“We had a good thing going.” Until you didn’t.
“There were no signs.” Unless there were.
People don’t typically give up on a good thing. This may hold true in business even more than in what some call everyday life. We all know it takes both sides working at it to keep a relationship going, regardless of the arena. And we’re equally aware of the painful truth that, when a relationship ends, one side may not see it coming. Even though they probably should. But more on that in a minute.
Now, If you’re a service provider for a client, you need to be putting in extra effort—it’s your job, ultimately—to keep the relationship strong. This means regularly communicating. Sharing news on the good and the bad. Proactively asking questions and following up with answers, anticipating needs and consistently evaluating how you are bringing value to the relationship.
It also means developing an understanding of how your client communicates. Or doesn’t. We’ll get into that shortly.
As a provider, you were chosen for a reason. You clearly communicated something with your client at the start, and you did it well. If you continue giving them reasons to work with you, they will more often than not make every effort to justify that initial decision, offers one of the insiders we spoke with, John Doe (yes, names have been changed to protect the not-always innocent).
That will hold true in the best of times, naturally, but more important, when things are not ideal.
“If I saw value in working with a provider and there were issues or problems,” Doe says, “I would 100% be at the table doing all I could to figure it out and make it work.”
So there it is. A client who’s ready and willing to figure things out and make it work, because they perceived the value in you and the relationship. They came right out and said it. That benefits you both, speaks to the strength of the bond you’ve built together.
Now, if there is none of that value being perceived, if there isn’t strong communication, a client may not be as inclined to stick around. And once they’re gone, you may find yourself wondering what you could have done, what went wrong.
We don’t want you feeling that kind of regret, so Doe agreed to share three telltale signs your client may be heading out the door…or may be there already. “If I did the following, either consciously or unconsciously, you as the provider were probably in trouble.”
So read these carefully and ask yourself, is this happening to me right now
- “I stop taking calls, meetings. I just don’t see the value in it. It’s a waste of my time.”
- “I slow or stop payment. It’s not usually a deliberate ‘I am not paying you.’ It’s more of ‘I have to really review this relationship, and I’ll eventually get around to doing that…but it’s not a priority right now”
- “I make a mountain out of a molehill. It’s a way to justify—rational or not—ending the relationship. Sure, I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but it’s the same tactic I used in order to find ways to break up with somebody I was dating way back in the day, especially if ghosting didn’t work.”
Now, you may not like some of what you just heard, but you can’t ignore it.
“I understand that some people may look at this as me playing games, but it was all about getting the job done—and done right,” Doe notes. “When you have a significant operational and financial responsibility to the company, enduring inadequate, sub-par or ineffective providers—especially if you are managing many of them—forces you to find ways to move forward without putting any unnecessary risk to the company, its clients or yourself.”
Maybe go back and read Doe’s examples again. Anything sound familiar?
“If these things are happening, the provider should be saying ‘Uh-oh, something’s amiss!’ For anyone in this situation, keep it about the work and not your personal insecurities. You have to be able to answer the question: If my client says they're happy, how do I really know?”