You were thrilled to be invited to submit a proposal for a project that will bring in a good amount of billable hours wrapped in a most respectable fee structure. In the meeting with your prospective client, you asked all the right questions–
- Confirmation of the decision-maker, s/he who can green-light the project
- Details of the project timetable and deadline
- The approximate start date
- The value of the project outcomes and deliverables to the organization
- The project budget
You have every reason to believe that the project is legitimate and that there is organizational money and motive to get it done. You may have worked previously with this client and you relish the prospect of working with him/her again. Or, you’ve not worked with this client before and the project represents a step-up for you. You can’t wait to add this brand enhancing and validating client to your roster and you plan to do whatever it takes to exceed expectations and become a preferred vendor.
Because you met with the project advocate and decision-maker, your comprehensive and professionally presented proposal is essentially a confirmation of what was discussed and agreed upon. The deliverables and deadline are confirmed. Your proposed financials are within budget. You’ve submitted on time. You were told when the answer would be given.
But uh, oh, that date passed three weeks ago and you are now tense with worry. Where are they? You try sending a diplomatically written email, but receive no reply. A week later you call the project advocate and s/he has stopped answering the phone, regardless of when you call, early or late. In resignation you leave a voicemail and of course, there’s no reply to that, either.
Why do clients play these passive-aggressive games? What the hell are they made of? Here are some behind-the-scenes reasons that will let you see the other side and I hope, avoid feeling like a failure and a fool.
- There’s no answer yet
Just because your prospect told you that s/he is the decision-maker does not mean that s/he is the sole decision-maker. Group decisions are the norm. Your prospect is most likely one of three or four “decision-makers,” the one who is assigned to speak with all vendor candidates, or maybe just one or two. Alternatively, your prospect may be one of several team leaders who at the end of the month (or whenever) sit down and review all pending projects and discuss proposals received.
Depending on what is going on at the organization, the team leaders will agree to move forward on certain projects, delay one or two and put the remaining on hold. Your prospect may advocate for funding, but a project that is more urgent, or more favored by other team leaders, could overrule your prospect and kill your project. Your project advocate will speak with you only when a definitive answer can be given to you.
2. Waiting for a favored vendor
One of the group of decision-makers may have the power to push in a vendor candidate with whom s/he has worked previously (and who may have the inside track). That vendor candidate might be a late entry and no decision will be made until his/her bid is received and reviewed. One of the vendors might have a powerful friend on the decision-making team and that friend plans to push his/her preferred vendor candidate into the project (whether or not that vendor is the best qualified, or offers the most competitive price). Your prospective client is too busy politicking to speak with you. S/he would like to say yes, but a battle must first be won, s/he hopes.
3. Your decision-maker advocate has had an unexpected emergency
Things happen. An unexpected problem or opportunity may draw your advocate’s attention away from your project, which is no doubt #1 in your life, but is only one of many possibilities that exist in the constantly shifting landscape that is the new economy. Short-term priorities and putting out fires are the order of the day. Your prospective client is too busy to speak with you.
4. An unexpected loss of support
Second-guessing is practically an Olympic sport in organizations today. I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t take much to pour cold water on a project and reverse a decision that once earned the favor of the decision-making team. It could be that the heaviest heavyweight on the team, when all is said and done, does not feel that the project ROI is worth the investment of time, staff attention and money. Your advocate and perhaps others may believe in the project and they’re scrambling to keep it alive and included on this year’s calendar. Your project advocate is too embarrassed to talk; s/he feels humiliated and powerless.
5. Project funding may not yet be officially awarded, or has been lost
Your project advocate and prospective client may have spoken too soon about the availability of an adequate budget for the project. There could have been a last-minute decision to fund another project that is now perceived as more important by one or more of the decision-making team. Maybe a project that was previously put on hold will now be given the green light?
Your advocate must now 1.) Confirm if there will be available money in this fiscal year, or the next, and 2.) Confirm the amount of money that will be earmarked for your project. Your prospect is too frustrated to speak with you now; s/he has lost face.
6. Your proposal was used to get pricing info and to create a budget
Sometimes a Freelancer gets no respect and it’s a terrible thing. Prospects who are not ready to commit may nevertheless wonder how much it would cost to get a certain job done and so they’ll seek out a Freelancer or two and request a proposal. They ask Freelancers who they don’t know. Avoid sending a proposal to an unknown “prospect” who mysteriously sends you a Request For a Proposal The Unexpected RFP .
7. You were not awarded the project
Your proposal was not selected and the prospect who was not meant to be wants to avoid disappointing you.
Thanks for reading,