Why you lost that client… and why it doesn’t matter

by Tom Albrighton 20 May 2010 Freelancing

If you sell services, whether as a freelance or an employee, you know the scenario all too well. One day you and your client are getting on like a house on fire. The next, the phone stops ringing. What happened? Here’s a few clues:

  • They’re broke. These days, many firms are tight for cash, or choosing to safeguard their reserves. Don’t take it personally. If you got paid, count yourself lucky that you got the heads-up in time.
  • They got bored. B2B relationships are like marriages. First comes the thrill of getting it together. Then the satisfaction of developing deeper understanding. Before you know it, the spark is gone. The flip side of reliability is predictability, and sometimes people just want a change.
  • They moved on. Businesses change. Their strategies, priorities and cultures develop. Perhaps your client, once a perfect fit for your services, is a different company these days.
  • Your service wasn’t sexy enough. People like to feel cutting-edge. They don’t want to miss out on trends. Shallow, but understandable. If you’re an established player using proven methods, however effective, a new kid on the block can make you look staid and uninspiring. It may not be fair, but it could get them a foot in the door.
  • You weren’t sexy enough. Buyers are people. All else being equal, they’ll go with the provider who gives them an emotional thrill as well as a tick in a box. What’s more, they’ll bend the rules for someone they like. Being fit for purpose might not be enough.

Now, here’s why all that doesn’t matter:

  • Plenty more fish. There are always more clients out there. Look at your remaining clients, identify the common thread and profile your ideal customer. Now go and find more clients like that. Your existing clients might be able to introduce you.
  • Everything flows. Companies are formed, go bust, merge, split, buy each other. People move on, change role, get fired, start companies. Change throws up opportunities every day. Remember: ‘every exit is an entrance somewhere else’.
  • Go where you give value. If your client moved on, it could mean you can’t meet all their needs. But that’s a reflection on them, not on you. Now you need to find new clients for whom you can add major value. There’s no point chasing a gig that’s not right for both parties.
  • You are still you. You’ve lost a client. You have not lost your ability to gain clients, or to add value. Your offer is still just as strong as it was yesterday.

The psychological theme here is attribution: the way we think about the causes of events. Natural optimists attribute negative outcomes to others, while taking credit for success. Pessimists do the opposite, blaming themselves for setbacks while putting success down to fluke, circumstance or the actions of others.

If you want to move on from losing a client, cultivate optimistic mental habits. The client has moved on for reasons of their own, not because you fell short. And you already have all the resources you need to find a replacement.

Tags: , ,