Preventing a Downward Spiral After a Longstanding Client Leaves

BY Rachel Cagle
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B‑to‑B salespeople can learn a lot from the recent end of the 22-​year business relationship between
Chick-​fil‑A and The Richards Group. Advertising Age reports that the split happened after Chick-​fil‑A promoted Jon Bridges to chief marketing officer. Bridges felt that the cow-​centered campaigns created by the group didn’t fit the entirety of the brand and wanted the QSR to branch out.

Bridges credits The Richards Group’s advertising for having helped the brand reach its position of 8th largest restaurant chain in the country. Chick-fil‑A’s VP of Brand Strategy and Media, Joe Saracino, also said that Richards was, “such an incredible partner for so long.” However, none of that changed the company’s decision to move on.

This surprising case gives more than advertisers something to think about. The loss of a long-​standing client in B‑to‑B sales is never a good thing either, but the way you manage it right off the bat can stop a bad situation from getting even worse. Lindsey Stein gives a few tips on how to handle such a loss in her article, “You Lost a Longstanding Client. Now What?"

1. Be Courteous

One of the worst things you can do when a major client decides to leave is lash out. Even though you’re losing this particular business, it left you with good experience and maybe even a good public recommendation. If you do anything less than thank them and wish them well, your reputation may be negatively affected. If that happens, it could not only deter future business with prospective clients, but it could also cause you to lose more existing ones.

2. Assess the Situation

When a client leaves, it may not always have anything to do with you personally. However, you should never assume you know the reason for the separation. Take the time to sit down and learn why it was that your client moved on. If it did have something to do with you, what can you change to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future?

3. Shake It Off

At the end of the day, remember that you only lost one client. Going forward, apply what you have learned from the loss. Focus on your existing clients, look for new ones and do not dwell on what is lost for longer than is needed.