We can all agree that the year 2020 is not what we had planned. Many organizations started the year celebrating successful first quarter projections in early March and looked at the year ahead with great optimism planning to add staff, programming, infrastructure, etc.
By mid-March the year changed. Celebrations transformed into triage. Emergency meeting agenda items included home office preparation, immediate budget cuts, PPP loan applications, sanitation efforts, and staffing discussions.
Today, as organizations transition into a phased return, the business landscape continues to be complex and ever changing. That said, keep in mind these 3 considerations when engaging with clients as we all do our best to navigate this uncertain time.
The Shock is Real But Don’t Take it Personal
Even though we’re a few months into this health crisis, the shock remains. People continue to process what has happened. Parents are dealing with younger children who are scared and older children missing graduations and other milestones. In some serious cases a family member may be ill. As you probably won’t have the knowledge of what’s happening with your clients behind the scenes, always remember that everyone is fighting a hard battle of some kind. Don’t take non responses to emails or calls personally. Stay away from assumptions about tone. Keep your voicemail messages upbeat and brief.
Empathy is Key
Poet Maya Angelou said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Take the time to have conversations with your clients via phone or web conference as opposed to an email. Offer yourself and your organization as a resource when appropriate. If your client shares a feeling or personal story reciprocate with your own. If there is no opportunity for your service or product now, they will remember how you made them feel and consider your offering later. You can’t put a price on that.
Let Go and Be a Creative Problem Solver
Both your business and your client’s business has changed. Maybe there was a big proposal pending pre-COVID-19 that won’t come to fruition due to budget cuts or a meeting to discuss a new event cancelled due to the uncertainty of mass gatherings. It’s unfortunate but you need to let go of what could have been. Dwelling on the past gets you nowhere. Every self-development and business webinar now talks about the need to pivot forward. That’s true but there’s more to it. The competitive advantage will come from creativity. How can your organization structure services or products in new ways and for broader markets? How can you adapt your organization's offerings in a way that solves a problem for existing clients? What do you need to change in your own daily business practice to adapt, respond, and thrive to the changing needs of clients and prospects?
Lori Zoss Kraska, MBA is founder/chief principal of Growth Owl, LLC. She advises public media broadcasters, non profits, and small businesses across the country in growing revenue and creating new revenue streams. She also provides training, coaching, and strategic consulting for sales teams, managers, and c-level executives.