How To Close The Sale With A Hesitant Prospect Who Has Been Burned

Learn four simple things you can do to move a prospective client from unsure and hesitant to confident and excited to get started.

Close Sales With Hesitant Clients

Client horror stories. If you’ve been freelancing for any length of time, there’s a high probability you’ve spoken with a prospective client who regaled you with a horror story about their past web designer or web developer. At times, it may even seem like every potential client has been burned in some way or has had a conflict with a previous service provider that has left them jaded, nervous, and hesitant.

While a prospective client’s previous experiences have nothing to do with you, and you should never discount your fees just because someone else failed to deliver, listening, showing empathy, and working to alleviate their fears can help you close the sale.

Once a client has been burned and either lost money or felt like they were mistreated, they often become skeptical about every other freelancer they speak with. This skepticism creates a whole new dynamic in the sales process because what normally works to close a new client doesn’t necessarily work in this situation.

Closing The Sale With A Hesitant Client

There are four simple things you can do to move a prospective client from unsure and hesitant to confident and excited to get started — and they all revolve around lowering the commitment level and making it easier to say yes.

1. A Single Block Of Hours

Instead of requiring a retainer agreement for a large number of hours, at a high price point, consider pitching a single block of hours or a short-term engagement. Offering the ability to invest in a single block of hours to test the waters eliminates potential risk.

  • Identify something important to the prospective client that needs to be done and the number of hours it will take (ideally in the 10-30 hour range).
  • Pitch a block of hours at a set fee and what you can get done for them in those hours.
  • When the hours are used up and the project is complete, the client can choose to continue or move on.

With this approach, the client has little risk, the commitment is low, and they don’t have to spend a huge amount of money. They also get to sample the partnership and see what it’s like working with you or your team.

2. A Month-To-Month Retainer

If a client is coming to you after investing tens of thousands of dollars on a website that’s basically a mess, they may not be ready to jump into a long-term contract. Instead, offer a month-to-month retainer package. With this approach, the client doesn’t have to make a large commitment, and they don’t have to worry about being locked into a relationship with someone they don’t know well yet.

Because a month-to-month retainer can be canceled at any time with 30 days’ notice, the client remains in control, which reduces objections and risk, and sets clients’ minds at ease.

3. A Trial Period

If you can tell a prospective client wants to hire you, but they’re holding back out of fear or uncertainty, consider offering a trial period. While a trial period is similar to an introductory block of hours, it typically lasts longer and is used to mitigate a different type of risk.

When a client isn’t sure about the number of hours they need or they’re worried about overspending, a 90-day trial period is a perfect answer.

  • During a 90-day trial period, each project or task is estimated upfront and approved before the work is done. All work, communication, and project management are meticulously tracked.
  • At the end of the trial period, review data points like the amount of work completed, amount of money spent, and the number of hours spent on project management, actual work, and admin tasks.
  • Create and deliver a report to the client that details the number of hours used each month, what tasks were completed, and how much money was spent. This report will provide a foundation for the establishment of a long-term retainer relationship.

4. A Technical Assessment

If a prospective client reaches out after a major negative event with their website — a crash, a hack, a loss of sales or money, broken features, or another problem — it’s highly likely they need immediate help.

These clients need specific problems solved before considering a long-term commitment.

Instead of turning them away because you require a retainer agreement or ongoing support agreement, consider pitching an initial technical assessment or website audit. A technical assessment is similar to a single block of hours or an introductory project but focused on identifying the solution for a specific problem.

With this approach:

  • You get paid for your time to identify the immediate website problems through a comprehensive review and audit.
  • The client get a report that outlines exactly what is wrong and a roadmap for the work that needs to be done to bring the website back to good working order.
  • The client can then choose to hire you to complete the work outlined in the report, or they can take the report and either do it themselves or hire someone else.

The benefit of beginning a client relationship with a technical assessment is that both of you get to see what it’s like working with each other before making a long-term commitment.

Empathy Creates More Opportunity

It’s critical to remember that clients don’t build websites for a living like you do. They don’t live, eat, sleep, and breathe the internet and digital business as you might, and they certainly don’t have your experience and expertise.

Clients have to rely on professionals like you to build, manage, and expand their websites. Often it feels like they’re throwing their money into a black hole they don’t understand, and when they have a bad experience, it just makes things worse. They become skeptical, nervous, hesitant, and even fearful. When they finally reach out to you, it presents a chance to step in, step up, and bring them back to a place of positivity.

There are five steps to help hesitant clients move forward:

  • Ease their burden and provide peace of mind and reassurance
  • Listen and show empathy for their situation
  • Guide them through the next steps with care and kindness
  • Share an option to take action with less risk
  • Demonstrate what partnering with a great service provider is like

If you can embrace these four service options outlined and help prospective clients move past their hesitancy to have a positive client experience, you will not only earn a loyal client but gain a valuable brand evangelist.