4 Lessons I Learned When I Lost My Biggest Client
Nothing beats the exhilaration of landing the big client. All the effort and mental energy finally pays off. You already start planning on how much payroll this one client can cover, or perhaps expanding into a new property.
But the high of landing the big (or biggest) client is nothing compared to the low of losing it. You know how it is: the client represents half of the yearly office rent, or several employee salaries per payroll. Losing it means things are going to change. Regardless of the reason for the parting, you feel personally responsible for not managing to keep the business relationship going. Over the course of twenty years gaining and losing clients, I've learned many lessons which ring true regardless of what industry you're in. Here are four of the most vital:
1. Nothing you can do can stop the client from leaving.
They will eventually leave you and there's nothing you can do about it. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try your best to keep them, but don't expend more resources than necessary. Keep in mind they probably left someone else before coming to you, and now they're moving on again. Take from this the knowledge you gained while you had them. Where they difficult, needy, micro-managers? Any negative aspects to managing the client must have taught you something for when the next big one comes along that will make you keep them even longer.
2. You will eventually lose every client you have (at least once).
Your current client roster will not look the same a year from now. Every client gets the itch to leave no matter how good your services or products are. The grass is always greener with someone else, so expect that they'll be wooed away eventually. Consider this a positive, since if every client stayed satisfied, you may never have gotten them to begin with.
3. Never allow one client to determine if your business exists.
Too many businesses live and die on the whims of one large client. Though they may pay very well and don't seem to be at risk of leaving anytime soon, this is a horrible position to be put in. They are in effect partners with you in your business, and they'll decide when it's time for you to close shop. Make sure to always be looking for new business. If any one client is taking up 50% or more of your time and resources, this is when you have to ween yourself off.
4. Always Be Closing. Never become complacent or satisfied.
It's a hard lesson to learn for some, but it's vital that you are constantly selling to almost everyone you meet. You never know who is going to refer you to the next big client, so assume everyone is a potential customer.
Bonus lesson: Remember that just because the client left, it doesn't mean they stopped needing what you're selling, They just don't want it from you! But as is the case with everything, things change. They might come back; don't burn the bridge.