The importance of client feedback

Manhattan Construction Co.'s Saima Qureshi shares best practices for making the most of that awkward moment when your prospect decides to go with your competitor.

Remember that time when you were part of a team that failed to win over a client's business, and instead they went to your firm's biggest competitor? We've all been there. It could have been a year ago, it could have been yesterday. Not winning a client is a common outcome at almost all B2B firms. But, what separates the No. 2 choice from the firm that went straight into the trash can? If you ask any successful firm, they would say that the key differentiator is the strategic use of client feedback. The winners go above and beyond to tap into the client's needs and design their pitch or proposal to fit exactly to their needs.

How do I get client feedback?

For firms who already built relationships with clients, getting feedback is the easy part for them. For firms who are pursuing brand new clients, this step can be a bit more tedious. After being notified that the client is choosing to go another direction and not do business with your firm, the first step is to find out who the primary communicator is. Open the lines of communication however you can. Every client is valuable to a firm. Leadership and employees should make time to go to client’s speaking events and really find out what is important to them and find out the deciding factors; you can also potentially make a self-introduction and exchange contact information. This could also be done with an introduction from a mutual business connection, or sending an email requesting a phone call. My advice would be to never cold call. Cold calls make clients feel unprepared and caught off guard to speak with you, so I would avoid that as much as possible.

Be persistent and communicate with, but do not pester, the client. And of course, ask about what your firm did right and what needs improvement. Always ask open-ended questions so the client can go into more detail. When discussing feedback with clients, humility is key. Show that your firm is disappointed that they did not deliver a winning product and how you will do whatever it takes to be the winner next time.

I got the client’s feedback, what do I do with it?

You’ve got the data, now you have to decide how to apply it. Before anything, meet with your team and thoroughly go through the feedback session in detail. Keep the entire team on the same playing field and up-to-date. This is one of the most overlooked steps. The amount a firm keeps its employees in the loop directly relates to the success of the company. It is vital that the team knows what went down in that conversation.

Discussing the feedback with the team opens the door for Step Two: Re-Strategize. Brainstorm the changes that need to be made together and come up with an action plan for the next time you pursue work for this client. Every firm will go about this differently, but fleshing out the details of a plan will maximize the benefits of receiving client feedback. Unfortunately, a lot of client’s deciding factors are emotional, and even those need to be put on the table.

How to skip almost all of these steps next time

A key point to remember: Not winning a client does NOT equal losing a client. Losing a client is flat-out severing a relationship. Not winning is being in the running but just not the winner. To retain the new client connection, keep in touch with them; after all, they just provided your team with valuable information, do not let that relationship go astray. Keep in contact with them frequently, and always ask about new opportunities to work together.

With these tips and tricks, you are well on your way to building a phenomenal company-client feedback structure.