It is inconceivable to believe that I’ve had to dispense this advice after not one (9/11), two (the Great Recession), but three (COVID-19) catastrophic business shake-ups! Business owners/leaders who have successfully navigated through all three have my utmost respect.
Now (3 weeks into this economic shutdown) that basic survival needs have likely been put in place (appropriate furloughs, curtailed spending, application for SBA and PPP loans) my clients have been calling seeking advice for what they should be doing next with this new found time on their hands while the business pause remains in place. Here is what I’ve been advising:
1. Keep your head up – for opportunities!
Now is NOT the time to bury your head in the sand in the hopes that trouble will pass you by. On the contrary I am advising the opposite – heads up for both owner and company. As the business owner you should be scanning the horizon for post COVID-19 opportunities. And the business itself should remain in full view of current and future customers. The sad (or not so sad) fact is some of your competitors will not survive this devastating blow. And as insensitive as this might sound, now is the time to ascertain who those weaker companies are and how your company can step in to serve their soon to be abandoned customers. This means your company should remain appropriately visible (social media, advertising, etc….). It also means you should use this time to be doing the research necessary to know who those new customers can be and how best you can step in to serve them.
2. Update your 3-Yr Strategic Plan
Strategic plans should not change unless a monumental event strikes that impacts your business environment. This unfortunately is one of those events. The way to do this is to go all the way back to the market assumptions that were the foundation of your strategic (3-yr) sales forecast. This should be found in the discovery portion of your strategic planning documentation. Then ask yourself, which of these assumptions will have been impacted by this market disruption? How much will they be impacted? And finally, to what extent will this impact effect your sales and customer/service mix pie charts in the future? Be sure to update the documentation to show what new assumptions were included to support the line item changes to the now updated 3-yr strategic plan. By the way, if you don’t have a strategic plan now is a great time to engage an expert to help you build one. You can no longer hide behind this common excuse used by the numerous business owners operating without one, “I didn’t have time.”
Related article: 8 Short-Sighted Reason Business owners Don’t Plan
3. Learn more about your customers and prospects
I advocate a sales methodology/process that emphasizes interactions with customers and prospects that are “in-the-service-of” their problems/needs and most importantly their approach to decision making. And as Mike Myatt most eloquently stated in his unabashed assault on the state of sales (2012 Forbes article), “The reality is until I know that you care more about meeting my needs than yours, you’ll remain on the outside looking in. By the way, in order to understand my needs you have to actually know something about me.” The fact is you can’t properly serve someone unless you truly know them. This COVID-19 business pause takes away any excuse you might have had for NOT doing a deep dive into your existing customers to learn more about them and how they typically make decisions like those you may be asking them to make. One final reminder, the single reason for nearly EVERY sales loss, “I didn’t know”.
Related article: 9 Phrases Typically Said By Losers of Complex Sales
4. Clean out your sales pipeline
I gave a workshop at Atlanta Tech Village, was interviewed by Atlanta Small Business Network, and wrote an article here on the importance of this activity. I encourage you to read the article or watch the interview to understand why this is such a wise and valuable use of time to support your sales team and improve their sales win-rate.
5. Learn/enhance skills
This luxury of time should not be wasted. I am personally using this time to learn how to build a dynamic versus static approach to posting blogs on my website using the Webflow tutorials. In the long run this will make it much faster to post and upload my new articles to the Learning Center on my website. I am encouraging my business owners to look at skills they or their critical employees are lacking and seek out and engage training resources. Not surprisingly (especially for those who know or have been following me), the one I am advocating the most is sales process training. There are two things that can exponentially change the growth trajectory of a business – a strategic plan (guidance) and a replicable sale methodology/process (we offer an approach). Enough said.
Related article: “Bob” is NOT a Sales Process
6. Get/stay fit
One of my clients (teaches gymnastics to children) has a motto that the children commit to memory, “the body follows the mind.” I imagine when swinging your legs up over your head while six-feet in the air on a trampoline attempting to do your first back flip requires this mental fortitude to be successful. After all, a mental doubt/hesitancy halfway around could be disastrous. At the same time though, “the mind too follows the body.” To survive the stress that comes at economic times like this needs mental fortitude as well. A good, stress relieving fitness regiment and disciplined eating habits will serve you well mentally and is a great way to fill in these voids in time you are not so used to having.
We will get through this. Stay safe.
About the author: Mike is the founder of Allegro Consulting, an Atlanta-based growth specialty firm helping business owners and start-up founders define growth strategies and improve how they interact and engage with customers to improve sales win-rates. He is a former international sales executive with Boeing and Lockheed where he led sales campaigns against rival U.S. based, French, UK, EU and Russian competitors to sell jet fighters to foreign allies. He is a passionate advocate (speaker bio) for strategic planning and sales process training. His sales record exceeds $10B.