Don’t be a Fat Cat
A few years ago I was filling in for a salesperson on medical leave. I was just making sure some of the company’s best customers were taken care of while Pete was out. When business was concluded at one very important account, I asked the owner if she needed anything else. Was there something we as a company could be doing to serve her needs? She hesitated, obviously a little uncomfortable, and then said, “I wish Pete wouldn’t come in as often”.
Oops! That was not something I expected to hear. Pete was one of our most seasoned salespeople. As far as I knew he had great relationships with all his customers. What was wrong? Why did one of our very best customers want to see less of him? What did I miss on the many joint sales calls that I made with him?
Turns out Pete was no longer bringing value to that customer. Their business was booming and everybody was busy. Pete would show up on a regular basis. He expected people to drop what they were doing so that he could visit with them. That would not be a problem, the customer told me, if Pete brought something of value to the table. Unfortunately he had become complacent. As the customer’s business grew, so did the amount of merchandise they bought from Pete. Even better, he didn’t have to work for it. He looked like a hero to the home office.
He was in danger of losing the account and he didn’t even know it. He had forgotten the things he used to do to help his customer grow. He stopped bringing new ideas. He no longer led product demonstrations for the technicians. It had been months since he conducted a sales meeting for their salespeople. Heck, he even stopped bring donuts once in a while. Basically, Pete was taking his customer for granted.
You can’t ever waste your customer’s time, or take them for granted. Don’t ever presume a relationship you developed through good business practices will survive neglect. It won’t happen. As soon as a competitor walks through the door with a better deal, or offering better value, that friendship is in jeopardy. People may appreciate the things you’ve done for them in the past, but they’re more concerned about the things you’re doing for them today.
Good customers are like gold. Nurture them. It costs five times as much to find a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. Five times! That’s a lot of work that could be avoided with a little TLC.
It’s not unusual to find complacency in salespeople who have been calling on the same accounts for many years. It’s easy to get in a rut. This doesn’t just happen in sales. Just take a look at our elected representatives in Washington, DC. Most of them got elected because they promised change to their constituents. Now, years later, they sit in Congress or the US Senate, fat, dumb and happy. For the most part they have forgotten their promises. They continue to chalk up the national debt while the people who voted for them get the shaft.
Life should be about ongoing development. Anything else is not acceptable. There are great doctors who are continuously honing their skills. Then there are the ones, whose only education since graduating from medical school, is in the form of hand-outs from the big pharmaceutical companies.
Pete’s story could have had many endings. As it turns out, he took early retirement. The bottom line is age or length of time in a job should have no bearing on one’s performance. What’s important is constantly bring value to the customer. Don’t be a fat cat.
Oliver Connolly coaches and mentors sales managers and sales professionals. For more information please go to http://www.clevelstrategic.com