Seven top tips for incumbents

Did you win a new contract that has just started in this new financial year? Congratulations. Now your work and thinking really needs to start.

Incumbents face a special type of challenge when trying to hold on to business that they already have.

From the customer’s perspective, you’re their chosen one. So, doing a great job is a just a given, and not a selling point.

Competitors are never going to stop knocking on the customer’s door. It won’t be long before the customer has seen you warts and all, and thinks they know everything you can do.

And in three years’ time – thanks to the recency effect – they won’t even remember most of the great things you are doing now. Instead, they’ll be focusing on the stuff-up that happened the week before.

That’s a lot of negatives you will need to compensate for, and there is no time like the present to get started. 

When incumbents go to re-bid contracts, they often find that the gap between the initial energy and effort expended to win it, and the energy they need to win again, is vast. That’s because the natural order of things is to decline. 

Here are seven things you need to do in your brand-new customer relationship to make sure you are in the best possible position to win again.

  1. Harness the momentum of continual improvement. The most successful suppliers fall quickly into a pattern of continual improvement as soon as they win the business. If you do no more than keep up with the basic requirements, you are setting yourself up to lose.

  2. Think like a challenger and keep bringing them new ideas. Competitors won’t stop thinking about what they need to do to win the customer (or win them back) and neither should you.

  3. Make things simple – not complicated. Don’t get bogged down in unnecessary process or paperwork. This leaves you vulnerable to competitors who look like they have a magic bullet just because their offer is simpler than yours.

  4. Treat procurement as your ally, not the enemy. Because procurement doesn’t own services expenditure, it’s their job to satisfy the stakeholders who are actually using (and paying for) your service. Make sure you clue them in on all your achievements, improvements, and new ideas.

  5. Change your terminology. Within your contract team, start talking about your plans for contract ‘renewal’, not ‘rollover’. This sends an important message that you aren’t taking the business for granted.

  6. Beware the four horsemen of incumbency. When left to run rampant, Complacency, Confirmation Bias, Protest, and Shiny Object Syndrome will trample all over your efforts to win again.

  7. Keep asking yourself this one question - What’s the one thing that would make us look like heroes to this customer, if we could achieve it?

To help you put together a game plan to retain your most important contract or customer, get a copy of Winning Again.

It’s packed with real-life stories about what works (and doesn’t) when trying to hold on to the business you already have – and can’t afford to lose.