What do you do when a client relationship goes south? How do you go about ending a client relationship on good terms?
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Today, we are talking about a part of business that can be scary and intimidating; how to break up with a client. All of us will eventually come across a situation we need to get out of, and I’m going to give you a 10-step process on how to escape a relationship that is no longer healthy.
Why You Should Break Up
Similar to dating, sparks fly at the beginning. But at some point (in some relationships), they stop. It doesn’t happen overnight, but something changes and you reach a point where you have to make a decision. Do I stay or do I go?
Now, let’s shift this scenario to business. At some point in every business relationship you’ll reach a point where it’s unhealthy, unfulfilling, clashes with your values, or holds you back from your greater potential. This is when you begin asking yourself if you should be in this relationship. When those feelings come over you, you begin looking for your exit plan. Today I’m going to guide you through how to professionally and respectfully exit the relationship.
How You Should Break Up
1. Get Clear on Why
Sometimes this is obvious, and other times it takes some introspection. I’m a fact finder and get confidence from pros and cons lists. You should start this process by knowing why you’re leaving.
2. Review Your Terms
Review the terms of your contract. What date is the contractual period ending? Do either of you have terms that you need to be aware of? Even if there are terms, you can still proceed.
3. Firm Up Your Exit Date
You know the business, the terms, and the client, so you have the info you need to determine the date you’ll be leaving. Firm this up before disclosing your exit so you aren’t talked into or out of anything.
4. Define What You Will Deliver
This is key and has been my differentiator in keeping former clients as referral partners and advocates of my work. Create a plan that outlines what you’ll accomplish in the stated time period (from step 3.)
“You rock project plans and your exit needs one.”
The clearer you are with what you’ll accomplish, the less emotional it will be. You’ll also be more productive.
5. Know Your Audience
Surely you’ve seen your client on good, bad, challenging, and successful days. Think about how they deal with difficult or tough conversations. I don’t know of many that want to lose amazing talent like you. As we prepare for the next step, anticipate how this “break up” conversation will go down.
6. Prepare for Conversation
You’ve gathered the facts and done some thinking. Now it’s time for the planning. Most often, I script these out:
- Why I’m leaving
- What date I’m done
- Last payment info
- What they can expect from me in the timeframe
- Transition plan
7. How You Will Deliver
Schedule a face to face meeting or phone conversation. Email or text may be an option, but keep in mind that it’s not the most professional.
8. Have the Conversation
You’ve got this! Stick to the plan. It’s a trusted plan with plenty of uses behind it. Of course you should be prepared for a response. With such a detailed plan, I’ve rarely run across a heated conversation.
“If you deliver with details and empathy, it increases your chances of being understood.”
If it does go south, cut it short and follow up with an email.
9. Deliver on Your Promise
Here’s where you turn into an undeniable professional! Regardless of why you’re leaving the clients business, remember the plan that you communicate and deliverables you promised. Meet and exceed every single one.
“Be a woman of your word: do what you say, and deliver with excellence.”
10. Send a Note
This is extra, but something I think is necessary. At the end of the period, send them a handwritten note. Thank them for the opportunity, and outline all of the wins you have accomplished together, and any other anecdotal feedback.
Breaking up is hard to do, no doubt. But this process has helped me to stay firm and overdeliver while wrapping up. I always tell my Director of Operations community that we’re elevating the expectations of service providers and operations professionals. This is one part of how we can accomplish that!
Weekly Ops Activity
Go into the Ops Insiders group and tell us: how can you articulate why you are leaving to a client so they hear it and don’t take offense?
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