Your Next Move

“Move or be moved.”   ~ Colin Powell


As a young salesman, things were going great! I had worked hard to build my book of business by broadening our offerings with existing customers while landing new business. Then I was thrown a curveball-my biggest customer was merged with their larger competitor. My friendly buyer was gone and the new merged business was controlled by an unknown. I had to play my cards right and really analyze what my next move would be.

Why? Because when business is in transition and on the bubble, you have to think clearly about what your next move is going to be. If you don’t, there may not be a next move. Timing is also very important during this period.

How? You need to step back and discern what is known vs. unknown. For instance, I knew the customer’s business but had little knowledge of the competitor who took controlling interest. My buyer friend had left for a position with another company and the clock was ticking. The first thing I did was make contact with my old friend, the former buyer, to congratulate him on his new position. He was more than happy to hear a friendly voice, especially since he was still finding his way at the new company. As we talked he was open, candid and willing to share what he knew.

Based on the former buyer’s feedback, I did additional research and looked into the background of their current supplier of the same product line. This helped me understand how to approach what was basically a new business prospect. To them, I was the unknown. Armed with new knowledge of their business and my track record with the former company, I presented the value proposition of how and why we could benefit from doing business with each other. After a second meeting, we came to an agreement: they would continue with us for one year and based on proof of performance, our relationship would be up for review. Fortunately, it was business as usual and we continued to do business for years after that.

As far as my relationship with the former buyer, we stayed in touched. Eighteen months later, I was invited to make a presentation and eventually landed that business as well. The moral of the story is that by doing your homework, understanding that new owners see you as an unknown, and looking at change as a new opportunity (rather than a given), you dramatically improve your chances for success. Also, when people like my friendly buyer leave, they tend to look for and land positions in similar industries. It’s your job to stay in touch and keep that relationship fresh and worthwhile for both parties.