Every B2B business, whether you’re a marketing agency or any other small business that works with multiple B2B clients, has experienced that dreaded moment when you lose a big client. Ups and downs are a fact of life of being in business, but it can still be painful when a big account cuts back on your budget, or when you lose some revenue that you had been counting on. The usual response to losing a big client is to cut costs: lay off employees, cut back on your budget. But what if there was a more creative and agile way to recover from the hit to your bottom line?

There are several immediate strategies that B2B sales organizations can use to bounce back from a lost client or a lost account.

Re-evaluate Your Current Base of Business

Losing a big client hurts. But remember: you still have plenty of other clients, right? Go back to your existing client base and look for opportunities to boost revenue by selling more or selling differently to your current customers, such as:

  • Can you upsell some additional higher-value products or services to your current clients? Studies of upselling have found that selling to existing customers has a success rate of 60-70%. Customers are often more likely to buy additional solutions from you if they already know you and have a business relationship in place.
  • Can you cross-sell multiple solutions to clients who are currently only utilizing a certain product or service from your company?
  • Can you carefully raise prices on your customers to drive more revenue? But be careful with this strategy; if your customers are price-sensitive, you don’t want to drive them away.  

Your current clients can often be a source of significant new revenue. Sometimes you just need to think creatively and “make the ask” to uncover new opportunities from your existing business relationships.

Ask for Referrals

In addition to generating new revenue from your current clients, you should look for opportunities to ask your existing clients to help you find new business by asking for referrals. An AMA Journal of Marketing study found that referral customers tend to be more loyal, generate higher lifetime value, and contribute higher profit margins per year.

Asking for referrals is a favor that you’re seeking from your clients, so be thoughtful, courteous, and strategic about how to ask. Sometimes the best occasion to ask for a referral is after a completed project, or at the moment when a client is most happy with your work. If a client sees the value that you deliver and your excellent service is top of mind, they will be more likely to enthusiastically agree to share your company’s name with their network.

Just like you need to have a sales script or an elevator pitch when talking with new prospects, you should also prepare a “referral script” that you can use when asking your current customers to spread the word about your business. For example, a good referral script might be:

“I’m so glad to hear that you’re happy with our service. Let’s keep in touch. I also wanted to ask you: would you be willing to introduce me to any other colleagues or people in your network who might need help from my company? I would love to talk with you about this. Can we set up a call to brainstorm a few ideas?”

This script reinforces the positive experience that your client has recently had, it makes a specific request (introductions for referrals), and it asks the client for a specific commitment (to schedule a follow-up call).

Different referral scripts might work better for some businesses or industries, depending on your sales process. But think it through ahead of time: what is the best way for your company to proactively seek more referrals?

Recharge Your Sales Pipeline

Losing a big client is an occasion to get more aggressive in working your existing sales pipeline. Go back to your network of prospects and potential sales leads. Who is in your pipeline that you had already been talking with? Which conversations have stalled or slowed down, and how can you move those conversations along faster? How can you create some new urgency with cold leads?

One of the most important ways to recover from a lost client is to get more focused on your lead ranking and lead nurturing processes. Take a fresh look at which of your business leads are really getting close to “ready” to buy and which ones might need more time to do research, get their questions answered, and build trust. Re-evaluate your current business leads. Check-in with prospects who you haven’t heard from in a while, try to schedule a new round of calls and product demos and dig deeper into the prospect’s concerns.

Diversify Your Lead Generation Portfolio

Along with re-evaluating your current pipeline of prospects, it’s time to enhance your lead generation efforts. Sometimes, B2B companies fall into a rut of only pursuing certain types of lead generation – such as inbound marketing strategies. But when you lose a big client, it’s time to get proactive with a wider array of strategies. Just like you wouldn’t want to bet your life savings on a single stock, you shouldn’t invest all of your lead generation budget and effort into a single type of lead generation activities. 

Diversify your portfolio of lead generation strategies with inbound and outbound marketing. Try some new things with marketing, try some new marketing tools, new marketing channels, or new methods of reaching out to clients. Or go back to basics with such simple tactics as picking up the phone and calling your customers. It’s become fashionable in recent years to say that cold calling is dead, but for complex B2B sales, sometimes the best method is to pick up the phone and have a real person-to-person conversation with your prospect. There are specific nuances and unstated objections that you can navigate better by talking on the phone than by waiting for an email reply.   

Losing a big client can be stressful and painful and sad, but it’s best to push through any emotional response and just focus on business. Keep your chin up and keep pushing forward and move on to the next opportunity. Now is the time to get creative, to stay optimistic, and to keep looking for ways to deliver great solutions and convey your value proposition for your current clients and clients of the future. 

Author Bio

Gregg Schwartz is the vice president of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, a lead-generation firm based in Connecticut.