I asked him, “What would your sales VP tell me if I asked why your sales were down.” He replied, “Our biggest customer that represents the vast majority of that loss is in flux. They pivoted their business and, as a result, they’re not buying from us right now. We think it’s going to pick up, but we are not sure.”
Customers make decisions that affect us all the time—decisions that we have no control off. However, that doesn’t mean your sales have to be down.
My next question to him was, “How are you pivoting in order to grow your business?” There was silence. I then asked that question in a different way: “What did your sales VP do at the beginning of the year to try to mitigate this risk. Where can the incremental $16 million come from?” There was silence once again.
Risk-Protect Your Business
I realized the sales VP was not risk-protecting the business. They were not thinking proactively at the beginning of the year about a number of safeguards. They weren’t thinking about what if their biggest customer goes away, where would they find that additional revenue, or what customer should they be working on right now in order to grow the business and to make up for some of those differences.
A Postive Plan for Negative Events
This positive planning for a negative event is paramount to the success of our sales teams. We do it for customers, territories, and people. Get the team together and put preventative plans into place. What’s the worse that could happen? You won’t lose your business and you’ll grow additional accounts. More importantly, it’s critical to future-proof or risk-proof your business when you have a massive amount of revenue tied up with one customer. Indeed, this is because customers make decisions where we are not involved in, we do not see coming, and that negatively can affect our business.
The mistake we make as salespeople is not being slightly paranoid or concerned in a proactive way—a way that can help reduce risks by finding new businesses should unfortunate circumstances happen.