You’re Only as Good as Your Last Idea


Have you ever sold the big deal that eventually became the big customer and is now your company’s top account? Winning the big deal is one of the rewards of a sales effort done well. Long-lasting customer relationships are rewarded with repeat revenue. You achieve your quota, get rewarded with club trips, and your quota increases, which is good because your company is growing. It’s all a wonderful thing, until it isn’t.

The nightmare begins when you get the call informing you, “We decided to make a few changes.” In that moment, the relationship seems lost without reason. Your subconscious recalls that buying and consuming doesn’t always equal value and you remember from all your sales training and business experience that business value is different than product performance. Then you break into a cold sweat. Losing a big account is never a good thing.

We work with thousands of salespeople every year and when we ask why customers buy from them, we hear answers like “we’re embedded,” or “we’ve got long-standing relationships.” The one I like the most is, “it’s just too hard to change”. Getting a customer to change their status quo is far more difficult than it seems. In fact, 60 percent of customers will choose no decision when faced with a purchase decision. Changing vendors without business value is rare. If changing is so hard, why do some companies end long-standing relationships?

You only get credit for the value proposition you create.

When you allow a competitor the opportunity to create, or re-create, the buying vision, you open the door to lose everything. When ideas stop flowing, when the relationship becomes stale, and when the focus comes off the customer, you create the opportunity for your customer to find better solutions elsewhere. Executives don’t wake up in the morning thinking that they’d like to expend the effort, energy, and expense of bringing on a new supplier. So you have to ask yourself: How is it that companies find themselves in a situation where their customer says they have to make a change?

Think about it. Your customer knows you, your company, your products or services, and your processes. They didn’t throw you out after the first trial or even after the first couple of years. They kept buying your solutions and services for years, perhaps decades, and then something changed. Or did it? Every business is searching for new ideas. Executives create initiatives to drive change throughout their organization. Every business is striving to create an unfair competitive advantage by bringing ideas to their organization to differentiate themselves in the market. Executives are going to find those ideas from within their organization, they’re going to seek ideas from their suppliers, or they will go to the market to find the ideas. You can either be part of the solution or stand by and watch as your competitors step up to the challenge. Embrace the expanding pie theory as you bring new ideas. Become fearless and forget about protecting your entrenched revenue. Your ideas will bring growth, not only for your customer but also to your organization. Look to change the way your customer is running their business versus how you can sell more of your product. Challenge yourself to create a list of ideas about business improvements. Constantly refresh the list. Don’t get stuck with trying to find the one big idea. Small ideas executed very well and focused on a specific improvement will end up having a big impact. And no matter what you do, always have the next idea ready.

Stay tuned for my follow-up piece on keeping your most important accounts coming back to your solutions.

Good luck and good selling.

To learn more about making a compelling business case to executives in your existing accounts—and about making an impact in new ones—check out this short whiteboard video:

Tim Riesterer

Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer has dedicated his career to improving the conversations marketers and salespeople have with prospects and customers. His books, “Customer Message Management”, “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale”, “Three Value Conversations”, and "The Expansion Sale", focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. As chief strategy and research officer for Corporate Visions, he sets the direction and develops products for this leading marketing and sales messaging, content and training company.

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