Clients will come and go. If you are a contractor or consultant, you know that it’s a way of life. Often this will be an obvious and amicable parting once a client no longer needs your services. However there will also be times when a client leaves you, possibly for another consultant or because they believe they can handle the services in house. This kind of parting can leave you a little sad and sore, as it feels unexpected or unnecessary.
But I want to share some good news.
Throughout my career as a public relations consultant, I’ve had many clients, who once paused services or parted ways, return for a variety of reasons. These returns are a wonderful surprise and for a long time I chalked it up to luck. However, it’s much more than luck. It’s the way you run your business that keeps a former client’s coals burning, awaiting to reignite the fire upon their return.
Today I share with you some steps you can take to win back a former client. The most important idea to keep in mind is that winning back a client isn’t merely what you say when you re-pitch them your services, it’s everything you do in the interim of your relationship leading up to this reengagement. Take a look!
Part on Good Terms
This first step is critical. To the extent it is realistically possible, you should try to part with each client on good terms. Be understanding, offer them access to any materials or information that is rightfully theirs and help with the transition process to a new employee or consultant who will be taking over your work, if asked to do so. If this isn’t feasible or they choose to completely shut you out, it’s a good indication this isn’t a client you’ll want to work with again in the future anyways.
Leave the Door Open
Once you part on good terms, you should also make sure they know your door is always open to them. Weeks, months or years later they may have a question for you. Remain accessible and attentive to their needs (so long as it doesn’t require more than a few minutes of your time). This demonstrates, professionalism and class. Knowing your door is open makes it easier to return without feeling like you will shame them for it.
Touch Base in a Non-Salesy Way
There may come a time when an article or piece of information emerges that reminds you of that client. Use this as an opportunity to touch base with them by offering something other than a sales pitch. Believe me, this is exceptionally refreshing! For example, maybe you find an article that offers helpful advice to a problem they frequently encountered or maybe it’s a piece of news announcing a new trend in their industry. Share this with a thoughtful note. Wish them well and leave it at that. This is a seed that I have seen blossom into a new working relationship time and time again.
Check in On Their Progress
If you find yourself thinking about that client, check in on them to see if they are maintaining the progress you used to help with. Have they kept a consistent presence on social media? When is the last time they published a blog? If you’re still on their email list, what’s the last communication you received? If all of these efforts have gone radio silent, you have a solid reason to move onto what about I’m about to suggest next.
Remind Them How You Can Help
Call or email that client with a direct offer. This time it is essentially a sales pitch. Be sure to complement any efforts they are maintaining or improving. Then call attention to the items you noticed were lacking. Remind them that you used to help them maintain these critical efforts and that you’d welcome the opportunity to talk with them about assisting them in a similar way again. You just might hit them at a time where they feel like they can’t get their head above water and you will be a welcome source of help. What’s the worst they can say? No?
Offer Advice, No Strings Attached
If a past client should ever reach out to you asking for a simple piece of advice (i.e. it should only take a few minutes of your time to answer), be open to sharing your expertise a time or two. For the couple of minutes it takes you to answer their questions, you could open up the door to a renewed client in the future. It’s extremely smart from a business development standpoint! If you find they have A LOT of questions for you, offer a meeting. In person you can make a case for the benefit of your expertise and how an ongoing relationship would again benefit you both.
Finally and most importantly, be respectful and responsive, even if this person is no longer an active client. Demonstrating these qualities, regardless of whether you are receiving a paycheck, speaks highly to your reputation. It will also remind the client of how nice it is to work with someone who is competent and responsive. Many times I have clients return because they realize that responsiveness is not a quality every consultant possesses. Many skills can be trained, responsiveness/reliability really isn’t one of them.
Have you ever won back a client? What steps did you take? Share your experience by leaving a comment below!