How NOT to Say Goodbye to Prospects and Customers   |   +1 (720) 308 2960 (US)

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How NOT to Say Goodbye to Prospects and Customers

As someone that has a lot of years of experience and is pretty visible through speaking events and social media, I often get head hunted. For the most part, I either send the pre-written “not interested” option or I don’t bother to respond at all.


A week or so ago, I received a message that piqued my interest for a couple reasons.


First, the recruiter actually typed the message herself. It’s easy to identify the mass mail merge LinkedIn messages because my name on LinkedIn is ‘★  Julie Holmes ★’. As soon as I see message addressed to ‘Dear ★  Julie,’ I know I can stop reading.


Not-so-hidden sales lesson #1: Pay attention to details


Second, it was clear that she had done her homework by reading my profile and relating the role she had to me personally.


Not-so-hidden sales lesson #2: Personalize your pitch


So, I replied and we chatted. I’ll admit, I was interested. While I love advising businesses on Whole Company Selling and speaking at conferences, I have a soft spot for revenue-focused product marketing. We both asked a lot of questions and she set me up to have a conversation with one of the directors.


It was a great chat and I really enjoyed the conversation. We compared philosophies about products and he shared the name of a great Thai restaurant in my neighborhood. However, after some soul searching, I decided that I love my business too much to walk away from it.


I sent a very polite message thanking them for their time and letting them know that I had decided to keep focused on my own company and programs. I complimented them on making me really think hard because of my respect for the company and the people that I spoke to.


Here is the response that I received.




Seriously, I didn’t even get an acknowledgment or an, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

While this story is about recruitment, there is a BIG lesson here for sales (and customer experience).


How do you say goodbye to a customer or a prospect?


Let’s be honest, sales people aren't generally known for losing gracefully but WE SHOULD. The world is a small place and our prospects and customers – even after they leave us – could just as easily come back or refer us to someone else. But, they will only come back if we treat them right from the beginning to the end of our relationship.


Of course, we don’t want to lose a prospect or a customer, but in the age of subscriptions and easy-come, easy-go products, sales should learn to say goodbye gracefully so that you have a chance that those customers will actually want to come back to you.


And, of course, that means you have to actually say goodbye and not just let them wander off without acknowledging it.


Example 1: Imagine the much used unsubscribe option on an email list.

  • One company says: “You’ve been unsubscribed.”

  • Another says, “We have unsubscribed you but we hate to see you go and hope you’ll come back in the future. If there is something you needed but didn’t see, drop us a note.” – this is a graceful goodbye!

Example 2: An enterprise deal that is lost.

  • One sales rep says: “Ok. Thanks for letting me know.”

  • Another says, “Thanks for letting me know. Would you mind telling me some of the factors that led to that decision so we can try to improve our products and processes? And please know that if anything changes or you just have questions, you are always welcome to call me. I’ve enjoyed working with you.”

Example 3: A candidate that decides to leave the process.

  • One company says NOTHING.

  • Another says, “Thanks for letting us know. It was nice getting to know you and we wish you the best. If you ever change your mind, give us a call. Or if you happen to know someone who might be a good fit, send them our way.”

That's what I wanted to hear from this company (in fact, I had already been considering people that I knew that could be a good fit). That would have been a company that I would do business with and recommend.


So, take a deep breath and remember that goodbye doesn’t mean forever … unless you tick off your prospect and then it probably does. 



Julie Holmes is a sales & marketing advisor, speaker and Whole Company Selling leader. She works with B2B companies that want to sell more and increase their customer lifetime value by helping everyone in their organization understand and share their value with prospects and customers. Give her a call if you’d like to have everyone in your company was selling.

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