Managing the “Gorilla” Customer Relationship 


Bob Schultek
Author of The Gauntlet

When your business with one customer exceeds 25% of your annual sales, then you have a “gorilla” customer and you’re probably feeling vulnerable. You’ve earned the business by serving them well, and if they offered you more, you’d likely be pleased to expand the relationship, but be wary.

Loss of a gorilla customer can be devastating, and typically that loss has nothing to do with your performance. The 3 top reasons these customers depart are:

There’s a change in your contact(s), and the new person(s) cares nothing about your relationship;
Your customer is acquired by or merged with another large entity, and they no longer need you;
The customer decides to consolidate suppliers or move the work in house.

Here are some warning signs that your vulnerability is growing:

You discover that you are consistently compromising the profitability of your business to serve your largest customer;
So much of your company’s time is consumed serving your most significant customer that there is no time dedicated to pursuing new business; or
You’ve stopped offering uncommon, “against the trend” advice to your key customer because you are afraid to lose them, even though this helped you originally earn their business.

To […]

Leading Productive Conflict

A key ingredient of enduring team relationships is productive conflict. Sustaining trust within a team requires the occasional fearless, passionate exchange of alternative, sometimes contradictory, ideas.

Conflict is often considered to be offensive in organizations.  As leaders progress in their careers, they tend to invest increasing amounts of energy avoiding the spirited debates that are necessary for building the most effective teams.

To be clear, productive conflict is focused on exploring ideological differences, not destructive arguments, political infighting or personal attacks. While the same levels of emotion and frustration present in interpersonal clashes may be exhibited in productive conflict, leaders ensure that their teams realize that the purpose of vigorously exchanging ideas and concepts is to produce the best solution as quickly as possible.

Promoting healthy conflict requires that leaders refrain from protecting their team members from harm; prematurely interrupting debate to defuse a disagreement inhibits the team’s development of needed coping skills. No leader wants to lose control of a team meeting, but for the conflicting dialogue to be productive, it must reach its natural resolution.

This doesn’t mean that leaders should remain above the fray. When a debate gets stuck, they can facilitate the achievement of resolution by summarizing the two […]

By |February 21st, 2017|Grolistic, Grolistic, Grolistic...No-Excuses Growth Blog|0 Comments

3 Leadership Factors That Drive Growth

An effective leader realizes that sustaining growth, or reigniting it, depends on the depth to which his or her people are committed. Successful, dedicated teams are bonded by more than their aspiration to achieve a shared goal.

These 3 leadership factors result from the awareness that your people are your most sustainable competitive advantage for driving growth.

Purpose: Commitment cannot be compelled; it must be inspired. People must choose to invest discretionary effort above and beyond their workload, and that choice comes from their belief in the meaningfulness of their work. People who seek to commit, want to make a difference. They want to know how their efforts contribute to the success and value of the business. Leaders who articulate a Purpose that describes why the organization exists and how it makes a difference for its customers tap into this motivation. The resulting commitment empowers imagination and vision, enables the overcoming of obstacles, and provides the fuel that elevates performance and achieves goals.

Principles: The people on committed teams know what to expect from each other because they have developed a set of core values that define how they will act in pursuit of their Purpose and goals. And they […]

By |November 29th, 2016|Grolistic, Grolistic, Grolistic...No-Excuses Growth Blog|0 Comments

Crafting Price Satisfaction

When the selling/problem solving process is done well, both buyer and seller can be satisfied with the final price.

To earn your price, and leave the customer feeling satisfied with that decision, preparation is the key. Use these 3 methods to maximize preparation:

Start early. Ensuring that both parties will be satisfied when the deal is done begins with your decision to do more than resolve a customer’s current pain. Early in the discovery process, position your proposed solution as an investment in the customer’s future success, rather than as just a necessary cost paid to address today’s problem. Learn about the customer’s business.  Why is removing the pain important?  What defines success for the customer? What barriers must be overcome to achieve their goals? How does your solution produce quantifiable benefits that address these questions and move them towards the future?

Help them make money. Convert your promised quantifiable benefits into money. Decisions are evaluated and made using the language of money; it’s the language of management. How is an investment in your solution going to produce a strategic financial advantage for them? Before proposing a solution that reduces a customer’s cost, look first to a means of increasing […]

By |October 25th, 2016|Grolistic, Grolistic, Grolistic...No-Excuses Growth Blog|0 Comments

Why 80% of Qualified Leads Get Wasted

Since directly linking sales growth to some marketing program is unrealistic, measuring the ROI for these initiatives is often based on monitoring the number of newly generated leads, tracking these through qualification to proposal.
But what if the lead-to-proposal process is not being monitored? According to a recent report, 80% of qualified leads get wasted…they never get followed-up by the sales team.  

A qualified sales lead is a prospective customer whose need has been validated and is deemed ready for the next stage in the sales process. These leads have a shelf life. If they are not promptly followed-up, then the opportunity is lost to convert them into proposals and orders; the marketing investment is wasted. Why does this happen?

Lack of Sales Commitment – Busy sales people don’t often differentiate between qualified leads and raw leads. Chasing raw leads is time-consuming, frustrating and usually unproductive; it’s easy to become discouraged when nothing is yielded by following-up. Instead, investing precious time to call on existing customers, fix known problems and increase transactions is much more efficient than pursuing leads that might, someday, produce a new customer or two.

SOLUTION: Qualify raw leads before you assign them to the sales team. Use an inside sales […]

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Few strategies are actually implemented as planned. Circumstances inevitably arise to disrupt the best of plans. Every experienced business leader understands this reality, and the need to adapt.

With this certainty of uncertainty, what then makes the difference? What produces success?

Business planning is still an essential, productive exercise. But leaders recognize that it’s the planning process that is most valuable, not the plan document that emerges.  The process of developing the plan engages leaders from every function of the organization to specify shared goals and coordinated actions to achieve them. When unforeseen events drive a re-assessment of strategy, then adapting to the changed environment is more rapidly achieved when those that originally built the plan collaborate to refine it and engage with their people to alter its implementation.

In the military, preparing for contingencies and training people to rapidly adapt is a proven discipline. Experience has taught that well-trained personnel who understand their mission and are committed to accomplishing it will leverage their skills, initiative and teamwork to overcome unexpected barriers and accomplish their objectives in the field.

Similarly, business leaders challenged with reacting to unpredictability can accelerate their rate of adaptation and increase their probability of success by relying on their […]

Dysfunctional Teams Are Toxic

Teams typically commence their activities with the best intentions in mind. But over time, dysfunction can creep into the group, destroying its productivity and wasting precious time. These teams are toxic to themselves and the organization.

What triggers this deterioration and how can the decline be stopped?

Dysfunction is always triggered by a team member’s behavior. Someone on the team behaves in a manner that is inconsistent with the other team members’ expectations about how something should occur. Perhaps someone is left out of the team’s decision-making process and the lack of their opinion causes the team to make a mistake. Or, perhaps voices are raised during a team meeting and the loudest voice wins the debate. Or, one of the team members is consistently late and is never called on it. Or, maybe one member is shamed in front of the team.  

Everyone on the team observes the negative behavior and they mutually verify that the behavior is unacceptable. This verification happens with a nod or a shake of the head; rarely is it spoken. Various team members then draw their own conclusions about the meaning behind the behavior, and left unchecked, these opinions evolve into assumptions about the nature […]

Can They “Visualize” The Goal?

Leaders communicate purpose, vision and goals. But no action or change can begin until your people engage to move in the direction you’ve specified.

As the constant companion of change, fear of the unknown must be overcome. Paralysis persists as the assessment of what could be gained or lost continues. If your team cannot visualize the goal, if they can’t see how the future will emerge, then you must help them push through the fear and move.

Once a vision or goal is articulated, leaders go deeper to help their teams “see” where they are headed. When someone does a great job satisfying a customer, what does it look like? When teamwork achieves a goal, how does that look and feel? What behaviors demonstrate initiative or quality assurance? When a sales or production person succeeds, what does that look like?

And since few goals are achieved in one leap, once the direction is established, leaders must remain engaged as their team works through the change process, guiding them through the iterative process of trial and error that constitutes learning. Reaching the goal will take practice, perseverance and encouragement.

Engaging your people in interactive learning looks like: “This step worked well; why is that?” […]

New Prospects May Hear Less Than 10% of Your Message

Successfully connecting with a new prospect takes more than a compelling message. Your verbal communication with that prospect accounts for less than 10% of your total communication process.

We are feeling beings who have learned how to think – we’re not born as thinkers who feel. The genesis of what we feel is a set of neurological impulses created through interactions with our five senses. These impulses are our only inputs and we react to them.

The most effective communications trigger an emotion – they touch all five of senses and make us feel. In most businesses, only three of our senses are typically engaged: sound, sight and touch. This is one reason why it’s so challenging to productively connect with prospects using social media or the phone. These methods eliminate the input from one or more of your senses so the efficiency of your communication process is degraded.

The reality of effective communication is that more than 50% is nonverbal, and almost 40% is related to how you sound when delivering your message. Your nonverbal communication involves the actions or motions you use while you are speaking or listening. Your body language can help a listener feel comfortable with you and […]

Leadership Lessons from St. Patrick

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Lost in the midst of parades, green beer, and Irish music, there is a story of a remarkable leader. That millions of people still celebrate a holiday honoring Patrick, 1500 years after his death, attests to his success as a leader.  How does his legacy have anything to do with business leadership today?

Leaders are not born into this world; some may arrive with stronger leadership traits or qualities than others, but earning the credibility needed to succeed as a leader takes vision, strength to accept a challenge and a willingness to persevere in overcoming it.

Born to a wealthy British-Roman family, Patrick was kidnapped by a band of Irish marauders as a teenager and pressed into servitude in Ireland. After six years in captivity, Patrick summoned the courage to escape. After surviving a 200-mile trek across Ireland to reach the sea, he talked his way onto a shipping vessel bound for his homeland.  Then, he invested 15 years into educating himself before, despite the pleas of family and friends, he returned to Ireland and dedicated his life to helping others. During his time, Patrick developed 450 leaders among Irish communities, and helped establish 300 churches. He […]