As I write this article, the one word that best describes the impact of the Coronavirus on our lives is uncertainty. We just don't know exactly how this will all play out. But there are some inevitable changes that will hit the world of business development.
In my case, I planned to achieve a lifelong goal this May - hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. I've been training for months, buying equipment and generally getting ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Now I'm not sure if I will be able to go. My reaction is to continue training and hope for the best. The worst case scenario is that I will be in really good shape and out a couple of thousand dollars (I've already paid for everything!).
Economic uncertainty is hitting the business community. The stock market, after years of steady increases, is hitting a volatile patch. The Dow was down over 2,000 points yesterday, while it's rebounding today.
The new phrase we hear is "social distancing." I'm not an alarmist by nature, but I'm thinking twice about shaking hands with business associates now. Businesses are starting to encourage employees to work remotely. Apple is telling its employees "to work remotely if your job allows." Conventions and networking events are being cancelled every day.
So what should you do as someone who is responsible for business development?
The first thing to do is to take a deep breath. That's always a good idea!
But we need to realize that the business environment is changing and many of the changes will remain after the coronavirus scare is gone. Here are some of my predictions for the new reality;
- Face-to-face business development activities will decrease. The coronavirus will only accelerate trends that technology is enabling. In my case, the Zoom videoconferencing app has become a go-to communications tool. It allows me to do business all over the world, while retaining the face-to-face aspect of business relationships. Look for more of the big conferences to move to an online platform.
- Inbound business development will become the gold standard. This is already the best way to generate leads for most businesses, but will become more important as the coronavirus lessens the opportunities for face-to-face business development. If you've already embedded inbound into your business development process, double down on it. If not, you better get on the stick!
- Your existing customer base will be an increasingly important business development opportunity. The first thing you need to do is take care of your customers! Make sure they're satisfied with your service or someone else will take them from you. If you're doing a great job for them, establish processes to systematically develop upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
Keep in mind that times like these are ripe with opportunities for those that see them before everyone else does. Keep your cool and buckle up for the long haul. We certainly have some difficult times ahead of us in the coming months.