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How to get a reply from your client

If you’re getting the cold shoulder from a client or customer, then you could try these tactics to get the conversation flowing again…

Dealing with clients and customers can often be an uphill struggle, as you try to meet their demands. But things can get a lot worse when the complaints or requests stop and suddenly there is radio silence. This is especially annoying when deadlines are approaching or payment is due.

Using nudge theory
Many of the tactics below are adaptations of this theory. Nudge theory plays on human behaviour that we’re not aware of. It involves subtly removing social barriers and making it easier for someone to do something.

It’s all about framing the choice not as a problem but as a positive decision.

A good example of it is the ‘If this…then that…’ email. It involves saying to a client, ‘if you can provide me with X, then I can go ahead and do Y’.

It provides them with an instant and measurable result for their actions. They’ll get something from getting in contact with you.

Other ways of using nudge theory include goal substitution. It could be that the reason someone is not replying to your email is that it’ll set off a chain of events causing them to have more work.

In your email, this could mean changing from ‘sign this off and we’ll be able to move onto the next stage’ to ‘sign this off and we can have the whole project completed with X days’. Here, the goal shifts from being another lot of work to finishing the project.

Finally, you could try the opting out option. Trying to get people to sign up to various public schemes has proven tough for governments. Instead, they automatically enrolled people and asked them to opt out. Pensions are a good example of this.

In your messages to clients, say that if you don’t hear back by a certain date you’ll be moving forward with the project, or leaving the project, or the deal will fall through.

Be clear in what you want
Going back to basics is another great way to get people to respond to your emails – and in this case it means simply laying out exactly what you need from them.

If you’re sending an email, make sure the subject line includes the information they need to know and what action needs to be taken. For example, ‘Contract renewal: decision needed this week’, or ‘One week left on quoted price’.

Once in the body of the email, ditch the pleasantries and get to the point using the ‘if that…then this…’ formula. Provide clear and possibly bolded deadlines and the outcomes if the deadline is met on time or not met.

For example, if payment is received by this date then we’ll provide a 5% discount, but if it’s late we’ll add 5% on the bill.

Simple phone call
When all else fails with electronic communication, you can resort to a simple phone call.

People are much more likely to make a decision if you pin them down over the phone. An email they can ignore – once you’ve got them on the phone it’s harder to do so.

Know your limits
It’s also worth knowing how long you’re willing to wait before you move on. At what point are you willing to walk away from the project or, if it’s payment, are you going to get legal advice?

Make this clear in your final email to them – ‘If we’ve not settled this by June 3rd, 2017 then the deal is off the table/you’ll be hearing from my lawyers/I can no longer continue on the project.’