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Business Relationships: Key Strategies for Sustaining and Growing Client Partnerships

Discover the delicate balance of professional relationships and strategic client management through real-life business scenarios.

Winning and Losing Clients: A Real-World Snapshot

With the last major source of my revenue gone, I wondered how things could have gone wrong so quickly. Just a few years earlier, I had won three very large clients, and earlier that year working with them had taken up most of my time. All three needed constant attention, but I was happy to give them my time. I started every day at the first client's facility, taking care of whatever they needed. The second client was only a few minutes away, making it easy to deal with whatever issues arose in their business. The third client was on the other side of the city, which meant I had a half-hour drive to work with them on site. For months, I had spent most of my time managing these clients, and now I was faced with starting over.

Earlier that year, I had been making good money and had excellent relationships with the people I worked with day to day. My clients' employees didn’t realize that I worked for a different organization and believed that I was actually employed by their companies. We had excellent relationships and everything was great. Then, the first client was absorbed into another brand, and I lost them. A few months later, the second client moved to another city. My revenue was reduced by two-thirds. The third domino fell at the end of the year, stripping me of the last of my revenue.

This experience taught me that you can do good work, have great relationships, and still lose clients. Given a long enough timeline, you will lose all of your clients. This is why you must always work on winning new deals.

Managing High-Stakes Relationships and Contracts

The person sitting across from me had an unhappy look on her face as she looked over the numbers. My company had a high-investment model that required the client to pay for some part of the program. No one had ever seen a program like this. Not only did it produce the best results in our sector, but it also made it easier for the company to execute. I had worked with a gargantuan client for seven years, and they had spent just over $7 million with us during that time. Then new leadership took over and replaced my main contact, who was now sitting across from me for the very first time. She challenged me about the pricing and pulled out several emails from competitors who promised to save her organization half a million dollars. I tried to explain our model, only to find her arguing about the money that was already being spent.

She fired our team and signed a contract with a competitor offering a low-investment model, and the lack of attention resulted in lower quality. We heard from our contacts that they were no longer able to do what they had been able to with our help. I wanted the $7 million dollars back, so I kept up with my contacts there until the new person was removed from her role. In less than two weeks, we started back up with a new contact, who was happy to work with us.

This experience taught me that any new contact will want to put their stamp on their program, often removing a current partner. But I also learned that your relationships are what matter most.

Lessons from Firing a Difficult Client

In an office across town from where I was sitting, a fax fell to the floor. I had just fired my company’s largest client. They were monsters. My contact and his team treated my people poorly. Worse, the company had cash-flow problems, which flowed down to us. When the amount owed reached $3,000,000, I asked the CFO for a check. She was unable to pay what they owed my company. I walked out to my car and started the drive back to my office when my phone rang. It was the CEO, who started yelling at me for asking to be paid. He said that if I ever asked to be paid again, he would fire us. I told him that he would never have the chance because I was sending him a fax giving him 30 days to find another provider. He said, “You wouldn’t dare.” I made good on my promise and I called my CEO to tell her I had fired our largest client on the west side of the city. She said, “Great, I hate doing business with them.”

I learned that your client portfolio reflects who you are. There is no reason to spend time with nightmare clients when you can work with mature, partner-oriented companies who will value you and your company.

Compassion and Understanding in Professional Relationships

My contact collapsed into her chair and started crying. I was startled. She was one of the rudest, most foul-talking people I had ever worked with, and she had never shown a sliver of vulnerability. Even though I was doing a good job for her, she would always find something to complain about. Even though she could be frustrating to work with, I needed this client to be an anchor for a new office. Between sobs, she told me that her husband was dying of cancer. Every day, she worked long hours at a stressful job, then went to the hospital to fall asleep on a chair next to her husband. She was overextended and exhausted, and I hugged her and told her I would make sure her team had the people they needed. I promised that she would not need to be there to get them started.

Everyone is fighting a battle you can’t see, until you catch a glimpse of it. Our relationship changed the minute she told me about what she and her husband were battling.

A Lesson in Sales and Relationship Building

“I think that would be an enormous waste of time,” I said. I was seated with four other people around a huge conference table. Tim, the decision-maker, had entered the room and asked me to tell him about my company and pretended to be interested in something he could read online if he had truly wanted to know. I told him the best way to understand our company was to hear about what we care about, pivoting to an executive briefing.

At one hour and five minutes, my client thanked me for sharing the briefing. The woman sitting across from me asked me how I did that. I didn’t understand the question. She said the main contact had never spent more than five minutes with a salesperson. I told her, I thought he was enjoying the conversation. He didn’t buy from me, but I still considered the meeting to be a success.


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on April 10, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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