What do you do when one of your major key accounts decides to talk with your boss because they are not happy?
We had agreed before I went to see Brian that we were not going to meet his demands of lowering our price. His demands were unreasonable and we couldn’t afford to drop our price anyway. It wasn’t as if it would be passed on the consumer to help promote more sales. It was all about margin.
So after about 30 minutes of the meeting, Brian asked if we were going to meet his demand. I said no, and gave him the reasons. Let’s just say he wasn’t jumping with joy. And then he said, “OK we’ll see about this. Do I have to call your boss?”
Has this happened to you? They not only threaten to, but they do call your boss?
This is a difficult and delicate situation. So how do we avoid this? If it does happen, how do we manage it so the relationship and the business remain intact?
Sometimes these situations come out of nowhere. But very often there are warning signs beforehand. The customer is not engaged, they become withdrawn and uncommunicative.
It seems obvious, but I have seen this happen many times. An account manager knows they are facing a meeting where there will be a major confrontation over terms. Yet, they do not warn their supervisor or discuss it with them beforehand and get agreement together. This is asking for trouble.
As we want the conversation to remain on this level just between the two parties, we do not want it to escalate. Therefore, we should try and prevent it going further by probing to see of there is a possibility of a compromise.
Then we should suggest that we will discuss it with our manager.
The next position to take would be to suggest we schedule another visit with the boss as well. This buys some time to resolve the matter before such a meeting becomes necessary.
On leaving the meeting, before we’ve even left the building, we should call the boss and tell him what happened. The last thing we want is the boss calling US to say they had been reached by an irate customer. This protects your boss by making them aware of the issue beforehand. We can then discuss a reaction if they do call them.
Building relationships means building trust and respect. One of the ways of doing this is managing expectations. We should try at all times to avoid ever getting to the situation where we are threatened with calling the boss in.
Have you faced a situation like this? Has your customer threatened to call your boss? How were you able to deal with it?