How Your Sales and Operations Can Thrive Post-COVID-19
As your business adapts to these ever-changing times, survival is everyone’s first priority. When the economy begins to recover, you will need to adopt new tactics to succeed. Outside of the more obvious transitions to virtual/digital platforms, there are other important areas to address across Sales, Operations, and HR. Here are strategies to ensure your business thrives post-COVID-19:
As in-person meetings aren’t possible, embrace the opportunity to use acute problem solving and content to drive your sales.
- Share Useful Content Only — Send industry-specific content that *solves a problem for customers right now* during these times of COVID-19 — even if the info you share is not about your business, the offer to be helpful builds customer loyalty for future sales. Ensure that your content is current, as customers are being bombarded with disingenuous or outdated messages right now.
(e.g., a gym, that is currently closed, sending their customers a list of open grocery stores well-stocked with essentials like paper towels. Or a venture investor sending their portfolio companies a list of lawyers to help complete their CARES Act Loan Application. But they should *not* send a video about washing hands as it’s too rudimentary)
- Project Trends and Adjust — Use available data to predict how your offering might need to change post-COVID-19 and begin to sell in that fashion. We are already seeing global changes to increase digital collaboration, hygiene and health, family security, remote working, and crisis preparedness. Study regions that are further along than the US in the crisis, such as Korea, which appear to be in the early stages of recovery*; and look for rebounding businesses as potential examples for yourself.
(e.g., a clothing company creating a product-line that uses antibacterial fabric)
- Sell in Advance — Sell credits *now* for future usage at your business. Committed customers will rally to keep you afloat until the dust settles.
(e.g., a nail salon selling gift cards redeemable in the next 12 months, with an option to extend)
- Adjust Distribution Models — Consider a temporary shift from B2B to B2C, and vice versa. Now that supply chains are disrupted, you may need to reach customers through a different path to make sales.
(e.g., a wine merchant, who previously sold to restaurants, could start selling directly to customers in their homes now)
- Try New Markets / Switch Sales Channels — Expand your customer base to those who are still very active during this time of COVID-19, or move sales from offline to online to increase your audience.
(e.g., a recruiting company selling to digital health customers who need staffing now, instead of selling to existing brick-and-mortar retail customers who are largely empty currently. Or a cosmetics company posting products to Instagram and taking orders over Direct Messages)
- Go Digital / Virtual — Let customers know you’re open for business via email, social media, etc. Adapt your offerings to digital and virtual settings, to keep your sales process moving. If your business is not conducive to this, continue to “Share Useful Content” as mentioned above to fill your sales pipeline so you’re ready when the storm passes.
(e.g., sending demo videos with Loom, performing virtual sales calls with Zoom, Q&A webinars, a COVID-FAQ page, an email address for COVID-related questions)
- Build Community — Bring your audience together around a common cause or shared interest — even though you aren’t directly selling, it will drive organic inbound leads. The times we live in provide enough reason to start group engagement.
(e.g., creating a Facebook group to congregate around interests/challenges for your customers)
Use a tactical approach to streamline processes and cut costs where needed. You can also leverage digital and virtual vendors to optimize your workflows.
- Increase Tech Capacity — Ensure every person on your team is equipped to be successful in their remote work. This includes increasing wifi speeds and cell data, providing hotspots and VPNs, or enabling video conferencing tools like Zoom.
(e.g., licensing access for an employee to use Adobe InDesign at home)
- Go Paperless — Use digital/virtual products to transfer in-person work to collaborative online work. Test solutions to see which work best for your team, and don’t be afraid to change them.
• Zoom — Video calls
• Asana, Trello — Task Management for individuals or groups
• Grasshopper, Google Voice — Separation of work and personal calls on your existing cell phone
• 1Password, Dashlane — Encrypted password manager for individuals or groups
• Dropbox Scanner, ScanBot — Document scanning, including wet signatures
• Slack, Microsoft Teams — Team chat and communication
• WhatsApp, Signal — Global texting from your cell or computer
• DocSend, HelloSign — Electronic signing
- Deliver At-Home Perks — Give physical assets to employees where needed, to avoid lapses in productivity. This includes office supplies, printers, scanners, or tools an employee may need if you cannot be paperless.
(e.g., sending camera equipment to an employee if their job involves photographing products)
HR (Human Resources)
If your first step was to downsize your staff, know that you likely made the right choice. Labor is often your largest business expense, and thus layoffs, furloughs, or reduced hours are usually inevitable. However, the next step is just as critical — to optimize the productivity of your remaining staff.
- Communicate Survival — Motivate remaining employees by explaining that they are top performers vital to your business’s survival, and offer small incentives for hitting goals as the business recovers.
- Transfer Knowledge Quickly — Have a handover meeting between the ex-employee and the remaining employee, if there is time (and goodwill). If there is no time for a handover, ensure that the *first* task of the remaining employee is to build that handover — the creation itself will help them get up to speed faster.
(e.g., recording daily tasks and processes, imminent deadlines or issues, locations of relevant docs/files, logins and passwords, and a key contacts list)
- Consolidate Redundancies — Reassign ex-employees’ tasks to remaining employees based on your team’s strengths to harness their expertise. Feel free to split 1 ex-employee’s tasks across 2, 3, or 4 remaining employees.
(e.g., splitting 1 ex-employee’s Marketing tasks across 3 remaining employees for PR + social media + design)
- Reallocate Employees — Redistribute your team to new and valuable activities, like recovery planning, or even share employees with other companies so they can be paid while furloughed. Make sure the margins are still profitable for you — remember survival first.
(e.g., General Motors switching from making cars to making ventilators to combat the health crisis)
The next several weeks, months, and even years will be a challenging transition for many businesses. Now is the time to narrow focus on how your company can begin it’s post-COVID-19 journey, and emerge even stronger.
*How Chinese Companies Have Responded to Coronavirus, Harvard Business Review, 2020; Sensing and Shaping the Post-COVID Era, BCG, 2020
Photo by takahiro taguchi
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