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In regards to personality conflicts with an account, at what point do you walk away and let someone else in your organization try?

by Dave Kahle

Great question. Let me answer in two ways.

First, from a purely theoretical perspective, a professional salesperson should be able to build relationships with anyone regardless of the personalities involved. So, from a theoretical point of view the answer would be "never." It is the responsibility of the salesperson to figure out how to sell to every account.

There are some selling situations where this "theoretical" position becomes part of the practical expectations for a salesperson. Large geographical territories, for example, don't allow for the option of letting someone else try.

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Having said that, let's recognize that there are very few salespeople in the world who are analytical enough, creative enough, motivated enough and flexible enough to figure out how to sell to every account.

So, we're back to your question. I don't think there has ever been any research on this, so my answer comes from my personal experience.

A large part of the answer depends on the company's position in the marketplace, their strategies, and the availability of a capable "someone else." For example, if you have a hot new product with a limited window of opportunity, that would shorten the amount of time that a company could wait for a salesperson to successfully penetrate an account.

In a mature market, where competitors were jostling for business from one another, that could lengthen the time a company could wait.

The same is true for a capable option. If you have no capable person prepared to take over the account, the time frame expands. If you have a good person chomping at the bit, that influences your calculations in the opposite direction.

With all that said, my gut feeling is a year or two. It's going to take at least a good year to exhaust all the possible strategies for penetrating the account. And there is no use changing the account until the current salesperson has given it his/her best shot. So, at least a year, maybe two. If there is no progress at that point, nor any sign of imminent changes, it's time to make a change.

Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.

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