Business Development Lemonade: What to Do With the “Lemons” of Lost Clients
By Allan Colman, Closers Group
What would you do if you lost your largest client? Would the setback stop you in your tracks? How bad would the firm suffer?
While losing a major client can be disastrous, it is hardly the time to curl up in a ball and cry. As they say: When you get lemons, make lemonade. Identifying the opportunities presented by the situation is crucial. When you lose a client―or if you simply lose some rather than all business from a major client―it’s important to take action.
First, take the time to reflect on the decision―with the client if possible. If they chose a competitor, find out what the competition did that earned them the win. Think about your work with the client and identify what changes you could have made. If there was a pitch for a given project, try to identify where your sales and closing skills missed the mark. Once you’ve thought out the loss, it’s time to move forward and start working to turn rejection into a future close:
- If you identified shortcomings in your pitch related to the presentation itself, rework the pitch within the firm to role-play with the new material. This will help identify any remaining challenges.
- If you find that your firm didn’t address the client’s needs, explore opportunities to increase communications with your clients. Consider a survey of what you’re doing well or even a one-on-one lunch to pick their brain, identify what’s important to them, and create solutions that strengthen your relationships. This should be done on a regular basis as part of a client retention effort.
Most of all, remember that just because you’ve lost the business right now doesn’t mean that the business development opportunities are gone forever. Follow up in the future, see how things are going with their new arrangement, and keep your practice areas and services on the minds of past clients. In our 2012 U.S./Canada survey on Client Retention, 21% of the respondents indicated they lost long term clients due to failures of communication. Don’t let your clients become lemons.
The Nestle Toll House Recall
One of the most important lessons to be learned in business is that when there’s a problem, it needs to be fixed right away. The process involves identifying a mistake, fixing it quickly, and making sure that your clients know what you’ve done to take action (Take, for example, the Nestle Toll House cookie dough recall).
Attorneys who want to market themselves more effectively can learn from the actions taken by Nestle. Having a prompt response to a mistake―and having a rapid fix―allows you to demonstrate how important client retention is to you.
The way that you interact with your clients is a part of your invisible marketing strategy. While invisible marketing is the hallmark of a successful marketing plan, it is often overlooked when firms talk about their marketing tools and tactics. Invisible marketing is all about client relationships. While no one wants to make mistakes, when one occurs, you have the opportunity to:
- Identify how you responded to the situation;
- Look at the relationships that you have with clients and see how those relationships
- are progressing (are you closing more business?);
- Determine whether or not your firm is providing clients the support and resources
- they need;
- Examine what can be done to assist your clients as their businesses continue to grow.
Focusing on client relationships not only helps you to build on your current successes, but it can also lead to additional sales and referrals. By learning more about invisible marketing and mastering the method, you will increase your legal sales successes.
Numerous studies and opinions have claimed that it’s more cost-effective to keep an existing client than to acquire a new one. By keeping clients highly-satisfied with your firm they become important advocates and spokespeople for your firm.
Creating Long-term Relationships and Understanding Why Clients Leave
Client retention is a key element of long term revenue creation. Jay Abraham, a highly recognized international marketing expert, has pointed to three primary reasons why clients leave long term relationships:
- Lack of contact leads to their forgetting about the relationship;
- Their situation changes;
- They become dissatisfied.1
Clearly, the first of these is the easiest to overcome―and we encourage our clients to develop and take advantage of a contact system. Your clients won’t forget about you when you stay in touch: let your clients know about your current engagements; send them articles or white papers that may interest them; ask your clients to join you on a conference panel.
Make sure you are communicating the status and next steps of your work on a regular basis and stay on top of changes your clients are experiencing as well. Ask them about other challenges that they are facing and offer your assistance. Be aware of your relationships, and keep on the lookout for subtle changes.
While client dissatisfaction is never comfortable to deal with, it’s something you should be aware of long before a client disengages. In fact, 9% of the respondents to our Client Retention Survey stated that client dissatisfaction was the primary reason for their being terminated from a long term engagement. Even if it seems insignificant, when even the smallest issue arises during an engagement, deal with it immediately. Especially if they have been a long term client, take action and win them back. According to Abraham, 80% of these relationships can be recovered with instant actions2―in fact, you may find that they become your best clients.
Fast Times: Client Retention in an Ever-Changing World
Your law firm is evolving, and your clients are moving forward. With the world moving at such a hectic pace, it’s easy to be left behind. To stay relevant, it’s important to constantly stay informed, keep communications flowing, and continue to prove your value.
Client retention is vital to preserving business as times change. Here are some important tips & techniques to keep you on your toes and on your game:
Take a step back:Whenever you have the chance, observe the client’s situation from a different perspective. Moving away will let you step outside your standard viewpoints―and increased objectivity will increase productivity.
View it through fresh eyes:While you may have the greatest insight or knowledge about a client, getting a fresh set of eyes and opinions on an issue can be enlightening and surprising. Whether you’re feeling stuck in a rut, needing some inspiration, or looking for a new approach, ask colleagues not associated with the client for their opinions.
Demonstrate knowledge and initiative:Make it evident that you are not only keeping up with the latest developments impacting your client but also applying that knowledge. Take this as an opportunity to develop more business and show the client your firm’s value and commitment.
Maintain open lines of communication:While stepping back is important, so is staying close and keeping in touch. Open communication fosters trust, shows commitment, and demonstrates your interest in continuing a healthy business relationship.
Don’t forget you’re providing a service:Don’t slip into a routine and produce lackluster, monotonous work. Show the client how you can help with upcoming issues and challenges. Prove that they are getting their money’s worth.
Batman on Closing Skills and Client Retention―“Where Are You When We Need You?”
“And where is Batman?” asked the Joker on an occasion when the caped crusader was trapped and temporarily unable to save the day. By calling into question Batman’s ability to “be there” when people needed him, the Joker created a sense of doubt and uneasiness among the citizens of Gotham.
Don’t play the role of the villain within your own practice by inadvertently creating that same sense of uneasiness in your clients and prospects. As an attorney looking to land clients, it’s imperative that you understand the importance of “being there” when your clients need you.
By being available for your clients, following up with clients after the engagement is completed to ensure that everything is still going smoothly, checking in and staying in touch at regular intervals, and making sure that your clients and even your top prospects are comfortable picking up the phone when they have a question, you can be sure that you stay fresh in their minds.
Making fresh lemonade, like staying current with your clients, is always seen as a special treat. Keep it that way.
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