What’s Wrong with Treating All Clients the Same?

As a company grows, it acquires major accounts, which I call dream clients. These major accounts are far bigger than the bottom 80% of their client base. The value proposition and the expectations of these client segments are also very different. Over time, not understanding the difference results in losing your dream clients (among other things).

Great Expectations

Your larger, more strategic, dream clients require more of you. Because they spend a lot in your category, what they buy from you is treated like a more strategic purchase. Necessarily, they expect greater attention, greater ownership, and greater results from you. They also expect you to act like a strategic partner, helping them to find ways to better utilize your services and ways they can be more competitive in their own space.

These expectations hardly resemble what your transactional clients expect from you. They expect that when they place an order, they receive what they ordered, that it is on time, and that it is correct. Because they don’t use a lot of what you sell compared to larger, major accounts, there isn’t a great deal of value to be created for your smaller clients.

Each of these group’s needs are different. Their expectations are different. We get in trouble when we don’t treat them differently.

In Both Directions

This problems run in both directions. Sometimes companies—and their salespeople—treat these client segments the same. They treat their smaller, transactional clients like they are a larger, strategic or enterprise client. They invest time, effort, and money in serving the smaller client even though there is no way to create value for them, nor is their any way to profit from doing so.

Other companies mistakenly underserve their larger clients, believing that they want exactly what they provide their smaller clients: order placed, order delivered. By making this mistake, they end up as an also-ran with low wallet share and/or lost clients.

Some companies and salespeople treat transactional clients as if they were strategic, and some treat strategic as if they were transactional.

Treating Them Differently

The processes and systems that work to deliver for one client segment aren’t often the right processes and systems to serve the other segment.

Your larger, more strategic relationships need—and demand—more of you. They need attention. They need modifications to what you do to make it work within their system. They need attention from your keep people. More still, they need you and your team’s expertise in your domain to help them get the results that they need.

This isn’t true of smaller transactional accounts. Most don’t order enough to need your attention, at least not in the same way as a larger client. They can usually purchase what you need without needing modifications or adjustments. There often isn’t a lot for your people to help them with, so they don’t need a lot of attention. There is no reason to ignore these clients, but there is also no reason to pretend that they need more of your time and attention than they really do.

The Key

The value created for each of these segments is different. Major accounts need you to create value by being a trusted advisor and helping them make decisions that impact their business and their competitiveness in their space. Transactional clients don’t need this. They just need you to deliver.

The key to getting this right is to create the value that each segment’s needs and expects and to know the difference.


What do your larger, enterprise clients need from you?

What do your smaller, more transactional clients need from you?

How is the value that you create different for each of these client segments?

How do you draw the lines between these two major segments?

What are the outcomes of treating each segment wrong?

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Filed under: Sales

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