Answer this question to avoid losing an important contract or customer

Everyone likes to win, and no one likes to lose. Yet we all lose business sometimes. Losses can be difficult to handle, but many are preventable, as long as we do the work and thinking that really builds long-term customer relationships.

This week, I read a very raw and personal story about a major account loss written by Aureus Asset Management CEO Karen Firestone. Here’s how she felt from the time her client requested an unscheduled meeting, until she got the news.

“In my purgatory hours, I reviewed the client’s holdings, their performance, our previous correspondence, and notes from our meetings; I found nothing alarming, but nothing particularly calming either. The phone rang at exactly 2:30 (and he) got straight to the point. It took less than a minute for him to fire us from the account, very matter-of-factly, with little attempt to acknowledge the eight-year relationship that had seemed (we thought, obviously, in error) to be very positive. (He) explained that they had hired another manager with a very strong track record who required a high minimum investment; they were redeeming from several other managers to meet that threshold. ….By the time I got off the phone and looked at my screen, the transfer information was already there.”

If you have ever lost an important contract or customer, I really feel for you. None of us are robots. We are people with feelings. Losing a customer or contract creates hurt and fear, both of which are huge drags on creativity, energy and enthusiasm — the very things that we need the most when we need to compete for the business again.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to come to this. If you have an important contract or customer in your care, show them that you REALLY care about them by bringing them new ideas today to help them operate or do business better. Here’s a simple question to spark some ideas: “What’s the one thing that would make us look like heroes to this customer, if we could achieve it?”

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/