Up the mountain: Business development and determination during COVID-19

This is a guest post by Ted Kouri, founder and president at Incite. In this post, he explores some techniques for business development in today’s new environment.

How different our reality was just one month ago! For many, after just 4 weeks of operating in this new environment, the COVID-19 mountain may feel impossibly high and the path incredibly difficult. There remains a long road ahead and it is not one for the faint of heart. With that said, we are also seeing resiliency in many markets and new opportunities are emerging weekly. We encourage you to stick with it and to continue to show up for your team and your clients with grace, determination, creativity, and positive energy. Focus on the progress you are making as it is the small things that keep us going. This quote from Lord of the Rings has served to inspire us at Incite this week.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

In an effort to share ideas that will prove useful as you make your own journey up the COVID-19 mountain, we’ve turned our attention to business development and strategies we see working.

Follow the money

Many businesses and industries are struggling, but not all. Identify areas in your client base and network that are experiencing growth at this time and focus your business development efforts accordingly. We have clients who are gaining traction with opportunities in healthcare, technology, food retail supply chain, and other essential services. You should explore short-term opportunities to market your existing products/services to growth sectors. In addition, work from the public sector or other large, stable clients is likely to result in more certainty for timely payment. Finally, for your clients that have not been significantly impacted by COVID-19, take the time to map their supply network and explore opportunities to move up or down their supply chain as it is more likely they will also be seeing stability at this time.

Repackage for COVID-19 relevance

The market is understandably very focused on managing the realities of COVID-19, and anything deemed non-essential is being de-prioritized. However, many products and services are still relevant, but may just need to be positioned properly to resonate with your market at this time. For example, Incite offers a suite of strategic planning services. What we have found is framing this offering as COVID-19 contingency planning or post COVID-19 scenario planning has met with greater interest than when we refer to it as strategic or long range planning. The reality is the methodologies and tools used are very similar, but how you message and structure your offering makes a difference and may allow you to open doors that would otherwise appear closed.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

If there are opportunities to pivot your offering, they should be explored. However, if you had a healthy business or service offering targeting a sector that is now in decline, we would caution against moving completely away from your strengths. It may take time, but most markets will ultimately recover. Find ways to supplement or adapt through the crisis, but also use this time to strengthen your core business to ensure you can aggressively pursue market share when the recovery begins. Don’t totally abandon your core business in a crisis.

Focus on relationships and adding value

Now is the time to invest in your relationships, do what’s right for your clients, and share valuable resources and tools. We have seen a number of aggressive sales tactics used in recent weeks, particularly through LinkedIN, e-mail marketing, and telephone solicitation. Appearing to a prospect out of thin air and then focusing on pushing your product is a sure way to fail and to alienate that prospect forever. Trust needs to be earned, and we believe most companies are even more skeptical now to cold, unsolicited approaches. You are better served to engage with your established relationships or to pursue an added value marketing strategy with new markets by focusing on thought leadership, partnerships, enhanced service, and innovation.

Ted Kouri is founder and president at Incite. Incite is a strategy firm specializing in growth, brand, and communications. We help organizations make informed decisions, and provide the strategic road map to move forward with clarity and confidence.

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