How many times have you had a client come to you with a project that needs to get done immediately only to be waiting weeks after you submit a proposal and not hear from them.
There are a number of reasons clients stall on signing contracts, I'm going to cover the 2 most common ones and tell you how to combat them.
##1. It's a new company that's not clear on it's direction##
Dealing with start up companies or first time entrepreneurs can be frustrating. They change their minds like they do their socks and often times don't yet have a clear direction for their business. This presents serious problems when bidding on work with them as everything becomes a moving target. I've personally started several companies, woke up with a great idea, posted a contract and then completely changed my mind two days later..(sorry everyone who responded back then).
Vetting clients is the surest way to avoid wasting your time. Here's an example of what I might ask a client wanting an **Ecommerce Website Developed**.
* The due date for this project is June 20th if it slips past that date will there be any repercussions? (Find out if it's an arbitrary date or tied to a real business plan)
* Before this site what had you been using for your Ecommerce solution? (Find out if this is a new idea or an upgrade to an established one)
* Ask "If we could get it done earlier than your contract date would that be of any benefit?". (Again if it's tied to a real plan this will matter.)
Now the important part is listening to the answers. If they say getting it done earlier would be "great" don't just say ok, find out why. Everyone likes things done faster, you need to find out why it will benefit them. There's another advantage to this line of questioning, by gaining insight into their development and business plans you can scope out potential future work and ask about it.
##2. You weren't dealing with the decision maker##
If the person you are dealing with doesn't have purchasing authority how can you sell to them? Quite often in larger companies or government bodies someone will be asked to gather bids for a project. That someone will usually then present those contracts to the DM (decision maker) for approval. This is a bad scenario because you really don't know what the DM's real purchasing criteria are. Always start your client meetings by asking the person you're meeting with if they'll be the one signing off on your proposal. If not, find out if you can include that person in the meeting. If they won't, can't or you think it'll offend the contact you're meeting with do this. Ask the contact how the DM will be judging the contracts, if they say it's all in the RFP that's no good. You want to meet this person so here's what you do. Pick 2 or 3 parts of the RFP and dive into them with the most technical questions you can muster, you want to ask a question your contact can't or doesn't want to answer. Your aim is two fold here. Get more useful information about the project and meet the DM.
Here's an example. "So Mr. Contact the RFP says you want the public facing part of your website authored with Wordpress, is this correct?" Mr. Contact say yes. "Alright then, considering the database for your internal and public facing site are the same, what security protocols will you have in place to prevent accidental or malicious access to your private data?" Mr. Contact likely won't know the answer. He'll have to either pass you on to the DM or in a likelier scenario tell you that he will get the answer for you. If this happens dig deeper with something else, you want to make this a difficult question to answer and one that spawns even more along they way. Please make sure you are asking legitimate questions but ask enough that the DM must get involved or the contact person is too fearful to answer them for fear of the repercussions. The ultimate goal is gathering as much useful information as you can and getting a chance to meet the DM.