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Top 5 reasons clients have fired me

“You’re fired!” Nothing hurts more than losing a client, so hard fought to win in the first place. Yet the reasons for ‘getting fired’ are usually one of these five major mistakes.

I’ll never forget that client CEO firing me. We were out. Worse still- we absolutely deserved it. I still dream about it. And of the other few times my agency ‘got fired.’

Winning new business is a great feeling. There’s that early honeymoon phase, and then often, over time, we start to under-deliver. Work flows dwindle. Or the client puts the account out for re-pitch. Occasionally you get the ‘it’s over’ phone call. Whichever way it comes, it hurts.

Here are the top five reasons clients have fired me:

  1. I did not know their business well enough. This is the main reason clients stop working with us. Usually starts ok. Then there’s team turnover. The passion for the client’s business seeps away. It’s fatal. We have to keep ‘down and dirty’ in the realities of their business. Relentlessly. Live in their shoes. And stay there.
  2. I became ‘unreliable’, particularly on delivering on deadlines. I began to over-promise, and under deliver. Reliability underpins trust. Stop doing what you promise to do and you’ll soon be shown the door.
  3. I did not ‘show up’ often enough. I got busy on ‘other more important stuff.’ Well- not more important to the client, and I got the boot. Clients are always watching you and what you do. Ensure regular, quality ‘face’ time with the client, particularly if you are an agency leader. Be there when it counts. Show up.
  4. I did not demonstrate the value of our work often enough. Regularly ‘package up’ the results of your work, and merchandise it to your client in a manner they can in turn use to merchandise internally. Sell in the results, regularly. And seek feedback- often.
  5. I was not proactive. I got lazy. Reactive. Clients want us to think of stuff which they don’t, and get stuff done: to be one step ahead. To anticipate: to be ideas driven. We must work harder on their business than their teams do. So, be on your guard. Get lazy, and start looking for a new client.

Underpinning these top five reasons for getting fired is that I just wasn’t ‘LISTENING’ – listening to the signs, the cues, the vibe. Listening to my instinct. Listening (or lack thereof) was at the core of every one of my mistakes. Listen like thieves. Listen with your eyes. What about your experiences? Any ideas to add on why clients fire us?

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4 Responses to Top 5 reasons clients have fired me

  1. Nextness May 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    Great first post. Welcome to the blogosphere Chris!

  2. Jarrad Harvey May 30, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    Always insightful to know what get’s you fired.

  3. simon lendrum May 31, 2011 at 6:36 am #

    Another repeat crime is when the agency’s agenda clearly differs from the client agenda – when results for the agency are not results for the client, trouble beckons…

  4. Craig Middleton June 1, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    And from a client perspective I totally agree with your observations.

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