Are you a man or a mouse?

Monday, July 31, 2006

Q. Some of my competitors have been giving lunches to my accounts, and feeling indebted, the accounts have given them an order or two. I'm losing a lot of business. What should I do?

A. "Allowing" competitors to meet with your customers, break bread together and begin a relationship puts your business at risk. Experience has shown that when a courting competitor gives a lunch to a DME account, approximately 10% to 15% of the time the current vendor ends up losing the business. But there is more bad news: When your customers "throw a bone" to this vendor (telling you it is out of guilt, etc.), 50% to 75% of the time you end up losing that account. We all know what the next step is. The patients are then divided; you get A-L, they get M-Z, or the customer is just going to give the oxygen patients to your competitor, etc., etc. Two months down the road, you lose all the business.
Here is what is really going on: In most instances, your once-loyal client will take the easy way out. If it is easier for customers to tell you they are giving business away than it is to tell the competitor no, then you will lose every time. React swiftly and emotionally; as Marvin Gaye sang so eloquently, "Ain't too proud to beg." Tell your customer you will not take losing referrals lying down. Let them know that they are an important customer to you and you are going to win them over with even better service, more visits and more lunches (in the context of legitimate business purposes such as in-services).
Is your main goal to maintain a friendship with your accounts--not maintain or increase their business? If this sounds like you, then you've answered the question: Are you a man or a mouse?


Joe Sansone is CEO of TMC Orthopedic. Reach him at 713-669-1800 or