination worked for you as a strategy in the past?” What a fantastic question. Then he says, “There is never a perfect time to get started and in my experience, people who delay never get started.”
I have a confession: he used that line on me. When we met I was having the busiest quarter in the life of my little business. My inclination was to wait for a perfect starting date. His comment worked and I signed on. In retrospect, having my business coach involved through that time was a plus, not a minus.
So I realise now that most procrastinators are decliners in disguise.
They’ve gone to the trouble of looking for a business solution; they’ve researched and found you or spoken to a referrer, taking up their time too. They’ve called and got you excited about the potential of working with them. And then they slink out of your life.
I recently asked a procrastinator to list the things he needed to get out of the way before he could commence. I thought that was strategic. I’ve got his list and can check on how it’s going. Now I’m thinking – he’s more likely to add to the list than to ever get started. He’s probably a procrastinator.
Next time someone says they’ll be ready in a few months, I’m going to ask how procrastination has worked for them as a strategy in the past; then I’m going to say there is no perfect time to start: would they like to commence now or say ‘no thank you’ instead?
How do you handle procrastinator clients?
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