Imagine you followed my advice several month ago and managed to land your first big client. By now, you’ve discovered that large clients are a great source of ongoing work—and they pay on time.
Since you value their business, you’ve spent time nurturing the relationship. That’s good. But if that person is your only client contact within the company, that’s bad.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker stays at a job for 4.4 years. But for Millennial (ages 21-36) it’s about half that. So there’s a good chance you’ll face the eventuality of your client contact leaving—by choice or otherwise. Are you prepared? Here are four steps to take immediately.
Act Quickly to Identify the Successor
You may have the luxury of your contact leaving amicably and passing the torch without disruption. When this happens, count your blessings and arrange to meet with your new contact at their earliest convenience (keep in mind that they may need time to settle into their new position).
If your contact person has been let go abruptly, you’ll need to do some recon to determine who—if anybody—is now responsible for overseeing the company’s marketing.
Be Prepared to Sell Your Services All Over Again
Remember everything you did to land the account? You get to do it again. Your new contact may have vendors or freelancers they prefer. And just like new prospects sometimes do, your new contact may use them to get you to drop your prices.
If you’ve truly provided value, you’re in a good position to retain the account. But if you’ve dealt unfairly with the client, you may be on shaky ground. We recently gained a client because the new person in charge began questioning their current web development company. He discovered that their site was several WordPress versions old and that, while the pages were on the WordPress platform, the blog section was on the web company’s custom-built CMS—for which they charged an additional fee.
The final straw came when they asked the developer to integrate the blog into WordPress and upgrade the site to the current version of WordPress—and the developer quoted a price that exceeded the cost of building a new WordPress site from scratch. Having no relationship with the new contact other than to bill them each month, this developer lost a long-standing account.
Begin Building a Relationship with the Successor
You built a good relationship with your original contact; chances are you can do it again. Look for ways to help them in be successful their new position.
When the client contact at my largest account left, the reins were passed to her assistant who felt like she was in over her head. I spend a lot of time being a sounding board and offering marketing advice. As a result, she gave me regular, ongoing print design work, above and beyond the web development I was already doing. But none of this would’ve happened had I not invested time into the new relationship first.
Relationships are like fire—they don’t give out heat unless you give wood first.
Find the Person Who Left
If your contact person was unceremoniously dismissed, get back in touch with him or her (LinkedIn is a great way to do so). There are two reasons you want to do this:
The first is to offer your assistance. You developed a great relationship with this person, so why should it end just because they’re no longer with the company? If they’re job-hunting, you may be a resource that helps them find another. That’s the altruistic reason for reaching out.
The other reason to contact your former client is rational self-interest. They may become your next large client. It stands to reason that they may secure a position similar to the one they had—and be in a position to bring you on board.
But a word to the wise—don’t be disingenuous. If you aren’t truly concerned about helping the other person, don’t bother. They’re sure to see through your insincerity.
While these steps may alleviate uncertainty and help keep the account secure, they are primarily reactive. But there are proactive steps you ought to take before your client contact ever leaves that can build a solid foundation from which to proceed if and when that eventuality occurs.
Next week, we’ll talk about what to do before your client contact leaves.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.