A few years back I had a major customer that was nearing the end of their 3 yr. contract. This account was an extremely large national account with locations through out the United States. I had worked my ass off to win the business in the first place and I certainly wasn’t about to let them not renew.
I had worked extremely hard over the term on the contract to insure that they were always happy. I had established meaningful and lasting customer relationships with multiple alliances and multiple points of contact across the organization. I thought I knew everything about almost everyone in the account. From the front desk to the executive suite, I made sure that every interaction with this account was exceptional.
I felt that I was well positioned as a valued resource and trust advisor.
Well about 6 months before the contract was up things suddenly changed. The company had a major shake up and leadership changed. There was a “new sheriff in town” and he was looking to make his mark. He decided to really shake things up, change the status quo. He brought in his own posse, so to speak, and suddenly everything that I had work so hard for was in doubt.
For anyone that has been in sales for any length of time, you know that this is a really bad sign. The sheriff and his deputies decided to bid the contract and long story short, despite all of the “Zim-Master’s” (that’s me) magical efforts, they went with the lowest bidder. I did everything I possibly could to convince them they were making a huge mistake. I knew that the vendor that they had selected was in no way capable of delivering what they had committed to.
Everyone in my organization was, to put it bluntly, pissed off. All the way up the line, management took the attitude of “screw em” make it difficult for them for to change. Yes, it was a big revenue hit but as the line from the great movie the “Godfather” goes, “it’s not personal, it’s just business”. I knew that if I kept it professional, and delivered the same level of exceptional service, even in defeat, I could eventually win the business back.
I met with all the key players in the account and insured them that despite their decision, I would do everything I could, from my standpoint, to make sure the transition to the new vendor would be smooth. Matter of fact, I went out of my way, went the extra mile, to make it happen.
After the transition was complete, knowing that eventually the new vendor would falter, I stayed close with the account. I continued to provide them with the “Zim-Masters” exceptional service. I still dropped by with the occasional breakfast surprise of bagels and coffee, had lunch delivered to the management team, (aka, those idiots in the sheriff’s posse) and sent birthday and anniversary cards and wishes to various folks in the account.
After about six months, the problems began to surface. At first it was a minor problem, then one thing after another, one problem after another, the problems were compounding. Before I knew it, I was receiving calls from multiple contacts from various departments within the organization asking for my help. Finally, the call that I had been waiting for, the one that I knew would eventually come, happened. I saw the number come up on my phone, (don’t you just love caller ID?) but instead of answering, I let it go to voice mail. I knew what the call was about. After all the S*@T they put me through, I wanted to savor the moment.
When I finally got around to listening to the message, (after only a couple minutes) I was somewhat surprised as the call wasn’t from one of his deputies, it was from the sheriff. The Top Dog himself!
Houston, we have a problem, we need to schedule a meeting, I need your help. How soon can you be here?
Now I’m guessing you know how the meeting went and how the story ends. Yes, I ended up getting all the business back, but I also picked up incremental business in some of their subsidiaries and all at top dollar.
Lessons learned. . . It’s not personal, it’s just business! Even in defeat, no matter how bad it might be, keep it professional and always do the right thing! You never know how things will turn out.
What’s your take on the situation? Would you have handled it differently?
Please feel free to leave your comments and thoughts.