One of my company’s competitors recently did us a great favor. One of their biggest clients was a bit dissatisfied, and began looking for a new agency. The potential client made it clear to us they were not ready to make the big switch, but wanted to work with someone else on a project “just to test the waters”.
Unfortunately, while I welcomed the opportunity to win their business, I was all too familiar with the scenario, as it sometimes happens to us. Business relationships are a little like dating. Even if things are going really well, people are tempted to look around every now and then. Often through this process, they discover that the one they are already with is the best choice for them. And if a competitor really does do a better job for them, we deserve to lose the business anyway.
So when a client gets a wandering eye, we act maturely, try to talk them out of it, but ultimately if they are resigned to try someone new, we graciously let them go, and tell them they are always welcome to return if things don’t go well. Most of the time this is a great strategy and they return.
However, our competitor took a different tact, and when the client told them they were going to try working with us, he became very emotional, and essentially told the client to “get lost”, assuring that the business would never return. He then proceeded to make the transition as difficult as possible for the client.
Months later we still have the business, and the memory of the good work the previous agency did is all but forgotten, instead clouded by their immature actions when they lost the business.
Losing gracefully is always a good idea, and in business it is especially essential. Business environments and situations are constantly evolving – people move around – and opportunities close and re-open in unexpected ways. Clients fondly remember the companies that treated them respectfully – and have even longer memories of those that didn’t.