I was monitoring LinkedIn answers the other day and saw a post from a business owner asking if it was appropriate to approach former clients for the purposes of lead generation. Someone in the thread recommended that one should not contact former clients and instead, start from scratch. I disagree. It is one thing if you failed miserably with the client, but I can’t understand why you would abandon a relationship if you provided the client with good service and guidance.
Former clients are a wellspring of opportunity for business developers. First, they know you. Second, they know your work. Sometimes a former client will organically refer someone based on their positive experience with you. Other times, you have to ask for it. And let’s not forget the prospect of converting a former client back to an active client. Mining your past client list is a great way to introduce new leads into your pipeline, but it must be handled with care.
If you make the decision to approach former clients, keep the following in mind.
- Create a list of clients. Rank them by relationship (exceptional, positive, neutral, negative) and years since you last connected. Approach the clients that have a high relationship score (avoid the negative experiences) in the order since you last spoke.
- An email is not appropriate. If possible, set up a face-to-face meeting.
- Do your research before you meet. If you are asking for introductions, be specific. (LinkedIn is a great tool for this!)
- Don’t go in for a hard sell. Instead, have a conversation. Find out what’s going on in their world and ask how their business is doing. Come prepared with open-ended questions that will lead the conversation down the right path.
- Be willing to provide something in return. Successful relationships are a healthy mix of give and take.
Reconnecting with former clients is just one way to generate new opportunities. Find out how you can become a lead generation guru, network the right way, and become a successful business developer by following us on social media. Want to go deeper? Learn more about our Rainmaker Development Program®.