Relationship Building in Uncertain Times

Matthew Kloss | April 23, 2020
Strategic Account Executive

As the global economy shifts in the wake of a crisis, companies are scrambling to figure out how to undertake effective relationship building with existing and prospective customers.

Here at YouAppi, we are committed to constantly innovating and maintaining the highest level of service for our clients. We realize today might not be business as usual, but one day soon the global economy will, inevitably, shift back to normality. Our team has learned a lot over the last couple of weeks about shifting their approach to meet the “new normal”. Below, you can find our recommendations for business development during the days of toilet paper scarcity and email open rate flatlines.

Make Empathy Your Guiding Principle

There has never been a better time to refine your core sales philosophy and, if anything, this crisis has clarified what should have always been prioritized: empathy and a customer-centric approach. Regardless of whether or not the economy is booming, compassion, empathy, and patience should be the guiding principles of all your actions. Whether it’s a cold email to a prospect or asking a potential client what their needs are during an introductory call, now is not the time to be pushy.

Tone-deaf sales messages will only upset your audience and show them that you prioritize profit over long-lasting relationships. Ask and listen, before you share. Assume that everyone is distracted and no one is in buy mode. Be relevant, concise, and personable.

While this approach is beneficial for relationship building in a professional context, it’s also the way you should be approaching all relationships during this time. We are all figuring out the realities of quarantine life one day at a time. Remembering that we are all in this together and expressing genuine concerns that are based in compassion, rather than the bottom line, is the way our world needs to approach this moment.

These efforts will leave a lasting impression on current and future clients. And, once Shelter in Place restrictions are lifted, you’ll be remembered for your approach. Kindness and patience will likely be more memorable than a hasty sale in a time like this.

Thoughtful Messaging Wins

Recent data has shown that emails explicitly referencing Coronavirus or COVID-19 in the subject line resulted in a 40% reduction in reply rates. As mentioned earlier, empathy and compassion should be the guiding principles underlying all your actions, but shouldn’t be overused in your communications and should always remain genuine. 

Rather than starting and ending every conversation about the pandemic, think of creative ways to acknowledge our current reality while keeping the messages constructive and positive. One of our team members spent 2 hours with a client via LinkedIn swapping podcasts and books to listen to and read during quarantine.

There’s never been a better opportunity to connect with individuals in your profession on a personal level. That said, keep it sincere, optimistic and thoughtful. If you know a client is an avid home cook, suggest some Instagram accounts with fun cooking videos. Empathize with what a client might be dealing with in the background of their personal lives rather than just ending every email with “stay safe”. If nothing else, realize how many people in the world are writing the same phrases right now. If you want to be engaged with, you have to stand out from the crowd.

Finally, our team has found that more conversational and frictionless call-to-actions were more effective in getting a response. As always, focus on hyper-personalizing messages that resonate with the client’s specific retention challenges and highlight the superpower you’re giving their team. Consider adding pictures or videos to your messages to grab their attention. Double and triple check your messages to avoid an assertive tone. Make it about them, not you.  

Time to Get Creative about Building New Connections

So what can a salesperson do when conferences have been canceled and in-person wining and dining is no longer an option? It’s time to get creative about building new connections. Many account managers have turned to social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter to build new relationships through thought leadership. Virtual conferences are also on the rise, giving salespeople a new forum to learn about industry trends and make connections in the process. 

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Use this time to spur your creative innovation when it comes to lead generation. Grab a new client’s attention by sending useful quarantine workout hacks or a list of educational apps they can play with their kids. If a new client can’t make it to an informational call because they’re stuck in line at Costco, send them a gift card to a grocery delivery store for the next time they need to go shopping.

This is the time to roll up your sleeves, test new things and adapt your practices. This might include testing out different subject lines, message lengths, call-to-actions, and channels. Your ability to adapt to this moment will only improve your professional agility and resilience in the end.

Relationship Building but Make It Virtual

In this unique moment, account managers have a profound opportunity to build their relationships with existing customers through digital channels. This includes virtual happy hours and events. Consider planning themed digital hangouts to serve as a social outlet for clients who have been cooped up in their homes. Fun background photos and videos can spice up an otherwise generic virtual conference call. Something simple like setting your Zoom background to a client’s favorite movie scene could be an easy way to brighten up their day and grab their attention. Virtual activities that unite individuals from a distance like virtual workouts and game nights can also help foster connections.

Most importantly, maintain a positive attitude when interacting with clients. Times are tough, there’s no doubt about it. But hey, if you can maintain a bright, optimistic demeanor in the midst of all this, there’s no better way to cement a client’s loyalty.

Shift to a Long-Term Mindset

It’s important to shift from a transactional, short-term (read: desperate/pushy/sales-y) strategy to an educational, long-term and resourceful strategy. We will get through this and these times will eventually come to an end. It’s important to take actions that keep an eye towards long-term growth and sustainability. What does that entail exactly? Prioritizing the reality of clients’ lives over everything else. This includes shifting priorities to meet economic realities. Rather than going straight for the pitch, try opening with an insightful idea for their business or even asking if they want to join you for a cold one or a glass of wine over Zoom.

We’ve found that leaning towards educating and starting a conversation rather than pitching the product’s value at the initial stage is more effective as well. Become an educational resource on mobile growth to prospective clients. That could include writing a LinkedIn article, posting on LinkedIn every day, or even writing an e-book. Thinking of innovative ways to provide value and start a conversation without regular in-person dinners and happy hours is key.

Support One Another

It’s times like these that we truly get by with help from our friends. Lean on the support and insight of your teammates. Ask their advice constantly and keep things positive. Schedule virtual meetings just to check in about others’ personal lives. Swap health and wellness tips for staying calm during stressful times. Schedule regular group meditation or yoga classes as a team. All these activities may have seemed trivial before the pandemic, but now, with more time at home and more uncertainty, they have never been more vital. Treat this moment in time as an opportunity to invest in yourself and your team like never before.

Takeaways

It’s been a wild ride these last couple weeks and our team has learned a lot about supporting our clients and each other in tough times.

  • Let compassion be your guiding principle but don’t let it guide all your messaging. Empathize with what a client might be dealing with in the background of their personal lives rather than ending every email with “stay safe”.
  • Refrain from pushy, tone-deaf sales messages. Keep the tenor and tone of your messages thoughtful and conversational. 
  • Use digital channels like social media and virtual conferences to build new connections. Think of creative ways to serve clients’ business and personal needs during this time.
  • Deepen existing client relationships through virtual activities that go the extra mile to brighten their day and leave an impression.
  • Lean towards educating and being a resource over trying to pitch in the initial stage. Post about your industry daily, write an article on LinkedIn, or even write an e-book.
  • Support your teammates knowing that the success and wellness of each of you is for the good of the group.