Business relationships sometimes run their course, but that doesn’t mean they need to burn.
When writing to break ties with a business partner, you should express the news clearly and politely. The following strategies will help you end business connections on good or neutral terms.
1. Follow the BEBE Strategy
The BEBE pattern softens the blow of bad news while also communicating your decision in a clear and efficient manner.
Rather than bluntly stating the news, begin with a buffer statement. A buffer cushions the bad news by connecting with the reader in a positive way. You might thank the reader for past business, express understanding, or pay a compliment.
Thank you for your warehouse support these last three years.
Follow the buffer with a clear and honest explanation of the situation, offering context for the decision.
A sharp increase in inventory and supplier-line changes have complicated our warehousing situation. These factors have led us to shift resources toward warehouse robotics and analytics.
Then break the bad news in plain language. Don’t leave the reader feeling unsure of your decision.
Due to changes in warehousing priorities, Rankin Manufacturing has decided not to renew its contract with Broadband Logistics.
Finally, politely exit, perhaps looking toward the future.
Rankin thanks you for your business these last three years and wishes you all the best.
2. Focus on Business, Not Personalities
When expressing the bad news, avoid personal pronouns, which can come across as accusatory. Instead, focus on the business context of the decision. (You can, however, use personal pronouns for compliments and other affirmative statements.)
Original: We are severing our relationship with you due to your outdated software and your customer-service manager.
Revised: Due to changes in warehouse priorities, Rankin Manufacturing has decided not to renew its contract with Broadband Logistics.
Note: While the active voice is preferable for most writing situations, the passive voice may work better for delivering bad news because it focuses on the message rather than the sender.
3. Keep the Message “Cool”
Even if the relationship has reached a boiling point, keep your emotions in check. Write with a calm state of mind, which you’ll need to clearly think through the issue. Avoid inflammatory words like lousy or stupid or worthless, which only ignite trouble. Expressing strong emotion in writing will make the situation worse and may spoil chances for future business.
4. End with the Future in Mind
Do you want to keep open the possibility for future partnerships? Do you wish to cut off the relationship completely? Craft your ending with your future goals in mind. And don’t forget your complimentary closing—you can never go wrong with “Sincerely.”