Legacy customers have been around for a while. They know what it takes to win the market, establish a stronghold and protect their position.
Legacy companies are targeted by small and mid-sized businesses wanting to stake their own claims in the marketplace. If achieved through collaboration, contracts with legacy customers represent the portal to fiscal stability.
Legacy customers can be a bear to work with, let alone collaborate with. Their concept of the collaboration necessary to develop relationships and win contracts may be vastly different than yours.
Here are 6 tips for collaborating with legacy customers. Yes, these tips form a list. No, these tips are not to be followed in a step-wise manner. Buyers don’t make decisions in straight lines. Your account development strategy shouldn’t resemble a straight line either. Be prepared to collaborate along multiple fronts, simultaneously, as you develop and win legacy customers.
Tip 1 – Map out the terrain. Legacy customers have legacy business models, legacy infrastructure and legacy mindset. Their corporate culture is steeped in “we have always done business this way.” In their minds, “this way” is what has gotten their company this far; why shouldn’t “this way” move them towards perpetuity? Map out the status quo “this way” mindset which creates either roadblocks or opportunities for you to establish yourself as their collaborative vendor/supplier of choice. Target opportunities.
Tip 2 – Differentiate decision makers from buyers. If you only interact with legacy customers when they issue an RFQ or RFP, you may be working with administrators, not decision makers. To collaborate with legacy customers, back up your selling cycle. Fold it into your strategic business development strategy.
Tip 3 – Identify key stakeholders and project owners. Your objective is to become the basis of design for that project and future, related projects. As you develop collaborative relationships, you start to approach account entry strategically. Move beyond tactically pushing your product and service at legacy customers.
Tip 4 – Diagnose whether your project is a priority for your legacy customers. Legacy customers establish annual key strategic priorities. Key stakeholders within the company position their projects to fit within these priorities. When you collaborate with the internal project owner, develop a thorough understanding of whether that individual has successfully positioned their project as a strategic priority.
Tip 5 – Analyze how your proposed solution fits into your legacy customers’ priorities. It’s one thing to respond to an RFQ or an RFP. That’s simply filling in a form or issuing a standard response. Now you are armed with your understanding of key stakeholders’ positions and strategic priorities. Create a compelling response that not only provides the required information but also differentiates your solution from incumbents’ and other competitors’ responses.
Tip 6 – Determine their fiscal buying cycle. Determine the timeline for current and future projects. Align your selling cycle with your legacy customer’s buying cycle. It’s not up to them to fit into your own company’s quota-driven selling machine.
Target legacy customers. Determine their decision-making ecosystem. Create a compelling and collaborative reason for their doing business with you.
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, catalyzes collaborative business transition, startup growth, and professional development. She works with non-traditional sellers, engineers, small and midmarket manufacturers, and technical startups. Find out more about selling to skeptical buyers and technical decision makers on her Free Resources page.