Do you have a lurking customer? (BEWARE)

There is a customer that can go unnoticed, Its that customer you may not speak with often but lurks in wait for things not to be as they should so they can pounce on unexpecting key account and account managers to enhance their status, get something in return, be seen as a major decision making. They can be extremely dangerous and very influential in your client relationships.

I call them the lurking customer. I’m not saying you have this person in your current clients business or even have a customer like it. But, lets just say you do.

There is always one person in a company that wants to be seen as THE person, the one challenging the ideas, being involved in decisions and being heard. Noticing and acknowledging these individuals is very important.

I had an experience of this when managing the relationship of a global pharma company in Europe. We were doing good business and working well for close to three years. I was scheduled to have a quarterly meeting with a range of people interested in what we were doing. Now, I’m pretty good at recognising faces and one particular person stood out. She was clearly someone who had been moved up to a senior position and I soon found out from her that she was the new VP of sales for Eastern Europe where we did a lot of business. I reported to her boss.

As the months went on she asked to be copied into mails to her boss, to see proposals sent to other countries despite it not being in her area. She asked mid tier managers who were implementing existing agreements to check with her first. She was disrupting everything. I had to do something about this but in a way that recognised her, kept the relationship healthy but moved things forward in a collaborative way.

This is the mark of a LURKING CUSTOMER

Here are three things I learnt through my experience that you can implement to ensure a potential lurking customer is working with you and not against you

Acknowledge their involvement, expertise and value

The first thing I did was arrange to have a one to one conversation with her positioned as a way to get her thoughts on ways to enhance the results we were getting in her area. This was all about her having her voice, being heard and appreciated. We walked through every stage of what was happening in her area, the connection to goals she had and that reflected the wider company goals. I found immediately after that call there were fewer insane interruptions and more one to one communication which allowed me to control the flow of interaction and gain small commitments at different stages of the relationship.

Try to see things through their eyes

A week before a VP’s conference I get an upset call with demands to have things changed and results improved. This was a conference important to attend for all senior directors and VPs in the company. It was a strategic meeting. The Chief Exec was there and it was the chance for VP’s to show up and present their area. Rather than responding to the emotion I created a 10 slide ppt with stats, graphs, testimonials and financials of all the activity we had delivered for them in their branding and with her name on it. Result an email with a thank you and no more upset calls.

Give them the good and bad news first

I was scheduled for a teleconference with the global director of sales and a few of the regional managers. There was good news and bad news and it involved the European region. As the VP was new to some of the developments prior I called her first and walked her through the challenges, opportunities and improvements that could be made with the chance for her to review in advance of the meeting. Result she looked great in the meeting but she also fought for the project I recommended to go through. Extra 50K in the deal for 4 hours of work for her that I didn’t have to pitch.

Have you ever experienced a lurking customer? what did you do?

Jermaine Edwards

Founder of the Key Account Hack System — New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.

If you’re a key account manager, manager of account management teams or consultant with high value customers. Get connected with a community of those saying yes to growth in their customer relationships, sales and personal ability. Contact me or get connected at

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