How a Handoff Can Save Your Largest Account

Some sales reps are better at acquiring new customers. Others are better at keeping them. Knowing the difference can reap you great rewards.

Most companies encourage their salespeople to take ownership of their accounts. That’s good and appropriate—to a point. When a sales rep’s ownership of an account puts that account in jeopardy, the sales manager has to step in and correct the situation or make a change. 

Mitch was the sales rep on a major account and had a high level of customer contact. Although Mitch was great at new business development, he wasn’t so strong with account management. He often butted heads with his primary contact and—without meaning to—steamrollered right over others. His assertive behavior earned him a nickname within the customers’ office. They called him “Sandpaper.” 

The problem was that this was Mitch’s account. If he did a handoff it over to another rep, he’d lose the commission associated with it, as well as respect within the organization. Or so he thought. Mitch sat down with his manager and considered options. The account represented a significant revenue stream for the company and the opportunity for future referrals – if they could turn the relationship around.

Losing the account would have a disastrous affect on the department’s sales. Gently, the sales manager suggested that Steve, a sales rep with greater flexibility when interacting with other personality styles, might be more successful managing the account. At first, Mitch resisted the idea of someone else taking over. “But this is my account,” he said. His manager gently but firmly disagreed. “It’s not your account, Mitch,” she said. “It’s the company’s account.” 

Once it was put in those terms, Mitch began to understand what had to be done. If he couldn’t please the customer, he was going to lose the revenue from the account anyway—and so would the organization. By doing a handoff and turning the account over to Steve, the company revenue could be saved. The commissions would be split with someone he knew, worked with, and respected—not lost to the competition. 

In the end, the handoff of the account from Mitch to Steve benefitted everyone. Contacts as the account were immediately happier, because they had a more pleasant account manager. They also perceived their vendor as responsive to their needs. Steve’s paycheck got a nice bump from the increased commissions, and his company not only kept the account’s revenue, but also watched it grow as Steve built trust and rapport with his contacts there.

And Mitch, free from having to manage an account, had more time to do what he truly loved and excelled at: winning new business. Not all sales handoffs have such happy endings, of course. But by implementing this one change, sales organizations can leverage the individual abilities of every team member to increase revenue, enhance the customer experience, and build the company brand. No one loses in that situation—except the competition.