As I write this on the 5th April 2020; Australia is now 4 weeks into the COVID-19 Pandemic with businesses still trying to figure out how to set their staff up to working from home, and the biggest question on every commercial executive’s lips is “How do we can we keep selling or interacting with our clients (from a distance) and keep generating revenue”.
As a CX professional who has been in customer-facing roles for the last 17 years, I’ve spent my entire career working to get in front of “the client” and building a personable relationship via coffee catch-ups, lunches and general face to face meeting.
I think most people in a customer-focused role will agree that those face to face meetings are essential to building a long-lasting, viable relationship.
So how do we move forward? How do we continue to build relationships when we can’t jump on a plane to go visit a client/prospect, we can’t present our presentations to a room of executives, or even catch up with them for a coffee?
The Quick answer is, WE ADAPT!
I’ve had several conversations with senior Sales, Marketing and Operations executive in the past 2 weeks to get their thoughts on the current climate and the good news is that each of us can see light at the end of the tunnel.
Many of us have already gone through a GFC and for those who lived outside Australia in 2008-2010 will understand the real meaning of “Adapt or Die” or “The Strong Prevail”.
It only takes a glance at any news channel to see unemployment has skyrocketed and businesses are closing down under the new legal requirements around social distancing, however, it only takes a quick walk down your local high street (to pick up essentials) to see how some of our favourite cafes and restaurants are adapting to only offering take-away or phone ahead services.
These are perfect examples of how small businesses can quickly pivot and adapt to their environment.
Now, how about a start-up tech business or small SAAS provider who doesn’t have a capital injection that will allow them to keep operating for 12months.
I believe there are three key things that you need to focus on in the coming months that will help business adapt and continue operating:
1: Communicating with your customer
Comms with existing clients should be the No.1 Priority for any business. After all; they are the ones who pay the bills and keep your lights on, so you need to put them first.
Having your Customer Success Managers or Account Managers create comms templates and schedule regular catch-ups with their accounts will help remind those clients of the service you provide to their business.
Please don’t shut down communications in the hope that “if we don’t contact them, they might not cancel their account” (Yes, I’ve spoken to a few companies who are taking this approach).
Just remember, your contact is unlikely to be the one who will decide to leave, it’s more than likely the finance person. Your plan should be to make your contact an advocate for your service and ensure that your invoice is paid on time.
2: Marketing your Product?
Continue to ensure your product aligns with the market needs and sell the value of your product not it’s features.
It’s no secret that businesses are currently in “panic mode” and introducing a new product or service to their business is the last thing they are considering (true at the time of writing) and unless your business is offering services like ergonomic or home workstation assessments to address an immediate need, you won’t have too many customers reaching out to spend additional money.
Having a free product offering is an amazing tool to get your foot in the door. A bit like Zoom with its free 40min conference calls or Slack with free IM for teams and then upselling as budgets and requirements grow.
Also consider utilising tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to boost your companies brand exposure and posting relevant content (just be careful not to overdo it).
Start to strategise on how your product will align to your customers’ requirements and what your customer journey will look like post-pandemic and then communicate it to your team.
3: Be flexible!
In the current climate, there is a lot of uncertainty within businesses because we simply don’t know how long this pandemic will affect our working style. It could be for the next 3 months, but what if its 12+ month and can non-essential service businesses survive that kind of impact?
Some of the best initiatives I’ve heard in the last week are:
A SAAS provider who typically sells its product on 12month agreement is moving to month to month, no lock-in contracts for new clients.
Another is allowing customers to suspend payments during a shutdown (I’d only advise this if you have the cash flow to survive yourself).
Waiving setup/commissioning fee’s and the provider absorbing the cost over a 2 or 3 year period.
Granted a lot of businesses won’t be able to offer these kinds of incentives to clients or prospect because you’re struggling yourself, but the point of this section is to find a way to be flexible. In the current climate; as long a client or prospect can see that you are trying, you could end up with a lifelong loyal customer.
To Summarise; the next few months will be tough, but I believe this is the time where businesses can start to assess how they currently operate and communicate with their clients and look to take systematic steps to improve the product and service they offer and how they offer it.
We’re all in this together…..