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April 30, 2019

Losing clients? Here’s what to do when that happens…

Admit it… you’re losing clients occasionally. Not a happy topic, but it happens to all of us. The question is ‘why?’

On the surface, there are any number of reasons:

  • You screwed up a project… it hurts, but sometimes it happens.
  • You pi**ed-off a key client contact… not intentionally, but communications can go awry.
  • There was a massive change in the client’s business… e.g. they restructured the division you were working with, they were acquired or maybe they even closed their doors for good.
  • One of your competitors showed up with a “shiny new penny”… a new methodology or a new technology that had a ‘wow’ factor.
  • A new ‘leader’ was hired at the client, bringing his/her own favorite vendors along.
  • The project ended. Not all client work can be recurring or happen on a frequent basis.

Every one of those reasons is real and legitimate, but none are the most common.

The #1 reason you’re losing clients is that they stop hearing from you between projects. You get busy or – because you do good work – you assume they’ll come back (a.k.a. arrogance) so you don’t reach out to them. And during that period of ‘radio silence’… your competitor shows up, gets in your client’s ear (and head) and takes them away from you. They’re communicating with your client… and you’re not.

How can you keep it from happening?

The answer is simple… but it’s not necessarily easy. You need to develop the discipline of frequent and consistent communications through a variety of channels. This could (and should) include:

  • Making sure they’re on your enewsletter list (an enewsletter that gets sent out frequently)
  • Being active on social media so they see you regularly on LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Sharing interesting articles you come across
  • Sending them birthday cards (or work anniversary or new baby, etc.)
  • Inviting them to connect when you’re both at the same conference
  • Picking up the phone and simply talking with them
  • If they’re in your city, meeting them occasionally for coffee or drinks
  • Hosting a lunch-n-learn for their team
  • Going on a ‘city blitz’… i.e. blocking off several days, traveling to a city and over the course of those days, meeting in-person with as many ex-clients/current clients/prospects as possible.

There are plenty of other things you can do to a) get to that top-of-mind position with your clients and b) stay there. You just have to do them!

How should you respond to losing clients?

So, assuming you’ve lost some clients – and we all have – what can you do about it when it does happen?

Most importantly, don’t assume that they’re dead and gone forever. Pick up the phone and find out. If it’s been a while since you’ve swapped phone calls, things may have changed. Maybe a lot. New people, new types of projects, new suppliers, etc. So, go on a fact-finding mission. Don’t call to sell, call to learn.

First, find out who’s there now.

  • If your former contact is still there… great! Who else do they work with now?
  • If they’re gone… who replaced him or her?
  • If they’re gone… where to? Later on, reach out to them at their new employer.

Ask about your company… What did you do/not do that caused them to go elsewhere? What could you have done better? What can you do to earn another opportunity?

Ask about their current suppler. Why were they chosen? What do they do right/wrong?

What’s happening with the project work you used to do for them… are they still doing the same kinds of projects? With the same frequency? Any new types?

Once you’ve reconnected… make sure your contacts are entered in your CRM/database. Then, begin employing those things included in the information above… enewsletters, social media, morning coffee, and so on.

By the way, this same kind of thinking and activity applies to past sales prospects you haven’t heard from in a while, too… especially those for whom you submitted a proposal but didn’t win.

Getting started.

So, how do you get started reconnecting with past client and prospects?

Start by digging around in your CRM/sales database/files. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you might have 50-100-200 firms or more that fall into this category. Don’t reach out all at once… spread your efforts out in waves – it’s a lot easier to manage.

And remember this… unlike a brand new prospect, these former clients & prospects already know about you and your firm, already know what you’re good at and already have some sense of what you’re like to work with. That history makes it a lot easier to reconnect with them, rather than trying to establish a brand new relationship with that new prospect.

So, before you give up on past contacts, make sure you’re allocating some of your time every week to reaching out… reconnecting… and rekindling!

Good luck and good selling!

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