I just learned I have a co-worker who is calling on one of my clients. How do I confront the situation? – Trish in Honolulu, HI
LYNN: Trish, client poaching is never cool. First thing – don’t assume the worst. There could be any number of things happening, and hearsay is lethal. You need to talk with the other sales person. Make it cordial and friendly. Maybe a coffee break or lunch. Let them know what you heard and that you are curious. Ask them straight out if they are calling on one of your clients, and if so why.
Be fair and reasonable, as some organizations are so large it makes sense to have different sales people working with each sector. You may even consider teaming up to handle a really large account and strategically align your efforts. If their action is unconscious, let them know the account is covered. If you do not feel satisfied at the end of your discussion, get your manager involved to resolve the situation quickly.
TINA: My first question is: How did you find out about this? Did your client tell you? If so, that speaks volumes as to your relationship. Have a conversation with your client to ensure your position, then talk with your co-worker. There are occasions when a simple mistake is made and can be corrected by the client. If your co-worker does not oblige your request, then you will need to bring the matter to your manager’s attention.
If, however, you found out a different way… I would question the strength of your client relationship. Perhaps there was a change in management and there was a prior relationship with your co-worker and the client initiated this contact. Perhaps you have not been present with your client and when an opportunity arose, you were not top of mind and your co-worker was there to answer the phone when it rang. Relationships need to be nurtured continually. I would strongly suggest that you and your co-worker talk it through. If you cannot reach an amicable agreement, then management will need to intervene. Typically, a strong client relationship will overcome an immediate, passing opportunity.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.