Savage Counsel – how not to get fired

Chris Savage tackles your career and agency dilemmas in his weekly advice column.Chris Savage

Hi Chris,

Our agency has just been dumped by one of our key clients. They gave us the whole ‘it’s not you, it’s us’ break-up speech and now we’re wondering what we did wrong. In your experience, what are the major reasons clients have fired you?

Nothing hurts more than losing a client, particularly one you fought so hard to win in the first place. Yet the reasons for getting fired are usually quite simple and boil down to one of these five major mistakes. I’ve made them all, sadly. Sometimes more than once.

I did not know their business well enough. This is the main reason clients stop working with us. Usually it starts out okay. Then there’s team turnover. The passion for the client’s business seeps away. It’s fatal. You have to stay involved in the nitty gritty realities of their business. Relentlessly. Live in their shoes. And stay there.

I became ‘unreliable’, particularly on delivering on deadlines. I began to overpromise, and underdeliver. Reliability underpins trust. Stop doing what you promise to do and you’ll soon be shown the door.

I did not ‘show up’ often enough. I got busy on other more important stuff. These things were not more important to the client and I got the boot. Clients are always watching what you do. Ensure regular, quality face time with them, particularly if you are an agency leader. Be there when it counts.

I did not demonstrate the value of our work often enough. Regularly package up the results of your work, and merchandise it to your client in a manner they can in turn use to merchandise internally. Sell in the results, regularly. Seek feedback often.

I was not proactive. I got lazy and resorted to being reactive. Clients want us to think of stuff which they don’t, and get stuff done: to be one step ahead. To anticipate and be ideas driven. We must work harder on their business than their teams do. So, be on your guard. Get lazy, and start looking for a new client.

Underpinning these top five reasons for getting fired is that I just wasn’t noticing the signs, the cues, the vibe. Listening to my instinct. Listening (or lack thereof) was at the core of every one of my mistakes. Listen like thieves. And listen with your eyes.

Chris Savage is the chief operating officer of STW Group. His blog, Wrestling Possums with Chris Savage, can be found at chrisjohnsavage.com


Encore issue 5

This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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