None of us likes to hear this phrase: “With the economic downturn, I am afraid we just don’t have the resources to keep you on retainer. Sorry, but let’s pick things back up when our fortunes turn the table!”
What YOU think this means: “With the economic downturn, I am afraid we just don’t have the resources to keep you on retainer. Sorry, but let’s pick things back up when our fortunes turn the table! We think you are great! Everybody loves you!”
What this REALLY means: “You’re fired. You bring no value. Go away. And we have no intention of bringing you back, but I said that anyway, because I just wanted to be nice.”
So there is your wake up call for the day. If your client tells you this, it is very likely because they want the easy way out to letting you go. This is much easier to say than “You are fired.”
Let’s be honest, if you were moving the business needle, they never would let you go. They would figure out a way to keep you on board because they saw value in what you were bringing to the table.
This evil phrase can have many meanings, but the following is a short list of why it probably came to this:
1. They saw NO value in what you brought to the table.
2. They couldn’t attribute an ROI to the relationship.
3. They wanted to try something else.
4. In the end, they didn’t really understand what you were bringing to the table.
5. Communication broke down, and you lost touch with key decision maker and influencer.
6. You were lost in the fog, meaning nobody on the team knew if any progress was being made.
So, let’s take some steps and work to prevent this situation from occurring again. Here are few ideas (based on experience) that will have a positive impact going forward:
1. Keep the mission of your engagement clear, simple and focused.
2. Keep open the communication channels.
3. Keep each side accountable, and make sure each side does what it is supposed to do.
4. Understand how to measure success, so that each sides knows where everything stands.
5. Debrief everything, so that both sides know why something worked, and why something failed. Learn. Improve.
6. Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep improving. Keep innovating.
One last thought: often times when a customer let’s you go, citing any number of reasons, the reason is that you began to take the engagement for granted. Your customer can sense this. And that’s not a good place to be.
Become a partner. Become a teammate. Become a part of the family, warts and all. Bring value. Help. Teach. Have impact on moving business forward. Do these things, and you won’t ever hear that phrase from your customer…
What do you think?
[cartoon by hugh macleod]