Any crisis provides tough challenges for businesses to overcome if they want to survive and hopefully prosper. The frustrating thing with COVID-19 was that the economy was ticking along quite nicely, businesses had smiles on their faces and then, overnight, the carpet was been whipped from under us.
Lucky or not, most of our team at Collingwood has been through a few economic downturns and so we all know that it WILL end. It perhaps doesn't feel like it at the moment but it will. That said, this is an unprecedented global crisis that we don't have a rule book for and so we are having to write one each day!
In the UK, we are in our 6th week of lock down and I must say that the world feels slightly calmer to when we were first told to stay at home. It feels like we have settled in to a daily drum beat of work and family life and are starting to feel some gratitude for the many positives that have resulted. From my perspective I have loved seeing more of my family and have finally kick started regular exercise to ensure I look after my mental health and well-being. These two seem to be shared by most of the leaders I have been talking to along with having their endless travel schedules temporarily removed from their lives!!
Anyway, a common conversation I am having with my network is should companies be selling during this crisis. In the recruitment industry, many agencies and consultancies appear to have sent everyone home to bunker down until demand for hiring returns in a few weeks or months time. Equally, I also hear about very aggressive sales tactics. We are currently in the process of investing in some new software to help run our business and, despite telling the likely vendor that we aren't ready to sign the contract, we are missing multiple calls every day from them. It looks desperate and makes me wonder if they are the right solution for Collingwood.
I have been listening to podcasts and watching videos from sales "gurus" who all have a different view of what sales should look like during this crisis. Here are the ones that I believe are relevant during these challenging times.
1. Be present
It is important that you don't disappear. If you really care for your clients, and not just because they provide revenue, then you should be reaching out to ensure they are ok and provide any help, advice or assistance to help them through this. Although most businesses have cut their marketing budgets, this is the last thing you should do as the appetite for great content has increased. Let your clients know you are alive, show your concern for them and use this time to strengthen relationships. Ask what you can do to remove their increased workload and added stress. Write content to address the problems your clients have in order to help them find solutions.
2. Show empathy
We are all in this together and so don't avoid talking about the crisis and how it is affecting your customers. Also be honest about how it is affecting you and your business. As no rule book exists, these type of conversations can help us all understand what is happening and enable us to develop solutions. These authentic conversations will also naturally bring us closer.
3. Provide expertise, market intelligence and guidance
The leaders I am talking to are all very interested in data from their markets. They are interested in hearing what other companies are doing, what they are predicting in terms of 2020 revenues and general ideas that they could also be adopting. In terms of recruitment, most companies have a hiring freeze but all are worried that they won't have the right talent to benefit from an upswing and so we have been discussing possible solutions to help them. Solutions that they didn't know about.
4. Be patient
It is likely that your clients will have things on that are more important than returning your call. Be understanding and be patient. They will call you when they are ready. There is nothing more stressful than receiving 10 calls per day from someone you don't need to talk to quite yet. Let you customers prioritise.
5. Do not try to profiteer
Don't try to take advantage of this horrendous situation. Your actions will be remembered forever.
6. Don't get discouraged
Sales people generally hate rejection! The fact is that revenues will fall for most businesses and there isn't a lot you can do about it. Don't get desperate. Don't start forcing sales. Take a breather, ensure you have a robust sales ad marketing plan, execute it and build your opportunity pipeline. The bigger the pipeline you build the better the impact of the upswing will be to you.
7. Self development
No commuting time and less office distractions. Why not use the time you are getting back to invest in yourself. Consider the gaps identified in your last appraisal and seek out ways in which you can close these to ensure you are on tip top form when the market returns.
8. Well-being and mental health
There has never been a more important time to look after yourself. Isolation life is tough and, coupled with the anxiety of what the future holds, you need to look after yourself. Exercise, mindfulness, yoga, walking or catching up with friend and family by video are all so important at this time.