How to Protect Your Good Accounts from the Competition
of the slow down in my market, my competitors are trying to gain
business anywhere they can. They are more active in my good accounts
then ever before. How can I protect my good accounts from the
competition? Check out this week's advice from sales trainer Dave
Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, dictates that for most
salespeople, 20% of their customers produce 80% of their revenue. If
that is true for you, it means that losing one of your good accounts
to the competition can be devastating to your business. That should
be enough reason for you to give special time and thought to this
But losing a
good account impacts your business in additional negative ways. The
individuals within your good accounts are typically those people who
provide you special insights into what your competition is doing and
what is happening in the market. Lose one of those good accounts,
and you lose some of that special insight.
accounts are the first places you take your new products and
services. They provide you ready acceptance and honest feedback for
your new offerings. You hone your presentations and sharpen your
approaches because of the feedback provided by your good accounts.
Lose one of them, and that special function they provide is also
And then, of
course, we all knew that your good accounts are the places where you
make the greatest financial return for your time invested.
So, it pays to
think more deeply about how to vaccinate your good accounts from the
competition's enticements. Here are four proven strategies to help
you withstand competitive onslaughts.
Deepen and broaden your relationships
It is difficult for your good friends to take their business away
from you and give it to someone they don't know or trust as well.
Not that it can't ever happen, but if you have great relationships
with the key people in your good accounts, if you have turned them
into friends and not just business acquaintances, you'll put a layer
of protection between you and your competition. So, you need to
focus on turning the contacts in your good accounts into friends by
deepening and broadening your relationships.
To deepen the
relationships means that you work at enabling the key people within
your good accounts to know you and your company better. Take them to
lunch, go to a ball game together, create an opportunity for them to
meet your spouse and vice verse. Turn them into friends. Extend the
relationship to include the rest of your company. If possible, bring
a number of the key people in your good accounts into your facility
to meet some of your company's other employees. Take your boss,
operations manager and customer service people into the account to
meet them. The more comfortable they are with your company, the more
of your people they know, the less likely they are to seriously
consider the enticements of a motivated competitor. To broaden the
relationships means that you make sure that you know more of the key
people within your key accounts, and that they know you. Be
methodical. Make a list of all the important contact people within a
good account. Then carefully evaluate the state of the relationship
you have with each of them.
If there are
important people who don't know you, fix that quickly. Make sure
that you have positive relationships with your key contact's boss,
and the boss's boss. Work as high up the hierarchy as possible.
While the depth
and breath of your relationship isn't a foolproof vaccination
against your competitors, it goes a long way to assuring that your
good account will keep you informed of what is happening, and will
probably give you an opportunity to respond to any especially
appealing enticements. It is step one in protecting yourself from
Close any open doors
Your competitors will be looking for ways to gain a foothold in your
They'll search for cracks in the door that they can wedge into
greater opportunities. Beat them to the punch by eliminating any
opportunities. Carefully examine these issues:
It is not at all unusual to find that some prices in your good
accounts have crept up to the point where they are not nearly as
competitive as they may be in other places. Review your prices, and
make sure that your margin increases haven't put you in an awkward
position. You may have to reduce some prices to prevent a competitor
from making you look bad.
There may be some unresolved, lingering problems in your account.
And, while they may not seem important to you, they provide an
opportunity for your competitors to turn into an opportunity for
them. Are there products that need to be returned? Invoices with
discrepancies that need to be resolved? Items that need to be picked
up? Training that was to have been done and never got scheduled?
Information you were supposed to obtain for someone that you never
You've got the
idea. If there are any unresolved problems in the account, a good
competitor will find them and exploit them to his advantage and your
You may have some product weaknesses that you competitor can
exploit. For example, you may have available this year's version of
some standard product. But your good customer is happy using an
earlier version. You've never seen any reason to try to convert them
to this year's model, when they are perfectly happy with last
year's. However, last year's model may not stand up favorably to
this year's version for your competition. In that case, you may look
bad when your competitor brings in this year's hot new product, and
compares it to an older model that you are supplying. Shame on you.
You should have detailed your version before your competitor got the
Bundle up your products and services
You may be selling ten different items to one of your good accounts.
Rather then continue to sell those ten as separate issues, package
them together and write a contract that addresses all of them as a
package deal. Get your good customer to acknowledge the package.
That way, if your competitor tries to pick out one of the items
you're selling, they can't because the price and service on one item
impacts the others. The more you can bundle items together into
packages the more difficult it is for your competition to dislodge
you on one of those items.
Formally communicate your value
Arrange for quarterly meetings between your good customer's key
people and you and your boss. At these meetings, bring reports
detailing aspects of your service, how much money you've saved that
customer, the training you've done, the information you've provided,
etc. Don't be afraid to identify other areas that you could impact
in the same way. This formal reporting raises your position in the
customer's eyes from that of being just a vendor, to that of a
valuable partner. This separates you from the competition, and makes
it less likely that your customer will be attracted to someone else.
none of these strategies are guaranteed to put an impenetrable wall
around your good accounts, the wise combination of them will make
penetrating one of your good accounts an extremely difficult and
frustrating project for your competitors. Sometimes the best
strategy is a good defense.