Sales Reality: They Are Using The Economy As An Excuse To Fire You

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?


[Todd Schnick is a marketing strategist, helping entrepreneurs become intrepid marketers…]
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[cartoon by hugh macleod]

  • Barb Giamanco


    I completely agree with you. If customers see value in the work that you do, they will most definitely find the financial resources to keep you on board. Becoming complacent is also sure fire way to lose your customer. It is a competitive world out there…always someone maybe a little bit hungrier for the business. As I used to tell my sales reps, it isn’t what you did for the company yesterday, it is the contribution that you make now and in the future.

    By the way Todd, your points also hold true when someone submits a sales proposal and feels confident that they will win the deal, only to be told that the prospect decided to go in a different direction or that they found a better price. To all those sales people out there who might read my comment, let me just say that it is never about price. If you haven’t demonstrated the value you bring to the table and can make it crystal clear why you and not the competition, prospects will use all sorts of excuses to let you off easy.

  • Todd Schnick

    complacency will always kill ya…

    and yeah, it is never about price. it is about value, and the business acumen you bring to the table…

  • Todd Youngblood

    Ouch!!!  True, so true.  It’s also WAY too easy to allow a good “personal relationship” with the client make you blind to trouble-in-the-making

  • Todd Schnick

    that’s a good point todd… we aren’t there to be their friend, we are there to move their business forward…