I just found out one of my best clients gave a major project to a competitor. The worst part is that I never had an opportunity to even bid on it. How do I diplomatically address this with the client? – Cayce in Aurora, CO
Business decisions require a thick skin. They are not personal. When a business decision is not what you wanted or hoped for, take a step back to evaluate the situation. You will need to rationally determine if the circumstances are worth pursuing. Then, if action is warranted, explore your best options to approach and address.
A dispassionate examination of the known and unknown facts surrounding a business decision are the crux of the why. If you a have preponderance of familiarity with the influencing factors, you can determine the likely reason the outcome was selected. What you think might be the reasoning is conjecture and not valid. Without an inside track, you rarely have enough data to form an unbiased assessment.
- Was this project a good fit for your company?
- Is your organization prepared and qualified for the scope of the project?
- Is your area of expertise a match for the project requirements?
Be honest with yourself. If you or your firm was not capable of executing this deal, then you have your answer. And let it go. On the other hand, if you should have been a top contender, it’s time to review what could be done moving forward.
Beyond why a decision was made, you must consider what, if any, remedy can be forthcoming. When a client gives a project to a competitor, your goal should be to strengthen your relationship and avoid a repeat. Therefore, the redress is to gain an understanding of how you can add more value to your customer’s business.
- What is the client procurement process?
- What are the supplier requirements and qualifications?
- What risk factors are evaluated during the decision process?
Invest the time to ensure you have all the boxes ticked, and that your organization naturally rises to the top when your client is seeking solutions. Check in with your client regularly to provide updates, supply value, and see what’s in their pipeline.
When secure in the knowledge that you and your organization were a great fit and strong candidate for a lost project, it’s time to pick your spot and ask for input. If at all possible, do this in person, and at the earliest opportunity. A business lunch can be an ideal setting to solicit open communication.
Your words, attitude, and body language matter a great deal. You want to be openly curious. You genuinely what to know how you can improve your service and be considered for additional work. Ask for their unfiltered critique of your and your organization’s performance.
- How do they perceive your capabilities?
- Are there areas in which they need more information?
- Should you do something differently to be considered in the future?
- How can you or your organization better suit their needs?
This is an invaluable opportunity to explore and discover a path forward. When approached with poised interest, your client will not feel threatened or annoyed. They will want to help you out.
While these situations are painful, they are a normal part of doing business. Great success comes from understanding and learning from our failures. When done right, proactive communication will strengthen your customer relationship. The bonus is learning valuable information which can be applied towards the next project, and other clients as well.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.