How to Conduct Sales and Business Development in a Time of Crisis? Empathy, Sincerity and Personal Value-Add Make the Difference
At the end of the virtual quarterly business review, the vendor’s account executive announces she has a special surprise. She shares her screen and pulls up a video. As minutes pass, the customers’ smiles widen. One clip after another, everyone on the vendor account team has recorded a message to send their well wishes and express their appreciation for the work this customer is doing in these crisis conditions.
It’s not a flashily-produced video, simply a compilation of video shot on smartphones. But it instills a sense of authenticity, appreciation, and partnership that lasts long after the meeting ends.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced individuals and companies to rapidly change how they live and work. Diverse aspects of businesses—from supply chains to operations to sales—continue to be challenged in unprecedented ways.
Now over six months in, circumstances can differ widely based on geography, putting additional pressure on leaders to be adaptive to continuously changing conditions. And it’s becoming clear that in many cases, our “new normal” will reflect new ways of working that last well into the future.
The customer experience takes on a new meaning in this new normal. Leaders typically approach customer experiences by creating seamless, convenient and engaging customer journeys. However, the needs of today’s customers have transformed towards more essential concerns.
During times of crisis, leading companies are pivoting from “marketing/selling” to assisting with the buying cycle and from fulfilling customer desires to meeting customer requirements. Socially conscious organizations across industries and geographies are finding ways to get involved and support their customers and communities.
These circumstances present an opportunity for leaders to support their customers and communities. Leading in a caring, empathetic manner during these difficult times has the potential to create real connections that will outlive the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
Despite how challenging it has been for many businesses and teams to suddenly pivot from established routines and plans, there have been silver linings. Here are my top four:
- Significant reductions in time spent commuting and traveling has increased time available to devote to sales activities, resulting in examples of laser-focused account management and streamlined communications with customers.
- Real customer engagement, aka pick up the phone and call. A simple, “I was thinking about you—how are you holding up during all of this?” can make a world of difference.
- Encouraging colleagues and teams to break from established routines and come up with creative ways to engage customers and prospects virtually, such as sponsoring lunch and coffee deliveries tied to a solution demo or business review.
- Introduce customers to one another in a similar industry or geography—perhaps they can be a resource to each other.
This crisis has caused leaders to communicate more frequently, empathically, and personally with their organizations and customers, doing wonders for productivity and morale.
While it may seem like we’ve already run a marathon, the fact is that we are still in the initial stages of adapting our businesses and workforces to the realities of what Salesforce has termed the “next normal.”
This is where my team at Altus Alliance may be able to support you as you chart your organization’s next steps. Throughout April and May we conducted interviews and surveys with CEOs, CROs COOs, and sales leaders, compiling our findings into “Best Practices for Resilience.”
I encourage you to download your free copy to learn best practices for sales and marketing during these unusual circumstances. This report is not offered as a scientific exercise, but rather presents important perspectives and insights from your revenue-responsible peers that can contribute to a more informed position to make your plans for the inevitable recovery—however fast or slow that might occur.
Altus Alliance helps businesses accelerate top-line revenue growth. We have developed a reputation for client service, excellence and integrity. Our core value-add lies in our commitment to rolling up our sleeves with leadership to define and execute against strategy.
More importantly we hope you, your families and businesses, are well, and making plans to thrive in the months and years ahead.