How client engagements fall apart

How client engagements fall apart

We all know the big buckets of why salespeople lose customers and clients, but it’s still worth going through it — and then talking about how to respond to lost deals. 

Why we lose clients

It varies by region and company and industry, for sure. In DACH, a lack of precision and focus and transparency will lose you more clients than it might in America or Canada. But the big buckets of why sales teams and salespeople lose client engagements are:

  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of response to feedback
  • Not seeming urgent / slow to respond
  • Lack of information / data
  • Talking “over” their problems / Not listening to what they really need (goes with communication)
  • Lack of social skills (this is more important in some cultures than others)
  • Hidden fees or lack of transparency in cost structure (especially small ones) 
  • Product-market fit wasn’t there, i.e. you cannot sell their low-ticket item because your model is focused on high-ticket items and you were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole
  • Decision-makers at the client are all over the place or love shiny new objects, so they change course a lot
  • PR blunder or said something the client didn’t like or couldn’t get over

Those are some of the big reasons, but …

… a lot of these reasons aren’t even data-driven. They’re just based on things we’ve seen in companies or assumed, because the reality is, most companies do not conduct interviews with their lost customers, per research:

How client engagements fall apart 1

So when you lose customers, what should you do?

There are a couple of different steps:


  • Talk to them: If the relationship ended poorly, maybe they don’t want to talk to you. That’s one scenario. But if someone at the client/customer is willing to talk, ideally a decision-maker, you need to talk to them and understand what you did wrong. In many cases, it will simply be about cost. That’s fine. Then you might need to evaluate or consider your pricing structure or hidden fees down the road. But if you don’t talk to the lost client, you can’t figure out what’s wrong on your end.
  • Ask what you can do: The train may have left the station big time, and you can’t get the deal back. But maybe there is something you can do. An offer? Offer up a subject matter expert? Reduce cost for a period? Etc, etc. See if there is still life in the body of the deal. 
  • Track the reasons you are losing clients: Go over this at least once per month.
  • Identify the top three reasons you are losing clients: Once per quarter, you need to commit to actual action on fixing your big three client loss reasons. If one is cost, change your cost. If one is responsiveness from sales to the client, set some processes about how quickly a salesperson needs to respond, within reason of their family, etc. 
  • Consider changing your messaging: You do not want to be messaging around concepts that you are also losing clients because of — then new clients who experience the same things will say “Hey, but their messaging was different!” For example, if you message around “Quick wins” but it takes 12 months to build the funnel properly, a client will say “Where are the quick wins?!??!” If you know it takes about 12 months per client to get wins rolling in, then you need to change that messaging. 

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Bottom line

Client engagements can drop for significant, severe reasons (you did something very wrong) or random reasons (a decision-maker at the client changes course every 10 minutes). You won’t know unless you track and talk to lost clients. And since some of the client losses can be random, you need to make sure your client funnel is always topped off and growing. That’s how you prevent against the random losses most of all. 

And don’t forget: A Silent Customer Isn’t A Satisfied Customer. 

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