power your advice

Seeing the Bright Side of a Key Account Loss

The Met Office isn't the only company to have faced the dilemma of losing a major account (in this case the BBC). A lot of professional firms can struggle not to be overly dependent on a few large client accounts, the loss of which can cause significant disruption.

Often the reaction of the firm is to commence a somewhat frenzied new business campaign designed to replace lost revenue and this is understandable, particularly so when a firm fears that to do otherwise would put jobs at risk.

However before getting too caught up in the frenzy, it's worth bearing the following in mind:

  • Is the client gone in total and/or for good? Final decisions are often not as final as they seem and there is frequently an opportunity to preserve at least some part of relationship. Even a small part can be better than nothing revenue-wise and keeping a foot in the door can be useful in case the client finds the grass isn’t greener on the other side after all.
  • In my experience few firms do this, but it is worth making sure you really understand why a key client relationship has failed. There might be some valuable lessons for the future. Exit interviews maintain a constructive dialogue with departing clients and help transition the relationship in a positive way. It helps leave the door at least a little ajar and makes it easier for a client to pass back some business at a later stage if they feel lessons have been learned. Also over the long course of our collective careers who knows where we will be in 5, 10, 15, 20 years’ time - maintaining positive relationships with firms and individuals might yield unexpected fruit at an unexpected time.
  • Maintaining that dialogue is also important for your firm’s reputation. There is no shame in having lost a large client – there can be a myriad of reasons for this happening. What that client says about you when asked however is important. Indeed it is always worth agreeing a form of wording with a departing client, even if the relationship is somewhat broken down as it makes it easier for all concerned. Nobody wants to come across churlish – life’s too short and the world is too small.
  • Before the frenzied new business activity begins, it is worth thinking positively about what working with the departing client has given your firm in terms of experience and who that experience might be interesting to. That universe may include your departing client’s competition as well as a host of firms in other sectors which may be facing similar problems/issues/challenges.
  • Finally, think carefully about replacing one large client with another. Disproportionately large clients can have all sorts of negative effects on your firm, the way you resource clients, professional staff’s job satisfaction and so on. It may be worth taking the opportunity to rebalance your revenue streams.
  • While a departing key client is rarely good news, it is always worth extracting as much residual value from the situation as possible. Then you can get on with that frenzied new business development.