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Crumbs on the Trail: How to Handle Potential Clients Breadcrumbing You

You've probably heard the term "breadcrumbing" in business. It's when potential clients lead you on with the idea they'll give you work or team up with you but never seem to commit. They give just enough attention to keep you hopeful, yet real progress is always just out of reach. Mixing a little finesse with tact, assertiveness, confidence and smart plays is key. Let’s break down how you can effectively handle potential clients who are breadcrumbing you, or in other words, all talk and no action.



African American woman in a meeting getting breadcrumbed | Color Me Brand


Recognize the Signs of Breadcrumbing

Breadcrumbing usually means you're getting those random messages, fluffy promises, or a bunch of reasons why things can't move ahead right now. It's important to spot this kind of behavior early on. Is the client always pushing back your meetings? Are they dodgy when you try to nail down specifics? If that's happening, it's a pretty good sign they're leading you on without the intention of following through.


Set Clear Expectations

Once you suspect breadcrumbing, it's time to set clear expectations. Communicate your standard process for onboarding new clients, including timelines and what you require from them to move forward. This clarity can nudge a hesitant client towards action or, at the very least, reveal their true level of interest.


Keep Communication Professional and Direct

When following up with clients who have gone quiet, keep your communication professional. Politely remind them of previous discussions and deadlines. Ask direct questions about their intentions and next steps. This approach can often prompt a more definitive response.


Value Your Time

Your time matters, and you shouldn't waste it waiting on people who can't make up their minds. Let your potential clients know how long you're willing to wait for them to decide, and hold firm to that deadline. If they don't get back to you within that window, it's probably best to focus your energy on other opportunities.


Don’t Over-Invest

Limit the resources you allocate to clients who haven’t made a solid commitment. This includes time spent in meetings, proposals drafted, and any preliminary work provided. Over-investing can lead to frustration and wasted effort.


Offer a Final Opportunity

If a potential client keeps dragging things out, give them one last shot to make a decision. Let them know you're ready to work together, but can't run your business on maybes. Laying it out like that can often give them the nudge they need to commit.


Know When to Walk Away

There comes a point when it's best for your sanity and your business to walk away from a breadcrumber. If they are unable to commit after you’ve provided multiple opportunities and clear communication, it's likely they never will.


Reflect and Learn

Every time you run into breadcrumbing, it's a chance to get better at how you connect with clients. Think about any warning signs you might have overlooked and tweak how you decide who's a serious prospect down the line.


Breadcrumbing can be a let down, but these tactics help you remain in control of the situation. Protect your business by recognizing the signs and be bold enough to focus on clients who actually appreciate and value your time and services.

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