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How relevant is your existing “relationship” with an incumbent supplier?

By Paul Roukchan - Updated on July 21, 2021

The above question is a bit of a taboo subject as the sole purpose in sales is to build relationships and grow them, if you do that right the sales will follow. Any Account Manager/BDM/Salesperson – whatever it is you want to call them – will tell you that building relationship is the key to a successful career in the game. However, how relevant is that relationship after the contract has been signed and the honeymoon period is over? 

 

The biggest objection we face in sales from a customer is the following line: “We have a fantastic relationship with our existing provider so thanks but no thanks.” – this is usually followed by a dial tone or the person on the other end will say “goodbye” and hang up without giving you the chance to reciprocate their farewell, which is frustrating because my goodbyes are the best, charming and simple, I like to believe people have a smile on their face after any conversation with me – but I would be wrong.

 

From experience I know this line is seldom true, the gatekeeper on the other end of the phone may have a great relationship with an existing supplier because he/she will only ever see one side of them, the charming one – your “friend” the Rep, the one that greets them with the biggest of smiles, a tray full of coffee and a couple of muffins, they will ask you about your family and whether or not their son has made the 1st XI at school – you may think its small talk but its subconsciously calculated from years of sales grind. As a salesperson you know if you treat the receptionist as the most important person in that company they will hang up on any hawker trying to get a meeting with the boss.  Now, does this strategy work every time? No. But it does most of the time. It isn’t to say salespeople don’t make genuine connections, we’re not sociopaths, I myself can count close to a dozen good friends I have made because they were customers of mine at some point in the beginning and despite having moved on from our previous roles we still make time to hang out.

 

What I am talking about though is not the relationship with the Account Manager (Rep), I am talking about the company they work for, the company that provides a service to your business – or at least supposed to. Are you getting the best bang for your buck? In some industries that question is easy to answer due to the undeniable KPI’s, you can measure the performance by; ie. You placed an order and the ordered showed up – easy, they haven’t taken your money. But in other industries, it can be hard to measure performance despite best efforts. Credit Management is one such industry because there are just too many factors involved in getting a successful debt collection, these include Quality of debt,  disputed or undisputed, in-depth paper trail, age of debt, debtors contact information. But the biggest factors are actually: the grit of the debt collector and the strategy employed to collect said debt. 

 

Without going into too much boring detail the simple rule of thumb is this: if you’re getting less than 50% collection rate from the debt that you refer; you should actively question the reasons why and if the buck stops with your supplier; it may be time to find a new “friend”.

Paul Roukchan, National Sales Manager
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