Recently, we lost a regular customer in a round of layoffs and budget cuts. This left us with unexpected capacity for the rest of the quarter (and potentially beyond).

It's easy to freak out when this happens and start spinning all kinds of unhelpful scenarios. I know because I've done it. But I've survived a lot of recessions and slow downs after 30 years of agency ownership and I've learned that wigging out can't be the only strategy. (See more things I've learned in three decades.)

Reaching out is crucial. And yet, a lot of us feel weird asking for work. We worry about assumptions. Or that we'll seem desperate. Or we don't want to appear needy.

I get that. Some people are going to think what they want to and we can't do anything about that. But when we have good relationships with clients and we approach the situation as an opportunity, we more likely come off as smart, proactive and worthy.

So here's what I did:

I told our other regular clients what happened and that we could take more work if they had anything or needed vacation coverage, and asked them to refer us to colleagues who might need the same. I also contacted a handful of dormant clients with the same message. When I sat down to write the emails, I did so with a mindset that this was a windfall for our customers as opposed to a bummer for us. That infused the communication with confident and good energy.

And nothing bad happened. In fact, some good things happened.

  • One of our active clients mentioned us to a coworker who sent us two recurring blog-writing assignments on the spot.
  • A dormant client was relieved to have an outlet for a white paper that was not coming together internally.
  • Others offered to make introductions to colleagues and to keep their eyes peeled for opportunities.

And in my experience, it usually works this way. Even if you don't get immediate revenue generation, you added a touchpoint to your customer relationships that's authentic and opportunity-focussed.

We never know when a good client will move on, or the brand will get acquired or something else will impact your bottom line. Developing skills and a mindset to weather these events is one of the most important things we can do as leaders.

So next time you need something, ask for it.

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