Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Imagine this situation:
Your biggest customer, on whom you depend heavily for sales and profit announce that they are going to review all their suppliers for the products and services you sell to them. However, you aren’t too worried as you are the biggest supplier, you have strong relationships and the last time they completed a supplier satisfaction rating, you were 20% ahead of your nearest rival. The competitors have all got issues, some have new management in place and the products and services some of them offer haven’t really kept up with changes in the market. The review is a seven-week process, so there’s hardly time for the competition to mount a serious challenge and in fact if anything you should probably gain more business rather than lose any.
Seven weeks later, it’s all gone wrong and you have a smaller share of the business, your standing and relationships are undermined and the future for you and your business is looking less secure. How did it happen?
I usually steer clear of politics in my blogs, but I’m sure you’ve seen a not too subtle reference to this morning’s election result. Many observers and voters will be surprised by the outcome of the General Election, but while we wait for order to emerge from the chaos, here are some thoughts from me on the lessons we can apply to our businesses.
• Retain goodwill – take care with new ideas that might make your core supporters feel threatened
• Don’t be complacent – it’s dangerous to take the customer for granted and/or underestimate the competition. If the customer invites all competitor managing directors to a meeting, don’t send your sales director.
• If you make a promise, be sure you can deliver on it – If you promise ‘strong and stable’ you can’t do anything that could look ‘weak and wobbly’.
• If there are new people involved in the decision-making process, try to understand them, what their role is and how to appeal to them
• Use your team – bring all the varied talents of your team to bear, different members of your team will appeal to different members of the customer’s team
• There is a role for optimism and personality, even in a serious business situation