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?