Why clients bail.

And what you didn’t do to prevent it.

It’s the final meeting to wrap up a project with a new client. It feels like ages ago you were pitching the job, putting together a proposal, and delivering it in hopes of the all-important signature on the dotted line. Excitement and exhilaration pumped: a new job! A new client! A new opportunity to do what you and your company do best: help a valued customer improve their business and/or their life.

But something is off. 

As the meeting wraps up and you begin to discuss next steps, you sense some disinterest—it feels like what ought to be a resounding “yes, let’s move ahead,” has become a “we’ll get back to you.”

Weeks later you call to follow up—but the calls go to voicemail, paving the way for a polite email rife with disinterest. “Thanks for everything you’ve done, blah blah blah. We appreciate the next proposal, but at this time we’re focusing on some other priorities.” It sounds like lip service. It IS lip service. Truth of the matter is, they’re not working with you because they evaluate performance in a different way than you do. 

If you’ve been in this position, you’re not alone.   

If you’re frustrated about it, you’re also not alone! Companies from one person in a home office to thousands of staff members at multiple corporate centers deal with the same issue: client satisfaction and the confusion that occurs following a “successful” project when it ends a partnership. 

Why does this happen? And what if anything can be done to offer the service provider or seller more control?

After decades of serving a wide range of businesses, we’ve found that few—if any—define success the same way. For some businesses growth (more money) is the only measure of success. And this is great because that’s what we do. What has surprised us is that often, even though we’ve been hired to grow a business, growth is not the metric of success they’re using to evaluate our performance. 

Maybe they really needed to deeply understand our processes so they could learn what works and what doesn’t. Maybe there was a challenging personality at the business who needed to be placated throughout the process for moral philosophy reasons. Growing the business was a success as it related to our signed proposal and their stated goals—but it was not the chief metric used to determine if continuing the relationship made sense! 

SO, if you’ve ever found yourself in this frustrating situation, we recommend an incredibly simple fix: 

Ask your client during the proposal: “Hey, what would make this project feel like a success?” More importantly, ask the client: “What would make this project feel like a fail?” 

Chances are your client wasn’t even considering telling you the metrics they use because they weren’t fully aware of them. Now that you know, incorporate these metrics in your project or services to ensure that your clients feel the way you do. That the project was a big success!


Did you learn something new, or perhaps you have a question? We’d love to hear from you!

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