Sales Recovery: Repairing Broken Relationships
Remember the scene in To Catch a Thief when John Robie, aka ‘the Cat’, aka Cary Grant, escapes into the restaurant of his old resistance friend to avoid the French gendarmerie nationale? Looking out onto the kitchen from inside the owner’s glass office suddenly an egg explodes on the window. His former resistance friends working the kitchen no longer want anything to do with him because they think he’s stealing jewels again and bringing attention to them. As ex cons they’d rather lay very low. It seems he’s run from one enemy into the arms of another.
If you’ve ever taken over a territory and walked into an account and found the natives ready to burn you at the stake you know how John Robie felt. Don’t feel bad for him however. He spent the rest of the movie being seduced by Grace Kelly.
A recent sales strategy session with a client reminded me of how as a new rep in a new territory you can turn a situation going south into an opportunity.
Joe works for a food service company in Texas. He’s the number one rep in his company. He’s set so many records the company will have to reset all standards. During a Funnel Audit recently he described his approach to an account that had problems related to a previous employee. He said when he walks into this account he actually senses the energy being drained from the room. He doesn’t dispute the previous problems. Joe had this account on his Buy Cycle Funnel because he felt it has long term potential.
Bam! Lesson one – don’t be afraid to go back into an account that your previous rep screwed up. This sounds simple, but it’s tempting to avoid things that cause heartburn. In this case there’s no purple pill you can take.
Joe continued. He said he doesn’t take it personally that this account doesn’t like his company.
Bam! Lesson two – it’s not about you when you inherit a gnarly situation.
I asked Joe what his objectives are when he goes into this account and he said it’s to repair the relationship first, then qualify some new opportunities if possible.
Bam! Lesson three – Joe’s not selling because there’s no buying going on. Over time Joe’s salve on the relationship will heal it to a point where the stakeholders give him and his company another shot at business.
About twenty years ago I learned a valuable lesson like this when I inherited a trouble account in a territory selling medical devices to hospitals. My predecessor was so good that he sold more stuff than the hospitals needed. Impressive right? Hardly.
The operating room manager wanted to take my head off when she learned I worked for the company whose products were sitting idle on her shelf. After confirming there was no doctor who would use these products I agreed to return them. She never forgot that. As a result she gave me access to doctors later and eventually I sold them the products. Everyone was happy.