Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go Away!

Shortly after I started my first outside sales role, I traveled 9 hours from my home office to see a small account. I continued to see them on a semi-regular basis even though growth potential was limited. I made that nasty trip two more times in the first year.

In some warped sense of reality, I thought I would impress my boss by doing the extensive travel.

The two other painfully long trips and lack of growth in the second year gave me an “ah-ha” moment!

I realized that these trips were not productive uses of my time. I ended up dropping them altogether the year after when sales diminished to almost nothing.

I would sign up any account early in my career, because that is how sales people are wired right? When you are on commission, every sale counts, so you have even more incentive to bring on new business. True, but only to a point.

What I soon realized is if negotiations with a prospect are difficult and time-consuming, there is a real possibility that they will continue to give challenges as a customer in the future. This is not true all the time. But I have “broken up” with prospects before we have had our “first date”.

I learned a very valuable lesson from an ex-manager several years ago. He stated,

“The best business deals occur when both parties give something to the deal”

Rarely do business relationships work when one party gives, gives, gives and the other party gladly takes, takes takes.

I have dealt with customers who were always upset and/or angry with myself and the organizations I was working for. Although these occurrences were rare, I ended up letting them go too. There was negative energy, and since they were smaller with respect to revenue, it was an easy decision based on the value of my time.

I serviced the occasional account who did not support my companies at all, but were more than happy to ask for pricing when a customer specifically requested our products. Eventually they were dropped too. Those were very sad relationships!

Selective = Success

Once I realized that every company is not a suitable business partner, I gained much better perspective on my account base and territory in general. Some tough decisions were made, but at the end of the day I focused my attention on the accounts that had the most growth potential.

  • When was the last time you looked at your customer base and identified troublesome relationships?
  • Can you scale back the time you spend with them, or drop altogether?
  • On the flip side… Do you spend enough time with your largest customers?

About Tim Mushey

Dynamic and energized sales rep, mentor and leader since 1999. This blog will be about sales, social networking, personal branding, leadership, music and having some laughs! Don’t be surprised if I mix it up on occasion, and talk about something totally different! I thrive on being part of successful, forward thinking teams. I am ready to go from the moment my feet hit the floor each morning, with the expectation that new adventures will be coming my way. It is rare that there isn't a smile on my face, as I take it all in, and have some fun along the way!

Posted on October 10, 2013, in Sales, Success and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Great post, I will keep that in mind on my new venture!

  2. Tim – a thoughtful post about something that can be so helpful to learn. A painful truth is that sometimes there is addition from subtraction! 🙂

    Thanks for taking the time to Like my post from yesterday. I’ve plugged your RSS feed into my reader, so I’ll stay tuned. Have a great day.


    • Hey Douglas! You are so correct in saying that there can be addition from subtraction, so we all have to be mindful of that as well.

      You are welcome on the “like” of your post. I really enjoyed it.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Good advice, and I too believe tht both parties need to bring something to the table for good business relationships. Have a great day Tim

    • Hey Tina. I remember the exact scenario when an old boss told me that lesson. I thought back to all the times that I was just give, give, giving. It was quite a reflective time for me, and I changed my mindset going forward.

      Solid business relationships (both ways) are a much better way to conduct transactions and long term partnerships in a territory.

      Thanks for your comments!

  4. Great post Tim. In one my sales roles, my boss started calling me the “pitbull” because I wouldn’t let a potential sale go. I wish she had given me the same advice your manager had. There were some sales I closed that I should have given up on. The revenue did not justify the time and the effort. Instead of spending that much time trying to close the sale, I should have been spending time looking for other opportunities that were a better for me, the company and the customer.

    I also liked your last question .. are you spending enough time with your largest customers? It’s easy to take them for granted. They love us right!? But just like any relationship, if we don’t communicate appreciation regularly and if we don’t continue to ensure we are meeting changing needs and priorities, we stand the chance of being dumped!

    • Hi Laurie. I was a “pitbull” once too. It takes some time to get out of that mindset, but once you do, things tend to run that much smoother in a territory.

      Yeah, I learned the last question around the same time in my career. It is easy to get complacent and think that the “big guys” are fine, and love us. But if we don’t give them the TLC that they deserve, that is a great time for the competition to swoop in!

      Great comments and thanks for taking the time to contribute.

  5. This is a great post…. Good advice for personal relationships too!!!

  6. Great post Tim! This is one of the most challenging topics for anyone who is new to sales. Those with experience know that finding the right customer and “firing” those who are not, makes perfect business sense.

    • Hey Chris! Nice to hear from you. It can be challenging, especially those who are new to sales. But figuring this concept out early can lead to great success. I got your message. We will certainly catch up in the next couple of weeks…

  7. Great post Tim!

    I lived the exact same story years ago! My boss began to tell me that I was doing things wrong when I stopped selling ‘his way’ and crafter my own style. I whittled myself down to one of the smallest territories; yet had 2 of our largest accounts.

    My strategy was to simply be selective and create partnerships with my clients.

  8. Great post. I’ve never been in sales, but was a consultant and it was a tough, tough lesson that not every customer is a good customer for me and what I have to offer. Timothy Ferriss and Brian Tracy both do a good job describing it under the 80/20 rule. Your questions at the end are fantastic and spot on.

    • Thanks Broc! Glad you liked it. The 80/20 rule (or pareto principle) is such a valuable tool. But when we think we have things firing on all cylinders in a sales territory, many of us (including myself) tend to stray from this theory and it can cause added headaches.

      Simplifying things and knowing who is “buttering your bread” with your account base is almost a certainty for success. Spending too much time on accounts that should be “broken up with” … well it can turn a territory upside down!

      Thanks again!

  9. Tim-
    I find myself in the same situation. The difference is that these customers tell me they like me but the service they receive from support staff after I make the sale make the transaction difficult. My boss tells me it’s my fault because I’m not following the process through and making sure everyone else is doing their job. My feeling is that if I’m doing that all the time, I can’t effectively sell. Thoughts?

    • Randy! I dropped the ball! I am so sorry.. this is the first post that I have not returned the same day since I started blogging! My sincerest apologies again.

      My initial reaction is that I would not be overly happy with your boss having that perspective on the situation. I think it is fair that you spend a bit of time following the process through, but you are bang on in saying that it sounds like too much “babysitting the order through all the steps” keeps you away from actual selling.

      I think a conversation with your boss would be helpful. If others are having issues and making errors on order processing, he may have to work with those support people (with your help perhaps) to fix those problems.

      Long term without resolution to those issues, I suspect you will become more and more frustrated. Your boss needs to know how you are feeling, you cannot point the blame solely on the others for the challenges. But come to him with some some suggestions of how things could possibly change.

      I have had a couple of different bosses tell me “don’t just come to me and complain, but bring suggestions and/or solutions to the situation”..

      Good luck and let me know how it all shakes out..

  10. Tim, very interesting post. I agree 100% that sometimes you have to fire your customers. However, you may have had other benefits in that long 9 hour drive. Seldom do you have the time alone without interruption to really plan and think. Most people are in the reaction mode 24/7. Did you experience any benefit from the long drive?

    • Hey there! Thanks for taking the time respond. I really appreciate your comments. At that point, unfortunately, I did not experience any benefit from the long drive to speak of. I guess I recharged the batteries a bit listening to talk radio and music.

      Now that I am a bit “older and wiser” I really enjoy listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Life gets a little busy as you know, so I don’t get to read paperbacks as often as I like. This is a wonderful alternative.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  11. I think this idea serves well in many businesses– not just sales. Even as a dentist, people are shocked to find out that we can choose to “break up” with our patients if the relationship isn’t working. You’re right– there is no need to suffer through a difficult relationship because most of the time, the difficult ones don’t change.

    • Hey thanks for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate it. In business, I think we are initially wired to serve everyone. But as we can more experience, being selective can be a real factor in true success.

      You are correct, this applies to all different types of business. Thanks again for stopping by!

  12. Great write-up and thanks for stopping by to like my blog.

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