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Client Retention – Not Always Easy

Dear Coach Joan,

I’m coming to the end of a 30 year account management career and need to transfer my clients to my partner or I lose out on my income payout for the next several years. The problem is that several clients are showing resistance to my  partner even though they gave me very positive feedback as they got to know him, starting  five years ago when he joined the team.

Do you have any insights or suggestions as to how to get them more comfortable with this change?

Thank you,


Dear Mitch,

Congratulations on completing a 30 year career run! And it’s wise of you to set up a way to get a payout in these next several years. Many companies have done away with pensions so it is important to be forward thinking about retirement in advance.

The situation you are dealing with is called CHANGE. And people are often resistant to change. This applies not only to the work arena but to all areas of life. Children are often difficult to a replacement teacher when their regular teacher has to leave. Patients are often uncomfortable with a new physician, dentist or hairdresser when the one they’ve known for years is retiring.

Mitch, put yourself in their position. These clients have trusted you for many years and although they met and seemed to like your partner, think about it. They liked the new person when you were still there. Now you are going to be leaving. The don’t really know or trust what the new lead person will bring. You were there first as the senior partner, from the clients experience. And they need to feel confident and comfortable with seeing your  partner moving into your role; the senior position. They need to have opportunities to see your partner as a leader.

Here are some suggestions for how to make the clients more comfortable with the change:

1. Invite key clients out to lunch. Review your relationship and the key benefits provided by you and your company. Listen closely for any objections that you might be able to address. Reiterate the similarity of  your partner’s approach and listen for any concerns about him that you can discuss. Suggest they imagine working with him. Ask how it feels and what they might like and what they might be fearful about. Offer to include him for a next lunch or to schedule a  one on one lunch with the partner.

2. Set up a client dinner. Invite key clients and your partner.

  • Make  a presentation reviewing your strategies and then have your partner give a talk. Let him show his leadership skills and ideas!
  • Have him explains his approach to the work and how he will be continuing to provide the same level of service.
  • Work the room and make sure to track and respond to client’s reactions.

3. Invite Upper Management to Face to Face Meetings with clients who are apprehensive. Invite those clients to meet with you, your partner and key upper management to reinforce the company’s commitment to them. Remind them that even though you are leaving, the organization remains committed to them, and to the high level of service they have always received. And let the clients experience that they have a complete team of fully capable experts to support and service them, even when you are gone.

Mitch, good luck to you on this transition. It is probably one of the most important projects you will have in ensuring a good transition to fueling your retirement. Onward to your success and a fulfilling retirement.

Coach Joan

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