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How agencies can avoid losing an account when the primary client contact leaves

Updated December 9, 2021

Just about every agency has experienced the loss of a client as a result of the primary contact moving on to a new job.

The agency business is very relationship-driven. We build strong attachments with the people we work with every day.

So do our clients.

To some degree, these situations can be unavoidable. There is a natural tendency for new executives to bring in “their own” people.

Sometimes agencies benefit from these arrangements. When I ran an agency and saw one of my client contacts move somewhere else, I always looked at it as an opportunity to embed myself in a new organization.

Of course, I knew that my flank was now exposed at the existing client.

Although you can’t guarantee you won’t lose the account, there are things that you can do to mitigate the risk.

Get to know more people

First, try to find ways to expand your circle through periodic (monthly/quarterly) strategy meetings that engage more of the client team. It is equally important to move horizontally and vertically on the org chart with these.

This networking makes sure that your expertise is front-and-center more regularly with that group so when your main contact leaves, they don’t say “who are those people and what do they do for us?”

Expand the reach of your reports and deliverables

Second, try to get any of your regular reports and deliverables seen by a broader audience, too. Routinely ask if they would like anyone else added to distribution lists. Some client contacts will try to control that themselves while others will be happy to offload that work on you — thus giving you an “in” to a bigger set of client employees.

Never stop selling

Third, know who the real decision-makers are at your client. If it is your main contact, that’s fine.

But if it isn’t, connect with them on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Find excuses to connect with them outside of the direct engagement activities. Take advantage of opportunities to see them in person (as we return to those types of things) but also find ways to appear on their radar periodically by liking/sharing their posts, forwarding interesting articles, etc.

Basically treat it as an ongoing sales process with the decision-makers even after the sale is done.

Just ask

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your main contact as they are leaving. Often you will find that they will be more candid about your standing since they have less to lose. That can help you figure out how to handle the transition most effectively.

The bottom line is not to allow yourself to become complacent and overly reliant on any one individual with your client. Always be looking for opportunities to grow your circle — and the relationship — so you are prepared for inevitable transitions.

Chip Griffin

Chip Griffin

Chip is the Founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance and a longtime agency leader and entrepreneur. He helps PR and marketing agency owners build businesses they want to own.

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