the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about
sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from
readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to
use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note
– my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no
way reflect my company or specific clients.
Q: What advice do you have for
terminating a long-term client relationship? I have a client that simply doesn’t
mesh well with our company any longer. We have outgrown them and they simply
don’t want to invest in our new services.
A: This can be a very sensitive subject
for many a sales person. After you’ve developed a business relationship over a
long period of time (let’s say years for this example), that business relationship
has likely become personal. You visit your client and talk just as much about
family as you do employees and services. You’ve come to know much about the
inner workings of the clients company and their team. But, over time, you have
grown while your client has not. There is no easy way to part ways from this
client although it is necessary.
I previously answered a question by
referring to time being a precious commodity. Clients take your time. They can
either be a valuable use of your time or a waste of your time. Even though they
are great people and you enjoy talking with them, they are not producing value
to you in terms of repeat business or upselling. They “like seeing you”, but
they “do not buy from you”. This must change.
I’ve dealt with this situation many
times. It’s like breaking up with someone, you don’t want to do it by text. In
other words, you need to have a face-to-face conversation. And, although this
conversation will be a little uncomfortable for you, it must be done. I would
keep it simple: I’m sorry Joe, but since we have been growing and expanding our
services, and you do not seem to be in need of us at this stage, I’m going to
have to move on myself with my newer clients. It’s not that I don’t enjoy
visiting you, but I am under certain time constraints, and I need to be engaged
with others going forward. Just know, if you ever need anything, I am only a
phone call away. I will bet you $100 that it will not come as a surprise.