Friday, April 24, 2009

Build a Fortress

There's a battle brewing outside your office. Teams are planning their strategies and getting ready to execute long-prepared plans. But what exactly is worth all the trouble? Your biggest client. Sales trainer Tim Rohrer knows what it's like to defend oneself against attacking competitors. Heed his advice to keep those big clients strongly on your side.

"The vast majority of us have an account with whom we do more business than anyone else in our industry," says Rohrer. "Whether the reason is our better service, our better price, our better selection, our better location, our better relationship or any combination thereof, we are somebody's preferred provider. And, our competition knows it."

"Our dominance with this account is the subject of sales meetings, strategy sessions and after hours angst," Rohrer continues. "Our competitors seethe over their losses. It doesn't matter if they enjoy more wins than we do, they still want to win our best account and they will stop at nothing. Our only defense is to build a fortress."

Here's how:

1) Dig deep into the account to build trusting relationships. Just as the best fortresses have multiple defenses so, too, must you. When your attacker scales the outer wall, there must be another wall that may not have been visible from the outside. And, then maybe a moat or a dragon.

a. Of course, you already have a great relationship with the primary decision maker. Ask your ally to introduce you to the secondary decision makers and the support staff.
b. Get your boss involved with your decision maker's boss. Just as you want to be more involved, you want your client to be more involved with your company.

2) Understand how you became and why you still are the preferred provider. Your fortress is worthless if you choose to defend against the wrong kind of attack. That can happen if you don't know exactly why your best client loves you so much. Sellers have a lot of pride and it is common for the successful seller to believe the account has reached its status because they love him so much. Maybe they do but is that the reason your company has become the preferred provider in your industry? Just to be on the safe side you need to ask and the best way to do this is to have someone other than the seller do the asking.

3) Do an honest assessment of your attacker's strengths.
Your competition is almost always stronger than you give them credit for. And, if they aren't strong enough to mount a decent attack right now, you should count on them getting that way in the near future. Your fortress doesn't need to meet today's minimum requirements. Your fortress must be strong enough to deter your attackers even as they strengthen and become more sophisticated. The key to making sure you aren't vulnerable even as your competition gets better is to act as if you are still trying to win over the account. In other words, don't just service the account - continue to sell it!

4) Go on the offensive.
Your fortress has weapons and you shouldn't be shy about using them. Make the enemy back off by launching an attack against their best account. By making them defend their turf you may get them to back off for a short while. Use the time to shore up your defenses!

Are you inspired? Get your shield and start protecting your accounts!

A recognized leader in sales, sales management and sales training, Tim Rohrer is available for speaking engagements and consulting. Contact him at [email protected] and check out his blog at

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