Roger was empathetic and calm as he gently nodded his head and looked up at Joanne. “Joanne, I understand, and you shouldn’t have to feel this way,” he said reassuringly.

Moments before, she had ripped him a new one. Joanne was the buyer for a large food processing company and Roger’s company was a key supplier. The previous account manager had left the company several months before and, for reasons that no one could really explain, the account had been left unmanaged.

Joanne had invoicing issues, delivery problems, and quality deficiencies. She had made numerous attempts to reach her account manager (of course, no response because she was no longer with the company). She had also made four calls to customer service—all unreturned. She was frustrated, feeling that the company no longer cared about her. Under pressure from her plant manager, whose production line was being negatively impacted by these issues, she had started the process of finding a new vendor. She also sent a scathing letter to Roger’s corporate office letting them know in unequivocal terms that she would be terminating their contract.

That letter set off a panic across the organization. The account was large and profitable and losing it to a competitor would not only be a financial setback to the company but also provide red meat for competitors who would use the loss to lure other customers away. The vice president of Roger’s region assigned him to save the account.

Roger protested. “Look, Tim, you ...

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