client business relationship goes bad

What to Do When You’re Losing a Good Client

Sometimes your business relationships are virtually flawless, everyone likes one another, you all share a similar vision, and you’re able to create great work. Other times, you start to see red flags and you either choose to ignore them, or you nip the connection in the bud and get out before it’s too late.

Then, there’s the awkward experience of having a great business relationship and having it sour. 

Let’s talk about that one.

Losing a client you thought would be around a long time is a real punch to the gut. As if it’s not enough to build a connection with a prospect where you get along well, like each other, and communicate effectively, you also have to be a psychic (or REALLY GOOD at seeing potential red flags, as in the signs before the big sign). Because, believe it or not; you can do everything right, and it can still go to hell in a handbasket.

How does it fall apart when you’re doing everything right?

Well, in my case it’s because the client had issues beyond anything that I would have known about from just working with them. They had personal ticks that didn’t show for the first four months of wasting my time. Go figure; even well-respected, intelligent, and thoughtful business people are still people – and they can make as many mistakes as the next guy.

In your case, it could be any number of issues. Chances are if you really fall into the “everything right” (client likes the work, you get along well, communicating is up-to-date) then there’s a good chance it’s failing because your client has an internal dialogue that’s sabotaging your relationship.   You’re not part of that conversation, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening.

It’s not about you; it’s about them.

Ok, I get it. It’s falling apart, and I can’t stop it. Is there anything I can do?

Sometimes you just have to step back, diffuse the situation as much as you can (without getting too personal or emotional) and make a quick break.

In the case of my failed business relationship, it seems that my client was experiencing a lot of internal turmoil and pressure – things that didn’t have anything to do with my work – but I became an outlet for those frustrations.

Maybe it’s all those years of studying human psychology, but as our last conversation was breaking down, I became acutely aware that the problem wasn’t with me or my work, but with my client.  All the difficulties I’d been overlooking (the inability to stick to the outline, to make a decision and to push forward) were signals that something wasn’t right, but since they weren’t the usual red flags, I kept going.

Above all else, try to keep a clear head

Remember to remain objective. If something is your fault (and/or if the client’s concerns are valid) then you should do you best to mend the issue and repair the relationship. But, sometimes that’s not the case. And when it isn’t your work, and it isn’t anything you’ve done, you need to be willing to let it go and move on. Sometimes you lose a client for reasons you can’t control. You don’t have to feel bad about it, and it’s not up to you to fix that other person.

Your turn…

Have you dealt with a crumbling business relationship? Did you try to save it, or did you walk away?