Tom Kane, in his legal marketing blog, published a great post about learning from departing clients as well as from opportunities you miss out on. He provided some good advice about conducting ‘loss reviews’ and keeping channels of communication open with prospects and clients who choose to go elsewhere.
While it’s true that you learn a lot from your ‘losses’, I also believe you can learn a lot from your wins. As well as conducting ‘loss reviews’ I would also recommend professional services firms conduct ‘win reviews’ in order to find out:
- why the client selected you,
- what aspects of your approach and style they liked, and
- what could be improved.
This is particularly important in a competitive tender situation. We had a client who won a major contract through a rigorous RFP process. We interviewed the company following our client’s win and found out some great information our client has been able to apply to future tenders. What was particularly interesting is that the reasons our client believed they had won, were not the reasons at all!
My rule of thumb is ‘don’t assume’. It’s easy to ask new clients (however you win them) why they chose to work with you and to seek their input into how you could improve your new business process. However, a word of caution: don’t take feedback from one win/loss review as gospel – clients have differing likes/dislikes and so you will need to use your judgement about what is likely to resonate with a particular target going forwards – the more you know about your prospective client, coupled with your past feedback, the better you will be able to tailor your approach to each opportunity.
And if you don’t get the work, as Tom said in his post – “losing a client does not have to be a total loss”. Here’s our two cents worth:
- If you pitch for a piece of business and miss out, conduct a loss review. Find out what the prospects decision making criteria were, how you performed against these, what they liked about your pitch, what they thought could be improved, what the winning person/team did that made them stand out, and any other suggestions the prospect has for future pitches.
- If a client (that you value) leaves you, find out the reasons why and what, if anything, you would need to do to work with them again in the future.
- When you lose a piece of work, give the person a call after three months to find out how things are going for him/her. Make sure you send them information of value to them occasionally along with a personal note.
- If a bill remains unpaid for longer than 30 days, call the client to find out if they were happy with the work you did. Don’t just follow up the unpaid invoice. Use it as an opportunity to evaluate your service.
I strongly believe that obtaining client/prospect and referrer feedback, wherever possible, is invaluable to building your business and improving your client service.
Learn from your wins and your existing clients so that you minimise the losses. But, when you do lose a client or a piece of work, learn from that too – and never assume it’s a permanent move – you may have to work hard, but you can win them back.
Do you conduct win/loss reviews on a regular basis? If so, how have these helped your business?
What advice would you give to others starting this process for the first time?