10 Biggest Myths About Losing Clients
Many professionals take clients for granted. You’ve heard the story: A guy on his deathbed is visited in a dream by an angel and the devil, each making their case for the person’s place for all eternity. The angel shows heaven. It’s pastoral and peaceful, but not exciting. The devil gives a tour of hell. The food and drink are abundant, sex is rampant, and everyone is having a good time. Upon dying, the guy chose hell. The devil brought him into a place with never-ending fire and anguished wailing. The guy was shocked and said, “What happened?” The devil replied, “Before, you were a prospect. Now, you are a client.”
We think our clients love us, but sometimes they leave. Where did we go wrong? Here are 10 myths about losing clients.
Myth No. 1: They understand what I’m saying. We tend to use jargon when talking among ourselves or writing in professional journals. We assume clients understand the terminology.
Reality: They don’t understand and worry they will look stupid if they ask questions. Translate extensively, preceded by: “You probably know this already … .”
Question: Have you lost a client because connecting was a problem?
Myth No. 2: They would tell me if they were unhappy. They see TV ads offering to cut their personal accounting bills in half. Their businesses are prospected by others.
Reality: In the corporate world, you are put on probation. In the real world, clients vote with their feet.
Question: Has a client ever left without warning?
Myth No. 3: I’ve never lost a good client. Suppose “good clients” provide revenue and referrals. The people who leave often don’t ring the cash register like they did before. They weren’t good clients.
Reality: Many people are good at managing risk. First, they move some business away, then determine if the new relationship is working, and finally move the residual.
Question: Has a client ever drifted away?
Myth No. 4: They know what I do for them. We assume clients know we conduct periodic reviews, study new regulations, and determine if they apply. We’re professionals, after all.
Reality: Clients only know if you tell them. Otherwise they assume you are merely preparing forms for their signature based on the data they provided. “Can’t anyone do that?” they wonder.
Question: Have clients ever balked about fees because they think everything can be done online?
Myth No. 5: Clients can have unrealistic expectations. People dislike paying taxes. They have friends who claim they pay far less in taxes, they don’t know how, but they assume you should be doing the same for them.
Reality: Their expectations don’t sound unrealistic to them. Get them talking about what they heard. Explain their situation. Why are they different from other people?
Question: Have you ever worked with someone who has unrealistic expectations?
Myth No. 6: They know I’m thinking about them. You work with a limited number of clients. You know each client and understand his or her situation.
Reality: Clients have no sense of scale. They might assume you provide a mass-market service because they only see the end product. Keep in touch periodically. Mention new legislation. Does it apply to them? If not, why not?
Question: Have you lost a client because he felt he wasn’t getting attention?
Myth No. 7: They know I can’t predict the future. Your client might ask about broad financial advice or trends. He might have questions about interest rates or insurance.
Reality: The warning signs looked so obvious in hindsight. Clients need to know at any given time you have two pieces of data: where things were previously and where they are at now. Only later will you know the third data point: where things ultimately went.
Question: Has a client ever said, “Why didn’t you see this coming and warn me?”
Myth No. 8: They trust me. Your business is built on trust. You have the best interests of your client at heart. You work under the rationale that when people pay for advice, they will act on it.
Reality: Trust is often requested when rationale and facts are absent. It can be lost quickly. (Read: “Why we are doing this … .”) Use terms they can easily understand.
Question: Has trust ever evaporated, to be replaced by doubt and suspicion?
Myth No. 9: There’s nothing you can do. Many people assume if someone has decided to leave, his or her mind is made up.
Reality: If you spot “at risk” situations, you can address them by meeting with the client and drawing him or her out. Listen. Ask: “What can we do to move forward?”
Question: Do you have an at-risk relationship? What did you do?
Myth No. 10: They’ll come back. This is the grandest delusion. Your ex-client will have a revelation that he made a terrible mistake. He was far better off with you beforehand.
Reality: Even if this were absolutely true, pride plays a big part. Many people refuse to admit mistakes. Calling them a few months afterward, acknowledging they had reasons for leaving and asking if everything worked out to their satisfaction, indicates you are willing to meet on middle ground.
Question: Have you ever rescued a lost relationship?
Clients leave for many reasons. Lack of attention is a major reason you can proactively address.