There are so many possibilities to open with, so many stories to tell, so many lessons learned from the unimaginable turmoil this year has turned to. Unpredictable and unprecedented are understatements. Who in their wildest dreams could have seen this coming? The business world was still and quiet for a while but thank goodness it’s picking up again. We’ve learned our lessons and discovered new ways to move forward. New customer buying habits are being created, but “business as usual,” or the way it was before, is not likely to resurface anytime soon, if ever. Virtual and cloud options have shown us that physical presence can be optional. And now, to reflect on a few lessons and moments in time from this year.
To Zoom or Not to Zoom?
It was here before the pandemic, but Zoom has now been elevated to every person’s description of our movement to virtual connections and communications. Families are saying, “Let’s Zoom tonight!” Local government organizations are saying, “Let’s get on Zoom and plan our capital campaign,” and new prospects are saying, “Hit me with a Zoom invite and show me how this new piece of equipment works.”
There are other virtual platforms, Teams and Skype to name a few. The key is to get comfortable with whatever you use, understand all the features and then practice. Learn how to use the whiteboard, share screens, annotate, split into breakout rooms and more. The more you use, the better it gets and, surprise, there will be times after this is over where the better choice may be virtual. Travel for business meetings, for one, will scale back. A few of the business activities I’ve had virtual success with include:
- Product and sales training. Rather than pure lecture and listen, implement interactive events into the schedule and use breakout features to split into sub-groups for team activities
- Business review and planning sessions. There are opportunities to still have lunch together, even in a virtual setting. Send in an Uber meal to your guests or “Dunkin’ Delivers” for your customers.
And, if you haven’t heard the term “Zoom shirt,” it’s one of my favorites. Business casual has a whole new meaning now. We’re at our desk in front of a camera and visible only from the waist up. Shorts and flip flops can be the norm, as long as you remember not to stand during the meeting.
You’re on Mute
What? I’m talking, can’t you hear me? You’re on mute… Oh, thanks. How many times have you seen that happen? And you’ve likely been the culprit more than once. Or, you’re not on mute and thought you were. Oh, those background noises you really don’t want others to hear. And the video on/off feature, you really don’t want to be caught off-guard by accident on video without your Zoom shirt on. The lesson is, be very familiar with all mute and video features on every platform you enter. Practice in advance. Even a sticky note on your monitor as a constant reminder is a wise move.
The In-Person Cold Call is History
For now, anyway, and maybe forever. The pandemic has created silos around every business previously open for walk in, even with a no soliciting sign. It just won’t be the same. Who is going to feel comfortable with strangers walking into their building? So, expect much tighter security in and out, with appointments being the only way forward. For those that have relied on this method, a few ideas you can consider as alternatives and/or supplements:
- Digital and social connections. LinkedIn is at the top of my list for reaching people beyond the walls. View targeted profiles and connect. Be active in posts of those you’re connected to and post your own content. Becoming skilled in all things social is key, as digital will only continue to accelerate.
- Join and become active in industry groups for the segments that your prospects belong to. For example, the Association of Laboratory Managers (ALMA) and the American Welding Society (AWS) to name a few. And, of course, the GAWDA groups. There are virtual activities where you can make connections with key contacts and opportunities to promote yourself and the business you’re in.
- And, of course, the local chamber(s) and trade associations within range of your business, using the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance (GMA) as an example.
Kindness is Key
We’ve all been impacted by the pandemic to some extent. Some worse than others. If you are fortunate enough, and have the means, do something good for someone – a stranger, a friend, a co-worker or someone serving you. Get involved in community programs to serve the less fortunate. A simple smile (through your mask of course), an unexpected compliment, an open door, a good listen and acknowledgement, a greeting and introduction, and on and on. Pay it forward by covering the tab for that person behind you in the Starbucks line. Be sensitive to everyone. You have no idea what others might be dealing with in these times. Start something positive and encourage others to follow suit. Perhaps start a daily kindness journal. Make it your goal to give out at least one kindness moment every day. In fact, kindness is contagious too, so spread something good!