Taking the Bull by the Horns—or Goring Yourself With Them?

I did something in a meeting yesterday that I had never done before.

I and a Berbay account manager met with a few members of a prospective client firm. At some point in our discussion, one of the prospects mentioned that he was a friend of one of our former clients (I’ll call her Jane Doe), and that he had seen her name on the list of representative clients on our website. He asked me what Jane Doe would say about Berbay if he asked her about us.

Here’s the thing: Our experience with Jane Doe didn’t work out that well. We have many satisfied clients, but naturally, we’ve had some clients for whom we weren’t a good fit (and vice versa). Jane Doe was one of them.

I didn’t get the chance to answer the prospect’s question right when he asked it, but at the end of the meeting, I said, “Listen: I’ve never done this before, but I’ll tell you that if you ask Jane Doe about us, you won’t hear great things. We’ve been around for a long time; we have a lot of happy clients, but not everyone works out. But I would recommend you talk to her and see what she says.”

Like I said, this was a first for me. I didn’t want to sit around after the conversation, worrying about whether the prospect would actually get in touch with Jane Doe, and what she’d say. I wanted (like any good PR pro, I suppose) to take the bull by the horns. Who knows what the prospect actually thought, but he did say he appreciated the honesty.

The entire episode leaves me with two questions:

    1. The obvious one: Did I do the right thing to address our experience with Jane Doe head-on?


  1. The prospect had seen his friend’s name listed among our representative clients on our website. Should clients that weren’t 100% satisfied with us be listed on our website? We include them because, whether or not our experience with those clients was positive, it was still an experience—we learned from it, and it helps us work better with other clients today.

Readers, what do you think?

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