They’re that wonderful customer. You’ve worked with them for years, but now they’re gone.

This has happened to my clients on occasion, and it really hurts. It can shake them to their foundation if they let it.

Here’s how I’ve helped pull them back from the ledge.

The first two principles sound like they’re in direct conflict:

  • It’s not about you.
  • It’s about you.

It’s not about you: Everybody has things going on in their life that you don’t have control over, and perhaps not even aware of. A key decision-maker might have retired. Their strategic priorities may have shifted. It may have nothing at all to do with screwing up the products that they purchase from you.

It’s about you: Despite that, there most likely are things you should adjust. Maybe you became complacent about high-level relationships. Maybe you hadn’t been connected with the pressures THEY’RE under in their business. So don’t immediately chalk it up to “there’s nothing we could do about it.”

Honestly, a lot of the rest of this challenge is about your own mindset:

Don’t shoot the messenger: We all have a tendency to overreact to bad news, to whoever happens to be in the room at the time. Calm down. Whether it’s a salesperson, account rep, or the customer themselves, it’s important to focus on not destroying relationships just because you’re in an emotional state.

Celebrate the past: They were a great customer, perhaps much more loyal than you ever deserved. You enjoyed serving them, and they rewarded you fairly. Be thankful – that’s not always the case!

Assess the future: What did you learn? What will the impact be? Who’s going to be impacted by this event? What systems can you put in place? This may even go back to the level of analyzing the market like you’re starting a new company all over.

Be gentle: Yes, some tough decisions may be in order. But through all that, be compassionate to the people who are impacted. No doubt a lot of people may be upset, unsettled, and fearful. Your role as the leader is to help people go through those phases to become better on the other side.

It’s always good to have someone on your side to talk through tough issues. I get to do that with my clients sometimes.