“This isn’t working out.”
No matter who they’re coming from or what the context, those are four simple words no one wants to hear. At a minimum, they indicate that something is very wrong; more often than not, they signify the end of a relationship. And whether that relationship is with your high school crush or a long-term client, it hurts. In the case of losing a big customer, it can also be scary. You may be wondering what happened, what you did wrong. Or perhaps you already know.
So what do you do when a client tells you it’s over? Moreover, what if the fault is yours?
Take a Deep Breath
You’ve been dealt a blow. Allow yourself to grieve and catch your breath. It’s important to take a little time to gather your composure and regain your bearings so that you can assess the situation and act, not react.
Don’t Burn Bridges
Even if you feel hurt or angry over the circumstances surrounding your client’s exit, it’s important that you take the high road and remain civil at all times. Do not, under any circumstances, say or do anything that you may live to regret. Businesses are made of people, and people can make mistakes or change their minds. There are any number of reasons why a client may have decided to walk out; there are also a number of reasons why he or she may decide to come back. A client will remember your behavior when they left, whether it was good or whether it was bad. Leave the door open.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
Nothing feels worse than losing a client and not knowing why. Except, perhaps, knowing why. It can be uncomfortable to acknowledge your own role in the unraveling of a business relationship, but it’s vital that you do so. Try to be objective as you evaluate where things went awry and how they might have been handled differently. Did you fail to meet objectives? Was your client made to feel undervalued or frequently left guessing as to the status of his or her project with you? Take the time to consider where you may have come up short; armed with this knowledge, you can guard against making the same mistakes in the future.
Take Stock and Move Forward
Losing a client, no matter how big or how small, is hard. In addition to the emotional upheaval, there may be very some real ramifications to losing a client, particularly if that client made up a significant portion of your business. Although the temptation may be strong to hide out and lick your wounds for a while, resist. Now is the time to be proactive. Take a hard look at where things stand and how you might fill the void left by your client’s departure. Instead of hiding, hit the social media. Post on your Facebook Page, find some interesting things to tweet about. Make some calls – check in on existing clients, cold call new ones if you need to. Put one foot in front of the other in as many ways as you can think of. Being proactive will not only help your bottom line, it will also give you the psychological boost you need to get past a difficult time and heal your business, even make it thrive.
Losing a client is painful but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world or the end of your business. As with any breakup, it can provide a valuable opportunity to learn and grow, better preparing you and your business for whatever lies ahead.