The Coronavirus Pandemic continues. In the United States alone, there are almost four million cases of the virus and at least 140,000 deaths as of July 23. The Center for Disease Control predicts that there will be between 160,000 and 175,000 deaths from Covid-19 by August 15th. The University of Washington predicts that by November there will be 210,000 Covid-19 deaths.
The Pandemic and the closing of business premises and the issuance of stay-at-home orders has required millions of people to work from home. This includes professionals such as lawyers and accountants, government workers, educators, medical professionals and others. Even though these businesses, agencies and institutions will ultimately reopen, recent studies suggest that teleworking is here to stay. Many employers are growing increasingly comfortable with it because their employees are continuing to be productive. In many cases workers have become even more productive than when commuting to and from, and working in an office. In addition, employers are starting to realize that teleworking can save costs, including real estate costs and travel and lodging expenses, thereby increasing their businesses’ profitability.
So, how does this provide opportunities for business development?
1. It is well-established that “touchpoints” are essential to business development. Touchpoints are contacts with an existing or potential client or customer. These include an array of interactions such as an in-person meeting, phone calls, virtual meetings such as through Zoom or Microsoft Team, and less personal interactions such as through emails, websites and advertising. No doubt, though, that personal touchpoints or interactions are more likely to result in business development.
The Coronavirus Pandemic and the stay-at-home orders or voluntary practices provide new opportunities for creating touchpoints with existing clients and customers, from whom you want additional business, or with potential clients and customers. The reasons for this are four-fold. First, and perhaps most importantly, your existing and potential clients are likely becoming very comfortable with virtual presentations and meetings, so that they may welcome your invitations to this type of touchpoint and interaction. Now, and even after businesses reopen, your targets for new business will be much more accepting of virtual meetings than before.
2. For many people teleworking allows a greater flexibility in their schedules since they no longer must physically be at a meeting in an office or other location at a designated time. Virtual meetings can be scheduled more easily and may be conducted early such as at 8:00 am as well as in the evening following dinner. Commuting is draining, stressful and costly, particularly in the more densely-populated areas, and stay-at-home workers are now freed from that daily hassle.
3. This author’s experience is that because people are becoming more comfortable with virtual meetings, they can be conducted with the same care and focus as in-person meetings. And in many instances participants in virtual meetings have reported that they were able to focus better on the meeting’s participants and subject matter because there were less visual and auditory distractions.
4. Companies like Zoom, Microsoft and Google have used the last few months to greatly improve the usability and security features of their virtual meeting software systems. As a result, virtual meetings in many areas of business are now ubiquitous. And the use of these virtual meeting applications is growing and will continue even when in-person meetings become safe.
For the above reasons, the current Coronavirus Pandemic and the increasing use of virtual meetings provides new opportunities for business development – and touchpoints – that previously were not as available and may not have been accepted as they are today.
How should you access these touchpoints with existing and potential clients and customers?
I propose an easy two step process.
- You should send a simple email to the client or customer inviting the person to a virtual meeting.
- You should attend and conduct the meeting very thoughtfully. I will now explore these in more detail.
In the first instance, the email initiating the contact should not be drafted in a way that the recipient will conclude it is just someone wanting to make a “sales call.” You should draft the email so that the recipient will respond positively and want to interact with you. Here is an example:
I haven’t spoken to you in awhile and hope you and Ella are doing well during this very difficult period. I’d like to have a virtual meeting with you just to see how you are doing and how this pandemic is affecting you and your family. And, of course, it would be great to connect with you again at your convenience.
If you are available, I could do it as follows: August 3 between 2:00pm-5:00 pm, August 7 between 7:30 am and 11:00am, and August 8 at any time in the afternoon. Let me know what works best for you and we’ll pin something down. If these times and dates don’t work, please suggest some other options.
I hope we connect. I would enjoy that.
Perhaps Dan will not want to participate in a virtual meeting but some of your existing and potential clients and customers will. And it is easy to create and send a warm, personal email invitation. That is Step One.
Assuming the virtual meeting with an existing or potential client or customer is scheduled, it should not be treated by you as a sales call. You should consider asking questions and follow-up questions like these:
Bob, how are you and Jennifer doing during this period?
What have you and she been doing to keep busy and stay active?
How are Jimmy and Donna handling this?
What have you been doing for their schooling?
And now, the questions that ought to move the conversation beyond being simply a social check-in:
Bob, I’ve been thinking a lot about you and my other friends.
What is keeping you up at night? I know many people are worried about their businesses.
How is your company doing?
What are your concerns?
What are you doing to solve that problem?
How can I help you get through this?
Of course the questions you should ask, as well as the follow up questions for each subject, will depend upon Bob’s specific circumstances. The goal, though, is for you to demonstrate genuine interest in Bob and what he, Jennifer and the children are experiencing. And naturally you need to be prepared to answer the same types of questions if Bob asks them of you, though try to keep the focus on him, not on yourself.
As you can see, the Coronavirus Pandemic, and our increasing teleworking and use of virtual meetings presents unique opportunities to easily create touchpoints that until now may have been more difficult to arrange. And for many of you, your business may have slowed down. If so, this is a great opportunity to spend some time each day creating the touchpoints that almost invariably will result in new business opportunities.
In this Covid environment, ways to deepen relationships with existing clients or customers and develop new ones abound. What is different is these opportunities are coming to us in new ways. But the building blocks remain the same – nurturing and developing relationships, driven by an authentic sense of caring, that lead to enhanced business opportunities now and in the future.
Welcome to tomorrow. Your clients are there already, waiting to meet with you!
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