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How Can You Keep the Business When Your Contact Leaves the Company?

The Situation

Tony is attending a retirement party for one of his earliest customers, John at Stellar Industries. The two got along so well, they became friends. They often had lunch together, and once, they took their families on a vacation cruise together.

They rarely disagreed when doing business. So, Tony is thrown off somewhat by John’s rather sudden decision to hang it up. This account represents sizeable business for Tony, and he is not sure about dealing with John’s replacement, Barb.

The New Customer

Although Barb used to be John’s assistant, Tony never established much rapport with her. Just as unsettling, Stellar Industries has more people involved in its buying decisions these days. It’s unclear whether Barb will have the same autonomy that John had.

As Tony leaves the party, he thinks, “I hope Barb and I can become friends.”

Can the Business Be Retained?

What should Tony do to make sure he remains a strong supplier for Stellar?


Drifting Down Complacency Road

Unfortunately, Tony has not been the proactive Q4 salesperson he should have been. It’s great to have a good working relationship with a customer. But in this case, Tony has been lulled into Q2 complacency with this business.


Tony has also been apathetic about developing his relationship with Barb. He let his Q3 friendly, comfortable relationship with John keep him from seeing that one day, he would have to work with other players at Stellar.


Develop Business Rapport

Rather than trying to become friends with Barb, Tony should think about building a meaningful business relationship. Since he knows Stellar’s product and services inside out, he should still have an advantage over his competitors in keeping this account — but he needs to act now!


Obviously, he should meet with Barb right away. But Tony should treat her as a prospect, making no assumptions based on his past history with Stellar. He should probe to get to know her, sizing up her outlook on the business and how she feels about him as a supplier. In Barb’s new role, what specific needs can Tony meet? If he’s effective, he can convince her that his knowledge and insights will help her be successful.


Beyond that, he needs to learn more about other key people at Stellar. He can probe Barb about the buying process, and what he needs to do to secure her buying recommendations.


Are You Keeping Your Relationship Fresh?

If you have a routine for selling a long-term client, check to see if you have become indifferent. Refresh the way you do business. The selling landscape will always change. Don’t neglect the people you come into contact with at your customer’s company. The decision-makers may soon have new faces!