What's black and white, has a C prompt, and lives forever? That's MS-DOS, Microsoft's character-based operating system. And while it may not live forever, I'd bet anything that thought causes some people at Microsoft to wake up screaming once in a while.
DOS lives, at least with thousands of users who continue to use DOS-based accounting systems (probably running on a Windows machine), despite all the efforts to get these companies to upgrade.
But every challenge has its reward and in a saturated market, companies using DOS-based accounting systems are prospects. Microsoft Business Solutions reports there are still 18,239 installations of its Great Plains Accounting and 7,951 of Solomon III. There are also 17,012 sites still using the former RealWorld Classic and Expertise systems (probably mostly DOS). Since neither product is marketed or supported, those users will eventually be up for grabs. How many vendors would like to get their hands on the names of these 43,292 companies? All of them, I bet. Moreover, Accpac has 70,000 legacy sites (overwhelmingly DOS), probably half of those in the United States. There are probably similar statistics for MAS 90 (which Best Software isn’t willing to reveal.) But let’s guess there could easily be another 15,000 to 20,000.
How to get this business? Companies that register users have the inside track for selling to their own installed bases. But there are some logical approaches for competitors. A company still using a DOS system is a happy one happy doesn’t see the point of spending more money. So the sale must focus on cost effectiveness and payback even more than a typical bid. Given the numbers involved, the old fashioned competitive upgrade could work wonders.
For VARs, there are no easy answers to finding competing installations. But area that seems fruitful is user groups. Find a RealWorld users’ group and ask to make a presentation. Or perhaps, locate a RealWorld VAR who is out of business and see if the company mailing list is available. Probe niches where a product has been strong. For RealWorld, I’d contact third-party suppliers like Synchronics (a POS vendor and once RealWorld’s biggest customer) for ideas.
If you’ve been in the business long enough, you probably remember deals you lost or installations that didn’t make a decision. Exploring "dead" leads can yield results. But keep plugging and soon, the hills will be alive with the sound of upgrades.
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