Follow this article to learn about what steps you should take when you’re close to losing a client, plus discover how you might be able to keep them.
There is nothing more nerve-wracking to a solo or small law firm than the prospect of losing a major client. Of course, all business relationships come to a close at some point, but especially with our larger clients, the thought of losing the security blanket that comes with them can be terrifying to most solo and small firms.
It isn’t difficult to know when things are rocky (or at least have some sort of gut feeling that something is off) and we can tell that the relationship might be drawing to an end. So if you get this feeling, what should you be doing? Follow these six recommendations to help manage the potential loss of a big client.
1. Try not to over-imagine the situation.
Try your best to remember all of the facts, not the imaginary situation going on in your head. You might be picking up on weird vibes and that might be true, but that might have nothing to do with you or your relationship with the client. So before your mind goes off in a hundred different directions, stop, take a moment and deal with the facts. What has changed, what are you basing your feelings on, what would it mean to you if they did leave (both good and bad), etc?
2. Start the dialogue
Sometimes small and solo law firms can find it tricky to have more difficult and touchy conversations with big clients. For example, having the money talk with a big client can be awkward and some lawyers might feel out of place asking their clients about this. But in reality, if you are going to have a successful and long term relationship with these clients, then you need to be completely comfortable having these conversations.
If you’re getting the vibes that things are not going well then you need to speak with your client and check in to see if everything is alright. Ask about how they are doing and see if your thoughts are justified or not. If there are problems from your end, hopefully, you’ve caught things in time to rebuild the relationship. This will show your clients that you’re willing to work to make things better and that you are concerned about their well being too.
3. Keep it professional
If your client is going to be leaving, then you need to keep your cool and remain the strong professional that you are. Use this as a learning opportunity and improve your practice for the better. More often than not, the reason they are leaving has nothing to do with you or the services your firm provides. The worst thing you can do is get all bent out of shape and play the sad “woah is me” card.
Be the professional here and stay that way until the matter is finished. Plus you never know, maybe things will change and they will return or even refer a friend or colleague to you. If you take things personally and break that professional image, then your killing your chances of getting more business from this lead down the road.
4. Up your marketing game
Hey, we’re all human, it’s easy to put business development on hold when times are good. But if you’re on the verge of losing one of your bigger clients, then you’ll probably look to turn up the heat on your marketing strategy. Here are some things you can do to update/review your marketing plan.
When evaluating your marketing plan, understanding how your firm has performed in the past and how you want it to perform in the future is the only way to accurately plan.
To do this you will need to prepare a profit and loss statement breaking the numbers down on a month-by-month basis with totals for the past three years.
Next, you should be reviewing your numbers to identify unusual seasonality indicated by spikes or dips in revenues or expenses.
Finally, look for any trends in terms of expansion or contraction for your firm’s revenues, expenses and profits.
5. Review what went wrong and improve
So it’s official, your client is packing up and moving on. Now it’s time to put on your big boy/girl pants and learn from the experience. What could we have done better? What did you drop the ball on? What were the red flags that were waving in your face that you missed? How can you better handle the down times? How can you improve your conversations and interactions with both happy and unhappy clients alike? Even if it has nothing to do with you, there are always lessons to be learned and things that you can take away from a client relationship.
6. Be proactive
The best way to avoid losing a client is to snub out the problem before it grows into a large deal breaking catastrophe. Check in often and make calendar events to keep reminding you. Ensure they are happy with what you are doing and take the extra moment to see how they are doing outside of the client-lawyer relationship. Ask about their kids or that recent vacation they just went on.
Become a valued and trusted lawyer, with a reputation for professionalism, but at the same time, be the friendly person that cares about others well being. People like to be around those who truly care about them, so if you can make your clients feel that way then they will want to stick around, even if things do get a little rough.
In many instances, you will be able to save the relationship and build from the experience. But this won’t always be the case, there are times when you’re going to lose a large client. In these situations, you will need to maintain your professionalism to the end even if they don’t, You will grow from the experience and most likely will build a positive reputation that leads to more clients in the long run.