EP 10 - How to push along a decision

You’ve received a tender, priced it, met the client and negotiated your best and final offer – it’s now gone quiet. Don’t worry, this happens far more frequently than it should, and clients rest on their laurels that you’ll be there for them when they need to make a snap decision and ask you to start yesterday.

This shouldn’t be how procurement is done, and clients shouldn’t expect you to drop everything at the drop of a hat. Here I talk about how to push along a decision so you have ample time to get yourself set up for the project.


Clients have the propensity to dawdle when it comes to placing an order. This could be for a number of reasons, as getting a contract together can be a laborious task using traditional methods, and some just don’t understand the importance of giving their supply chain enough time to prepare themselves for a project.

So how can you get your client to make a decision so it reduces your risk commercially and give you the best possible chance of delivering the project to their requirements and expectations – let’s take a look.

Managing expectations of a client are really important, particularly at the pre-contract and tendering stages, so in your tender return documentation, you should state what your notice to commence requirements are. You should also draw attention to any long-lead items – this will give the client a clear understanding of when they need to place the order by, and you should also communicate this in your conversations with them.

Now you’ve communicated your notice and lead-in periods, here are some tactics to help move your client along:

  • Material increase: Clients are really sensitive to cost price increases, so with that being a key driver, keep them informed throughout the tender process and conversations of when the expected increases will come in and when you need the order by so they avoid the additional cost.
  • Lead in times: Lead in times and labour and material availability can alter significantly during unstable political and economic periods. Hence, you need to actively communicate any lead in changes with the client and identify the date they need to place their order with you.
  • Your availability and capacity: his is something you have total control over, and if the client is keen on you and your offer, you can use this to your advantage. Have an open discussion with the client about your capacity, as you have other projects and offers coming, but you’d really like to secure this one with them. However, if they can’t commit to an order or start date, you’ll have to take the other opportunities coming in. This may force their hand and place an order or letter of intent to give you some security over the project.

These tactics can help push along a decision, but I am an advocate of being transparent and calling it out. So you could say to the prospective client in your next conversation with them:

“Is something stopping you from making a decision today that I can help with? I want to help you where I can, but I also want enough time to get myself prepared and set up, so I can deliver the best possible project for you.”

By being direct, you’re cutting through any unnecessary back and forth, and as you’re offering your help to assist them, the client will likely respond and be upfront with the reason that’s stopping them.

Here are a few reasons that may be holding them back:

  • Design changes: Clients can be hesitant about issuing a contract with outdated drawings and may want to issue the latest construction issue drawings with the contract, so variations are picked up before you enter into contract. The reason for this is that as you’re looking to secure the works, the cost of these variations will be theoretically lower than they will be once you’re in contract. If this is the case, then discuss what the changes are and if there will be any impact at all - if it does change the quantity of your work, reassure them it can be valued easily using contract rates.
  • Price and budget: Are they waiting on a better price? If a client is struggling on budget, they will likely seek out a cheaper price - unfortunately, at the expense and compromise of the project. Sadly, you have little control over this, but you can be proactive at looking for alternative specifications, value engineering, and reviewing your costs. Be genuine about your advice, and as an expert in your field, you can always advise that if something does come in cheaper, that they have validated and analysed the other competitor’s offer to make sure it’s like for like with yours.
  • Time: Unfortunately, you’re limited in what you can help with when it comes to the client’s timing and priorities. Once you understand the date they’re looking to start the works, all you can do is give them the heads up on the date your business needs the order by, and communicate any impacts that could change this date.

The Takeaway:

Subcontractors need to be proactive in helping the client get to a decision, but also subtly push back to protect themselves.

There are some tips and tricks to help move the client closer to order, but an open discussion about what’s stopping them from placing the order will be the most genuine and efficient way to closing out the deal.