First and foremost I trust you all are safe, your families are healthy, and you’re remaining optimistic with the uncertain world we’re in.
If there is anything that should be clear at this point is: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. All of us are collectively trying to normalize in a world we’ve never been in before. Do your best to remember this as you stay connected to loved ones and clients. What’s coming next, no one can be sure. People say it will be the “new normal.” But after events such as 9/11, the California wildfires, Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, Sandy, etc….it’s more like what’s coming is the “next normal.” Your clients need you more than ever.
Use Your Heart to Get Into Their Heads
You are likely facing a great challenge. Not only has your business been disrupted, but your clients’ have also. Nothing is normal right now. The tendency, perhaps in the first few weeks, was to triage your business and help employees navigate a virtual work environment. But that period is over.
Now is the time to empathize with your clients’ situations based on your in-depth knowledge of their operation and their industry. Keep in the forefront of your mind, even though you’re not face-to-face with a client, your warmth factor REMAINS. Through all your communication, whether it’s video conferencing, telephone, e-mail, etc., it’s important that you affirm everyone you speak with by understanding their struggle. This is paramount. Note that I’m not saying fix it; I’m saying get it/catch it as though you are your client’s crash-cushion. Be there to allow them to sound off about it and be an empathetic partner. You’ll be remembered for this.
Set Up the Next Normal
Post-sheltering, it’s the people who showed patient empathy that others will contact to help them move their business forward. Put yourself in that position whenever possible. Now is the time to solidify market share by being interested, not interesting. Here’s a tip…let your clients talk, you’re not going anywhere, right? So you may as well let them fully express themselves. Now is the time to ask probing questions and get deeper into their issues. Everyone is affected by the shutdown. What you need to find out are the not-so-obvious impacts it is having and where you can help…now and in the new normal. Take time to listen to your clients, ask the right questions, get them talking. You will both benefit from the exchanges.
Recently, I told a client that he should initiate meetings as though he worked for Hallmark. Some key internal questions: “What would be top of mind for my client right now? What would she want me to ask her first? What could I ask that really gets to the heart of the matter?”
Plan a warm opening salutation; for example: “Amanda, how are you and your family? How’s your son with all this confusion and his college enrollment challenges you mentioned last time we spoke?” Remember, many people now are desperate and skeptical, even your clients (and mine!). And they have more on their mind than just business right now. What neutralizes these feelings is dialogue and periodically playing back what you just heard, as an invitation for your client to add more to what they just said. It shows that you are listening and engages them in a “real” conversation that breaks down normal barriers. Get in there with them, “stay in the pain” as I’ve said many times before, and help them through it. This is a great cleansing process you’ll facilitate for your client. It also gives you the intel you will need to understand their struggles. Now is not the time to judge someone; it’s the time to empathize with them.
Once your day ends, reflect on your conversations and ask yourself if you made a difference in someone’s life. If you did, sleep well. If not, don’t fret. Tomorrow is a new day and there will be many opportunities to help.
I wish you a healthy and a safe journey through all of this. – Steve