When a Client is Lost Forever

May 3, 2014

Jeff Nollman

Jeff Nollman, CEM, National Sales Manager based in Chicago, Illinois has been with GES for the past 24 years. Jeff works with the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association and other clients.

It’s the nature of our business to win and lose clients. Losing a client to a competitor always hurts, but I know that I’ll get the chance to win them back. Losing a client to cancer is altogether different.

I recently lost a role-model and friend, Carol Christison. For the last 31 years, Carol was the brand leader, creative director, steward, and President of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, and I have had pleasure of knowing her for the past 11 years.

Our friendship was more than a client-vendor relationship, although I think she made everyone feel more important than what a stale label might infer. The mark of a true leader, she always seemed more interested in helping others succeed, she always listened attentively, guided everyone to find common ground, and was full of common sense.

 I will truly miss Carol, and I’m somewhat comforted knowing that I will always carry with me her words of wisdom and the lessons I’ve learned from her.

Here are the three most important things I learned from our partnership:

1. Clearly Plan Projects - When you are pulled into a project with a client, it is crucial that you prepare a clear outline. Maybe they’ll provide a set of specifications, or perhaps be a little vague, but whatever the case, the sooner you establish an outline the sooner both of you can see how the work will unfold. You should have clear objectives and an end product that your client approves. Once you’ve established what needs to be produced, you can work out the fine print.

2. Communicate Openly and Effectively - Communication is essential in every part of our lives and especially in working partnerships. In today’s world of mass communication, there is a huge variety of ways to keep in contact with your clients, from email and social media, to text messages and snail mail. You should make yourself as available as possible for clients to get in contact, and reply promptly and politely to all inquiries. Regular updates on projects ensure smooth development and helps iron out any problems as soon as they arise. If you know your client is a text-er, use that method, if they prefer chats over coffee, go that route.

3. Share Your Knowledge - Generally, your clients come to you for a specific service or product, but you may have a variety of skills and knowledge beyond the work you are delivering. As you get to know your clients better you may discover other areas you can help with. Share your knowledge and apply your skills to a wider range of issues than your client expected. In sharing your wisdom, you go beyond being simply a vendor and become a teacher. By doing this, you will boost your client’s confidence, potentially leading to a wider scope of projects.

Carol Christison was a special lady who has left a lasting, positive impact on many. Her wisdom will forever be with me. If you feel so inclined, memorial contributions may be made to the UW-Madison’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Research Fund, which supports research in gynecologic cancers.

Contributions to this fund significantly help advance cutting-edge research to find new ways to detect the cancer earlier, as well as improve the outcomes and quality of life for women and their families who face these cancers. You may mail donations to: UW Foundation Fund #12902096, Lock Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.

Do you have a client who has been a role model to you? Share your experience by commenting below.


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