Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Sometimes, the unthinkable happens. You get dumped by a client. Now, there are many reasons for the break-up -- lack of communication, someone feeling unappreciated, growing apart and even a third party. Sound familiar?

Let’s face it, everyone gets dumped professionally somewhere in their career. How you handle it and your response will determine the frequency and probability of it happening again.  

Here are some tips (of course, not based on experience) to deal with the rejection and to prevent it from happening again: 

1) The Landscape Changes: It’s vitally important to understand what happened. In some cases, the break-up can be attributed to an acquisition or a merger. Your client was acquired by another company that might have a relationship with one of your competitors and to the acquirer go the spoils. I have been on both sides of that transaction. Exogenous factors are a reality, and we must learn to deal with them whether they are customers rolled up into larger entities or, in some cases, just plain going out of business. It happens to companies both big and small. Remember Bear Stearns?

2) Feelings Aren’t Facts: Assuming it wasn’t a merger or an implosion that caused the break-up, it is important to stay focused on reality. You might feel jilted, cheated, slighted, hurt and even embarrassed, but you have to move on! It’s important to truly understand why your client is leaving you. The first step in the process is to remind yourself that it is not personal; it’s business

3) Get Third-Party Intervention: After you have been informed of the break-up, your first reaction will be denial and your second will be to take it personally (see # 2 above). However, you need to share the information internally. We all like to take victory laps when we land the big deal, but no one likes to discuss losing a deal or the even more difficult reality of losing a client. It’s imperative that you get management involved as soon as possible. A post-break-up meeting (therapy session) needs to be set up with your client’s business contact. It will be difficult to get a face-to-face meeting with them, but you must insist on organizing this meeting. Remember, dumping someone isn’t easy, either. Use your manager or colleague to help broker the meeting. It makes it less personal and a little bit easier for the “soon-to-be” former client to meet with you.  

4) Be Open Minded and Objective: Treat the post-mortem session as a learning experience. Review #2 above before you attend. In fact, you will need to remind yourself of #2 above throughout the entire meeting. By bringing a third party for support, it will help keep the meeting on point and meaningful. Ask, listen and learn.

5) Take the High Ground: This is the most important step. How you act or react in a difficult situation will define how people remember you. Winston Churchill said, “Adversity introduces us to ourselves,” and I couldn’t agree more. It also introduces you to the people around you. Thank the client for the business they have given you in the past. Explain to them that they have your support for any transition that may be required. Make it clear that you understand their decision and that you intend on earning back their business. The operative word being “earn.” See #1 above, and keep the door open. It’s just a matter of time.

6) Anomalies Don’t Exist: Take what you learned from this client and apply it to every other existing client. Be paranoid! Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean the competition is not out to get you. If this client broke up with you for a particular reason, there are others out there who might feel the same way.

Good luck, good selling and remember “no” just means “not yet.”

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