When A Client Says No — Should You Do An Exit Interview?

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A friend of mine is a successful independent business owner with high-end corporate clients. After a few deals didn’t close — and she didn’t feel badly about the deals not going through — she wondered:

Should I follow up and ask them for feedback about why they went with another service?

Small business reality: you’re always interviewing.

When you’re a small business owner, a consultant, or a freelancer in the service business, you’re often interviewing new clients on the regular. Part of your marketing and sales allocation (whether it’s in time or dollars) is in networking, outreach, and meeting new faces to add to your business.

It can be a numbers game: you interview a certain number of people, and some percentage of them say yes, and others end up not working with you.

The question is: do you ask every single person for feedback every single time you interview a new client?

In my opinion, I think not.

You don’t need feedback from everyone.

When you seek out everyone’s opinion, you water down the quality of the feedback you get back. The average of everyone’s thoughts will trend towards normal, or mediocre. You want to stand out, to cultivate a body of work, to own your own grounding in who you are.

In writing practice, you don’t ask everyone and anyone to give you feedback. I don’t want someone who has no sense of grammar, style, or punctuation to give me final copy-edit feedback on my book. I’m looking for one or two of the best copyeditors. When I’m working through the idea stage, I want the right subset of people who are interested in similar ideas, with a relevant background, or part of the type of audience I’m looking to connect with.

In your business, you might start by asking everyone for feedback all of the time. Every new client is an opportunity to learn! Yay!

As you grow, however, you’ll learn a lot about what clients want and don’t want, and you can start to hone in on who you ask for feedback.

As your best clients for feedback.

And when you miss closing a deal and you feel really bummed because you think that was a great opportunity for leveling up your business game, ask them how you could do better.

Focus on the areas you want to grow, and the people you want to work with, and collect feedback from these specific people.

In-depth feedback from very specific people who are tailored to your idea or business is better than cursory notes from a wide range of not-so-interested people.

 

When working on your business, remember you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If it’s not a good fit, and you know that they aren’t your right client, learn from it — by focusing on the types of clients you want to attract, and spending your time and energy on them.

What do you think?

Where do you look for feedback? When do you decide not to get feedback? How do you decide what feedback to listen to, and what to ignore? Have you ever had a time when someone gave you feedback and you decided to do something differently?

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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