Who Really Owns the Customer Relationship?
That question is often a heated topic, particularly when it involves a conversation around a recently departed sales rep that is now in hot pursuit of business from customers of a former employer.
The business management perspective—Of course we’d like to lay claim to any and all sales activity related to an account. We have invested in the platform, the personnel and the systems to perform for our customers. We have a great deal at risk and want to avoid any chance of losing business from a broken employee relationship.
The salesperson’s perspective—Our relationships are our stock and trade. They are the only source of revenue we have and, in many cases, are our lifetime’s work. We live and breathe service to this group of customers, so why shouldn’t we be entitled to pursue these relationships when circumstances require a change.
There you have two perspectives from two very different vantage points...and one big problem.
A third perspective to consider is, what does the customer think? You might try thinking about this version of reality before you lawyer up and argue about who is entitled to the next order, because the answer to the original question—Who really owns the customer relationship?—is that your customer ultimately determines where the relationship rests.
If you want to secure your place in the future plans of your customer, then you have to earn it—every day. As a business manager, don’t allow a surrogate relationship to form. Be sure you know and interact with every customer and that they’re all comfortable with calling on you (personally) as a resource, not just your sales or service rep. A real, connected relationship with each customer is the only non-compete any business ever needs.
Owners, managers, presidents, are you listening? If you are out of touch with the customer, you run the risk of being out a customer if the rep leaves.