My Greatest Sale: The new buyer gave my account to his pal!
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My Greatest Sale: The new buyer gave my account to his pal!

Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople closed the deal despite sales objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Carl Benbow of Banta Manufacturing in Kansas City, MO, tells what happened when a new purchasing manager decided to take his business to his buddy.

I could tell the purchasing manager at one of my major accounts was under a lot of pressure. We’d been doing business for 12 years and had a good relationship. Then his company was bought out, and the rumors started flying about consolidation and layoffs. I learned that my buyer had been laid off came when the company cancelled a blanket purchase order that had been in effect for 10 years.

I called the new purchasing agent and tried to set up an appointment, but he blew me off.

The buddy system
I later found out that I’d been replaced by a vendor who’d been doing business with the purchasing agent for years.

I didn’t know how or when, but I was determined to win this account back. And I had a plan.

Yes, the new purchasing manager had given his old buddy the business. But I figured that loyalty came at a cost. Everyone would assume the new vendor had gotten the business because of favoritism, not on merits. So if he ever dropped the ball, even once, it would be politically difficult for the purchasing agent to defend him. And everybody drops the ball sooner or later.

So I watched and waited.

I called at least once a month. The purchaser made it clear he was committed to his present supplier.

But I had a another contact: a manufacturing manager I’d helped out in the past, and who had survived the consolidation.

No problems … yet
I called my second contact regularly just to check in. He always seemed glad to hear from me, but he’d say everything was going fine.

Then one morning he cut me short. “I don’t have much time,” he said. “We missed a shipment for a major customer, and I’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”

When I called him back the next week, I got an earful.

My successor had been late with a shipment that caused the customer to miss an important deadline. The division manager was furious, my contact revealed. “You didn’t hear this from me,” he said, “but this might be a good time to call the purchasing agent.”

I called right away and got an immediate appointment. I didn’t mention his missed shipments or broken deadlines, but I emphasized our commitment to service and brought along our 12-year record of on-time deliveries.

I could see that the purchasing manager was in no position – and in no mood – to protect the buddy who’d let him down. “I saved a few bucks lining up some new suppliers,” he admitted. “I guess I didn’t pay enough attention to service.”

He didn’t hand me back the whole account. I got a series of small orders, and knew I was being tested. But when we met all the deadlines, his attitude and the size of the orders changed dramatically. Now he’s one of my best customers!

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