What to do when a client fires you?

A client of mine called me the other day. Said they won’t be needing my services anymore.
No matter how much you train yourself to deal with rejection, the initial feeling you feel is a kick in the stomach. And this was a good client, one I’ve been working with for over a year. A client with whom I’ve had great working relations, where I known many team-members. Even worse- a client for which I’ve delivered great value. So the first reaction is always one of shame and misery- why did he “fire” me? What have I done wrong? And why do I deserve this treatment?
I took a few deep breaths, and decided to be the professional I aim to be. I thanked him for the opportunity to work together. I told him I’ve learnt a lot from him (the CEO) and from his team. I also told him I appreciated the fact he took the time to call me from abroad and notify me in person.

After hanging the phone I sat and down and did some thinking. What else can I take from this rather depressing moment?
I came to the realization that I should not view this as a personal insult, but as a jumping pad for doing better work at the future. There are 2 key benefits I can take away from this engagement. The first is to try an understand what I was or weren’t doing enough that made the client turn away. I actually asked the CEO that and his very candid answer was that they have now decided to create content in-house, so they will no longer out-source it.
A classic “it’s not you, it’s us” answer, but an answer nonetheless. Looking forward I must solidify my business case and show potential (and existing ) clients the value I bring. Value, which is far superior to anything they will have in-house.
The second benefit I can take from this would be to receive a recommendation. Now, asking someone who’s just fired you for a recommendation is counter-intuitive. But since he stated he was happy with the work and decided not to move forward for other reasons, there should be no problem for him to recommend me.
So I wrote him an email asking for a written recommendation to post on my LinkedIn profile. But since I’m aware that most people are too busy to sit down and actually write a proper recommendation letter, I’ve also suggested to him that I will write my own note and that he will approve and publish it. Which he was very happy to do.
Last but not least- I thought about synergies. If this client decided not to work with me anymore, this opens the door to other vendors I know who could either take my place or offer other services?
For instance, knowing that this customer has decided to create content in-house means that he might be in need of other services, such as lead generation, SEM or social media management. I asked the CEO if he’s looking to complement his internal content capabilities with external services and he asked me for some recommendations, which I happily provided (I’m always happy to share leads with colleagues, and I know they will reciprocate in kind in due time).
So there you have it. I wasn’t able to turn lemons into lemonade, but I got one decent recommendation, I have potential helped some colleagues get some work and I’m happy and proud with the work I’ve done for this customer.
And one last thing- this is a very small world. I’ve had my share of breaking up with bad employers, and I try my best to conclude any engagement on a positive note.
So after receiving the recommendation letter I wrote to the CEO that he is welcome to call me if he has any marketing related questions and I will assist. You never know- he might be calling some day with another job proposal…



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