We’re all feeling the strain of the COVID-19 epidemic, from the impact that it’s having on our businesses, to the emotional effects of isolation and uncertainty.
In times when we feel out of control, focusing on what we can control can be very therapeutic. After all, this crisis will pass eventually, and when it does, you want to be well-positioned to get your business back to full strength as quickly as possible.
Here are seven things you can actually control even when it seems like the world is upside-down.
Staying in contact with your team
How can you keep your team engaged as a leader or stay productive as a teammate when everyone is scattered? As many companies are realizing, communication tools like Slack and Zoom don’t just help sustain the flow of work, they also serve critical functions in maintaining company culture and morale.
“We’re new to doing meetings over video chat, but people are having fun with it,” says Rob Siefker, Sr. Director of Customer Service at Zappos. “In fact, one of our teams set it up so that they spent a few minutes outside and shared any pictures of interesting things that they saw or found. Might seem silly, but people liked going outside and sharing a simple experience with each other.
“I know my team’s children and many of their pets, and families are definitely making appearances in meetings. We still check off topics and action items, and we also get to say hello to children, significant others, or pets who are also home. It’s fun, it connects us, and it makes this whole experience that much more powerful. This impacts all of us, and we are in this together. Pets included.”
At Nutshell, we host a virtual happy hour at 4:45pm each day, where team members are invited to congregate on a Zoom video call with the beverage of their choice, and catch up on much-needed socialization with their teammates. Lauren even organized a Nutshell movie-watching night using the Netflix Party app. Being able to laugh and have a good time with your co-workers—even under these uniquely odd circumstances—goes a long way towards bringing some normalcy back into your life.
Organizing your business
“When business slows down or starts to change in ways you couldn’t have predicted, it’s a great time to go back to the basics,” says Katherine Mays, Head of Customer Experience at Nutshell. “Get a handle on what resources you do have, and what resources you might need to pull through.”
Katherine suggests going through the following questions to identify areas of improvement in your business, starting broadly then focusing down on specifics:
- What can you do to better understand your customers’ needs?
- Are there changes you can make to your process to be more efficient or more helpful?
- Are there tasks on your (or your team’s) plate that take up too much time or resources?
- What steps can you take right now to preserve your existing business and protect yourself and your team?
- Can you easily identify your best and most stable revenue sources? (i.e., Do they come from current customers or new customers? Do they come from a particular industry?)
- Do you have any tools available to you that you aren’t using?
“If the shutdowns are creating a slow period in your business, use it as an opportunity to review and clean up the data you have about your customers and prospects,” Katherine adds. “This process shapes itself differently every time, so don’t be surprised if valuable projects and ideas start to emerge.”
Supporting your own customers
As businesses started being impacted by COVID-19 earlier this month, our Customer Success team spoke to several customers who were sad, frightened, or otherwise not in a great place emotionally. The biggest support our team provided during those conversations had nothing to do with our product, and everything to do with showing patience and kindness.
“It’s critically important right now that we show grace to our customers during what may feel like a very uncertain time,” explains Nutshell Customer Success Manager Kristen Gray. “I have tried to be more flexible with meeting times and understanding that many professionals are juggling both jobs and impromptu at-home childcare. Remaining agile and empathetic has been key.”
Things are a bit crazy with business right now, but it also makes me feel safer knowing that we have the support of a team like y’all as a key component of our company’s structure. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we’re all going to get through this together!”A lovely note from Superfine! Art Fair’s James Miille, sent in after a recent Nutshell support interaction.
Reacting positively to what’s happening around you
It seems overly simplistic to say, “Just put on a happy face and stay positive!”—especially if COVID-19 has created significant hardships for you and your family. On the other hand, your attitude can lift the spirits of those around you, so it’s worth being intentional about what you’re reflecting in your personal interactions.
Here’s how best-selling sales author Jeffrey Gitomer puts it:
“Resilience is how you react, respond, and recover from what happens to you, or what is happening in the world, in an instant. Your reaction can be either positive or negative. It’s either ‘Woe is me,’ or ‘Whoa, it’s me!’ So I’m creating an attitude virus. I want to make sure that every single person that’s in my purview gets the attitude that I have, because my attitude is contagious. And when it’s contagious, others can catch it and give it to somebody else. I want you to make your attitude viral.”
Supporting local businesses
“Pick a few local businesses a week to support through purchasing gift-cards or online delivery, and be sure to share to your social channels when you support them,” Kristen Gray suggests. “They need the word-of-mouth now more than ever, and we all know how compelling that kind of lead gen is!”
Just look at how Nutshell’s hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan was able to support one of our own local bookstores during the COVID-19 closure. Remember that tough times pass, and we can help make sure our favorite local businesses are still around once this time is over.
Maintaining your relationships with prospects
Remember all the leads you were working before we all started self-isolating? Don’t let them float away forever just because people aren’t going into the office anymore.
Yes, we’re all experiencing a giant disruption in our businesses, but that doesn’t mean all sales activity should stop. What it means is that you have to spend more time figuring out which leads are still viable and which ones just need to be nurtured for later.
“I think this is the time to stop the cadences, stop pressing play on the templates, and go deeply, deeply personal,” says sales coach John Barrows. As he explains:
People and companies are in one of three modes right now: 1) lock down everything, 2) use this time to reevaluate current systems and improve operational efficiencies and 3) get after it and try to sell through this. So look for things that are happening in their businesses. Follow [your prospects] on Twitter, see what they’re talking about with their teams and what they’re doing. And then approach them with, ‘Hey, I see you guys are trying to do X, would it be worth a conversation because we can actually help you do that.’ Or, ‘Looks like you guys are on lockdown, good luck going through this, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.’”
Someday this crisis is going to end, and when it does, you’ll be thankful that you kept in touch with your pipeline of prospects—even the ones who aren’t buying right now.
Looking after your own health and the health of those around you
While COVID-19 presents an important opportunity to support your customers’ businesses, don’t forget that staying healthy should be your first priority. If you don’t protect your physical and mental well-being right now, a bad situation will become exponentially more difficult.
“I’ve been trying to focus less on things I can’t control, and more on things I can,” says Sales Hacker Director of Marketing Colin Campbell. “For example, I can’t do much to ensure that medical workers have protective equipment they need. But I can focus on keeping my distance and washing my hands plenty. I can’t control what the media says about the spread, but I can keep myself informed while limiting my screen time to 30 minutes a day.
“I also find ways to be present in the moment. For me, this has meant working just a little less. More walks outside (away from people), more slow sips of coffee, more breaks from work to focus on my breathing.”
In our local startup community, Katherine Mays has been leading daily 10-minute guided meditations to help our team and many newly remote colleagues feel a little more centered and grounded. This helps combat some of the added stress and anxieties as we all face the uncertainty of what will happen next. These happen at 1pm EST Monday-Friday through Zoom and are open to anyone at this link.
Many people who teach a variety of fitness or wellness classes have turned to remote instruction through Facebook Live, Zoom, Hangouts, and more, for smaller fees than regular in-person classes. Check in with your local community to find ways to stay active at home!
Things might seem scary in the short-term, but if you can stay focused during this time, you’ll be able to bounce back quickly when life returns to normal. Just know that we’re here for you, always. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if we can help you in any way. And please, take care of yourselves.