Four Reasons Your Key Accounts Are At Risk

How do you win new clients? What are the underlying conditions that precede an opportunity for you to compete for their business? It’s far easier to point out all of the behaviors that put our competitor’s clients at risk, and much harder to identify the behaviors in ourselves.

Is it possible that the same behaviors that put your competitor’s key accounts at risk might also be the very same behaviors that are putting your accounts at risk?

The four behaviors do more to put your clients at risk than any external threat or competitor.

You No Longer Create Value

When you won your key account, they were dissatisfied. You made your sales calls, you developed the relationships, you diagnosed the problems and challenges, you differentiated your offering, you built a vision of how you could work together to achieve a better outcome, and then you negotiated a win-win deal.

You executed well, and your solution worked perfectly. At least it did for a while. Now dissatisfaction has crept back in. You may still be doing exactly what you promised. But something else has changed and what you are doing is creating less and less value.

Your failure to discover this dissatisfaction puts your client solidly in the at-risk column, and it is just a matter of time before one of your competitors comes along with a solution.

Do you remember how this works?

You Have Grown Complacent

You have retained this key account for years. You have relationships from the bottom of the organization to the top, and so does your team. No one, and I mean no one, could find a single opening anywhere to penetrate this account.

Secure that nothing could happen to put your key accounts at risk, you let your guard down. You let small problems go unresolved. Calls aren’t returned with the same urgency that they once were. You stop trying to identify new ways to create value.

Think back to when you won your key client. How have your behaviors changed? If asked, would your key contacts be able to point out the differences between, say, the frequency of your communication during your implementation and the frequency of your communication now? (OUCH! That hurts, doesn’t it?) What else would they say has changed?

Your complacency causes your relationship with your key account to die . . . of neglect.

Think about the ways in which you have grown complacent. Think about how often your competitors are calling your key accounts for an opportunity. Who calls more often, you or your competitors? Who is digging deep to exploit the opportunities that even minor dissatisfaction brings?

You Have Become Arrogant

Over time, you have grown your client base. You have enough business and enough prospects that something in you changes:

Suddenly, you are always right.

You start to believe your own press clippings. If you weren’t the best, why would you be winning so easily and so often? If your ideas weren’t better than your competitors, how could you continue to take their clients?

Over time, your confidence morphs into something else. It becomes arrogance.

You start to treat your clients as if they were wrong about what they want and what they believe they need. You believe that they need to buy and implement your ideas because your ideas are better.

You no longer allow your clients to share in creating your future together, and you stop incorporating the feedback from your clients in your operating plans and in your plans to innovate.

Your arrogance blinds you to the fact that sometimes often, very often the ideas that come from outside your organization are every bit as good better than what gets rained down from the executive suite of your organization. And you ignore what bubbles up from the front line of your own organization.

This arrogance destroys relationships. It may take time, but ultimately, arrogance undoes everything that has come before it, and it puts your clients ever deeper into the at-risk column (and more likely, the lost column).

You No Longer Care

If you cared, would you not notice that your client’s dissatisfaction was growing and that your solution was losing its value or its efficacy over time?

If you cared, would you allow yourself to grow complacent, behaving as if you have some God-given right to retain this client forever? If you cared, would you ignore the threats that might cause you to lose your client? Would you discount these threats, believing that no harm will come to you?

If you cared, would you be so arrogant as to believe that your ideas are superior to that of all others, including your client’s? Would you treat them with contempt, condescending to them instead of listening with the humility and humbleness that you possessed when you were hungry?

Caring is summation of the previous three reasons your key accounts are at risk. Caring about your clients doesn’t mean that you simply don’t want to lose their business (of course you don’t!). Caring is bigger than that. It requires a commitment to helping your clients achieve their outcomes.

Caring about your clients is something that is felt, not something that is said. To ensure that your client feels that you care, you have to behave as if you care, continuously (and with a fervor bordering on madness) taking the actions that prove that you care.


The same dissatisfaction that allows you to win clients exists in some part of your client base. Your key accounts, regardless of your long relationship, are always at risk. But these four behaviors do more to put your clients at risk than any external threat or competitor.


1. Have you stopped diagnosing? Have you stopped searching for dissatisfaction within you key accounts?

2. Have you left some problems or challenges unresolved?

3. Have you grown too secure in your relationship with your key accounts? Are you relationships secure from the bottom of the organization to the top?

4. If you were your competitor, where would you find dissatisfaction and neglect in your key accounts?

5. Have you become arrogant? Have you stopped listening to your clients? Do you discount their ideas, their wants, their needs? Do you insist that they implement your ideas because they are better?

6. How do your key accounts know you care? How would they answer this question if asked?

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