Try this mental exercise: Imagine you’re working for the competition. How would you steal away your most important account?

You’ve put this customer on your key prospect list. You want their business badly, and all that stands in the way is that pesky incumbent supplier. How would you worm your way in?

You might start by nibbling around the edges. Find someone in the organization who has some budget to spend and isn’t tight with the current supplier. Cultivate some small sales that won’t set off any alarms but will get you on the approved vendors list.

Or you might ask around and discover some change in the business that your competitor has overlooked or ignored. Or come up with some new idea that wasn’t even on the buyer’s radar screen. Or figure out who influences the buying decision and quietly reach out to them – not to sell, but just to talk and keep in touch.

Eventually, something will happen – someone will drop the ball, or the customer’s business will take an unexpected zig, or the incumbent’s long-time champion will move on to a new position. And then you’ll pounce.

If you have an account worth keeping, it’s likely to be one worth getting. Don’t give your competitor the chance.

Accounts are most likely to be vulnerable in four key areas:

1. Changes in the business
Business never stays in the same place. Markets change. People change. And every change creates a new opportunity for a competitor to gain access to your account.

2. Relationships
Your relationship with your contact may be solid as a rock. But it could blow up at any time. Your critical relationship is with the company, not with any one person.

3. After-sale service
Back-end service is easy to overlook, especially when you’re spending your time landing new assignments. It’s often the little problems that create an opening – the ones you never hear about until it’s too late.

4. Price
By far the largest open door is pricing. A satisfied customer may routinely pay your invoices without a second thought – until your price goes up or a competitor comes along with a better one.

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