I thought I had landed two retainer clients recently. Well, last week one fell through before it started, and I just received an email giving me 30 days notice from the other. I’m so disappointed! How do I deal with this? —CC
Yes, this can definitely be disappointing, but don’t give up!
One of the things I had to realize when I lost one of my first clients is that nothing is static. Eventually there comes a day when a client may not need me any longer for whatever reason.
There are all kinds of reasons a client may not need you or decide not to work together any longer:
- They are going out of business;
- They are retiring;
- They are going into another kind of business;
- They haven’t been able to make a success of their business and can no longer afford you;
- They have grown their business to a level that they simply need a full-time employee or in-house staff;
- They have changed and they (or you) realize you are no longer a fit for each other;
- You are unwilling to engage in activities you consider sketchy or unethical or dishonest;
- Your business has grown and/or your standards have improved and they are unwilling to let go of old expectations and accept these changes;
- They pass away (God forbid)
This is why it’s important to maintain a constant marketing effort and presence, even when your practice becomes full.
There is some good that can come out of this.
First, remember to stay focused on abundance, not scarcity.
These are not the only two clients in the world. There are a million other people out there and you WILL meet many, many others.
And you’re going to get better and better at figuring out where your right clients are, who your audience is and where to find them.
Everyone flails a little bit when they are new so these are just very normal—even necessary—growing pains that are preparing you for your future success.
Second, don’t take any of this personally. There ARE useful, productive things you can learn here. Use this as an intelligence-gathering opportunity and poll these two clients for their feedback.
See if you can get the first client to open up and share with you (in the interest of improving your consulting skills) why he/she decided against working together.
You may find it has nothing to do with you.
Or, you may get some golden information that will give some insight into what your potential clients value that will help you improve the next time around.
You may realize where you can improve how you educate new/prospective clients, beef up your website content, and better manage expectations upfront.
Then, do the same thing with the second client.
Find out, if you can, why they chose to end the relationship after only 30 days.
What went wrong? Did they find something off-putting? Did they not get what they expected? What were they expecting? What was it that led them to expect that?
Preface your inquiry with the explanation that you honor their decision and aren’t trying to change it; you simply value their feedback and would be very grateful for any information they’d be willing to share to help you improve.
Here again, perhaps you find that their terminating the relationship had nothing to do with you. If this is the case and they actually were very happy with your service, but had to leave for other reasons, be sure to ask for a testimonial. Ask them why they chose you in the first place and what they appreciated about working with you (however briefly).
In both of these cases, the info you glean can also help you improve your prequalifying processes. The better you can screen for ideal clients, the more you’ll be able to avoid this kind of disappointment and wasted time and effort on the wrong ones.
So be thinking about why these clients may not have been a fit for you in the first place.
- Are you consulting with anyone and everyone without any discernment or qualifying criteria?
- Do you have an ideal client profile? (If not, you need to start one today.)
- Did these clients meet many/most of the traits on this profile?
- What kind of qualifying information did you try to ascertain before you deciding to meet with these clients in consultation?
- Did you conduct a full and complete consultation with each one?
- Did your consultation last more than 15-30 minutes? (You can’t possibly get any deep degree of information in only 15-30 minutes; it very often takes that first half hour alone just for clients to get comfortable and let their hair down.)
- Are there any traits and characteristics you would now consider red flags in future prospective clients?
- Moving forward, what questions can you ask in advance to better determine if a potential client is more likely to be a fit and a good candidate for spending time in a consultation?
- What kind of information can you add to your website content to that will better inform your site visitors and manage their perceptions, expectations and understandings (and thereby improve your prequalifying efforts so you get more ideal clients who are more likely to become long-term clients)?
You see, there’s always something positive to gain and grow from with every experience, even the disappointing ones.
If you are someone who would like to learn how to conduct more successful consultations with positive outcomes as well as improve your prequalifying processes, be sure to check out my Client Consultation Guide.