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The F Word

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

How many of you have heard the “F-word” from your buyer?

No, not the “F-word” you are thinking of! The F-word I am talking about is “Fine.”

You meet with your buyer and ask, “How’s it going?”

Your buyer replies “fine,” and you happily accept that. You think that your buyer is “satisfied,” and you go on with your day, dealing with more pressing problems or chasing that next opportunity. But you should think again.

Imagine for a moment you came home from a business trip and asked your spouse or significant other, “How was your week?”

“Fine,” is the reply.

You are likely not feeling good about that. Perhaps you are wondering what you did wrong or what you forgot! You would not accept “fine” from an important personal relationship, yet we routinely accept that “F-word” from our important buyer relationships. We gladly welcome our buyer’s answer of “fine” so we are not forced to be in an uncomfortable discussion with them about why the relationship is not “Fantastic.”

There are likely things that need to be said, but your buyer does not want to unload on you and you do not want to hear it, so your buyer says everything is “fine” and you do not rock the boat by questioning how things can improve so that your relationship can exceed just “fine” and improve to “fantastic”

In a “fine” relationship, there is probably nothing particularly wrong— but the odds are just as likely there is nothing particularly right either. Your buyer is likely satisfied, but not much more. That buyer who’s feeling “fine” is not invested, they are not motivated to maintain or expand their relationship with you; they are just “fine.” Frankly, they could probably be equally fine with one of your competitors as they are with you. To them, you are a perfectly fine transactional vendor— one who has not yet earned much sales equity.

Of course, the problem with having a fine relationship is that the “fine” eventually fades, making it easy for somebody else to come along and acquire that buyer.

When that happens, we usually blame it on price or on a rival that came in and “stole” our business. The reality is that there is no way we could have kept that customer for the long haul. Our relationship, while “fine,” was simply not strong enough to endure. We settle for fine relationships rather than doing what it takes to achieve the fantastic.

Truthfully, “fine” is the most dangerous four-letter word in B2B, indicating indifference, complacency, and even possible client defection. Account teams often fail to recognize fine and are blindsided when a client decides to move on. To prevent this, you must first measure your relationships with clients to discern which clients see their relationship with you as “fine”, then you have to do better, and earn more sales equity.

Co-written by Alexis Audeh

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