What To Do When Your Client Executive Sponsor Leaves

If your stomach flipped just reading that headline, we get it. Great client relationships take time and effort to build, and losing a trusted advocate within your customer’s organization can be crushing. News of personnel changes on the client side can introduce all kinds of woes: the loss of possible years spent building good rapport, a threat to the security of smooth, or at least to-be-expected, day-to-day operations, and, worst of all, your company’s ownership of the business may be at risk altogether.

But it doesn’t have to be all doom-and-gloom! Losing an executive sponsor presents a fair amount of risk to the account, sure, but it’s also a moment of opportunity. When uncertainty looms, keep your head in the game and stave off panic with a few specific, strategic steps.

Review the Org Chart

Your client org chart is invaluable in this scenario, and if you duly followed the first step in Our KAM Process™ of getting to KNOW your customer, you should have an org chart that’s robust, up-to-date, and ready to help in this exact situation.

Ask yourself: who are your next most valuable players on the client team? Is there someone else you can connect with, that may be willing to knowledge-share and shepherd you through this period of transition? Do you already know the person taking over? And if you don’t have any of these secondary strong relationships, are there other people on your team who might?

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re not getting much support or insight from the client, don’t be afraid to explore new links of communication. Is there someone higher up the executive chain, on either side, that may be able to make things easier? Of course communication and outreach should always be thoughtful and tempered, but now is not the time to slink into the background because you don’t know where to go or who to ask. As a key account manager, you may have to overturn stones you haven’t before.

Schedule (Actual) Face Time

As soon as you know who your new executive contact is, set up a meeting. In-person — or as close as you can get to in-person — is best. Reintroduce Our KAM Process™, even if it’s already been done; this new person may have a different vision for their business’s needs and goals. Discuss the following and listen to your new contact’s perspective with a willingness to learn:

  • KNOW: What are the client’s needs and goals? Will KPIs change under their guidance?
  • ACT: What insight can you offer to your new point person, based on your prior experience? What actions have you taken in the past?
  • MEASURE: What have results been to this point? Share successes, and be forthright about any challenges.

Demonstrate your value by asking candid questions. Be aware that business-as-usual may not be guaranteed; in fact, you may find yourself in the position of having to resell this new contact entirely. But start with the basics, before reinventing the wheel — again, proactively following Our KAM Process™ should keep the relationship in good shape. If you run into roadblocks, it’s ok to ask the client, “do you have an open mind on this?” to make sure they’re willing to work through transition pains and stay on board with you. Upsells and big ideas can come later; now is the time to reestablish the business, educate your new contact if needed, and build a solid cadence from which to move forward.

Lastly, remind yourself that this change could mean good things for the business! Big changes can breathe new life into the way your two companies do business together.

Honor Existing Relationships

If you have any control in the matter, try not to let your previous contact slip out of sight and out of mind — especially if it was a notably strong relationship. And even if it wasn’t an exceptionally strong relationship, take the time to thank your former contact and wish them well. You never know where a person will land in the future, and how their needs may come back around to work in your favor. All business relationships represent an opportunity to cultivate your personal network, so before you get caught up in what’s next, take a moment to appreciate what was. You can’t go wrong.


Change in business is rarely much fun, and a shuffle within your immediate client team can be stressful, if not calamitous. But moments of ambiguity and transition can also be an opportunity for you to show value as a calm port in the storm. Rely on your client org chart to help you be creative in finding new client connections, get in front of your new contact and stick to Our KAM Process™, and you should be able to minimize risk and even benefit from a fresh perspective.

Looking for more guidance from Kapta? Try out our new online course for key account management skills training to help you master the skills you need to navigate your accounts in times of uncertainty and in times of harmony.