How to part as friends

A couple nights ago I was speaking to a friend on the telephone. She told me a story about a consultant that won a big client, their dream client. This consultant had a good gig, but at some point the relationship was no longer beneficial to the client, and the client decided it was time to do something different. This meant parting ways with the consultant.

The consultant’s feelings were hurt. He had made a big deal out of serving this client on all of his social media sites, and for some reason he decided that he had to talk about losing his client on his social media sites as well. He spoke poorly of his former client and their decision to discontinue the relationships. More still, he had done so when he parted ways with other former clients.

This is poor form. You will part with clients over time, and it’s best to part of friends.

Why can’t we be friends?

There isn’t any reason to attack your past clients by name, in writing, especially on the Internet.

First, you don’t have any idea whether or not your past client’s needs are going to change. You also don’t know what you are going to makes changes to create more value for your clients in the future. Because what your client needs now is something different than the result that you can produce doesn’t mean that both of you might not be a good match for each other in the future.

Personally, I have lost clients who believed that someone else could perform better only to quickly win them back when it turned out that my competitor’s promises were empty. Had I made our parting unpleasant or spoken poorly about them in a visible way, I am certain that we would have done no future business together. And they would have been right not to give me back their business.

Second, and maybe more important, speaking poorly of your past clients is an advertisement to new your clients of exactly what they can expect from you when their engagement with you ends.

Your prospective clients are researching you on social media before they buy from you. A long line of posts about the fact that your client stopped using you, about how stupid that makes them, and about how clueless and doomed to fail they are without you, isn’t going to make anyone with any sense come beating a path to your doors. You are eliminating future business.

Most of us wouldn’t, but

Most of us would have some feelings about losing a big client, especially if we thought we were still creating value for them. But most of us wouldn’t think of publishing negative comments our clients anywhere, let alone our websites and our social media sites.

But there is a lot to be learned here.

It’s worth considering the fact that we have to continually bring value to our clients in order to deserve to keep their business.

It’s also worth thinking about how we part with clients when we do. Do we part as friends, always leaving the door open, with relationships intact, and with a possibility of working together in the future?

How to part professionally, and as friends

Instead of leaving under negative circumstances and with hurt feelings, what if you were to care as much about helping your client transition as you cared about them when you gained their business?

First, thank them for the opportunity to have worked for them. Review all that you accomplished together, and all that you learned while you worked together.

Then, thank them for their personal relationship and let them know that even if they are using your competitor, you look forward to a future opportunity to working with them, that their personal relationship is important to you.

If you don’t know why you lost their business, ask them to candidly and bluntly share with you the reasons you lost their business so that you can improve in the future.

Finally, ask if you can leave the door open to future opportunities to work together when and if their needs, and if and when what you do again becomes valuable to them.

Sometimes things don’t work. It happens in human relationships, and business relationships are no different. In all human relationships, it’s better if you can part as friends.

Questions

How do you ensure that you part as friends at the end of any client engagement?

Why is it important to part on the most professional of terms?

Have you ever lost a client only to regain them a short time later?

What do you have to do regarding your relationship with lost clients in order to gain a future opportunity?

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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