Written by: Stephanie Brock, Vice President of Sales and General Manager. This article originally appeared in Forbes.
Being on both the directing and receiving side of new business development (NBD) inquiries, one thing that has struck me in the time of COVID-19 is its relentless nature. Many central questions are popping up around how the virus will continue to force us to be more human at work. Even when our stay-at-home orders lift, there will be a certain degree of fear about returning to physical spaces. Our current commitment to empathy and humanity will continue to be challenged for the foreseeable future.
So, how does it feel to receive incoming inquiries, offers and email blasts from organizations we’ve never worked with during crises like COVID-19? To me, it feels like a violation of an unspoken contract with my community to keep focused on the things that “matter” by giving people the space they need to adjust to a world that is upside-down. Friends and colleagues are deeply rolling their eyes at corporations pushing messages of concern and care without really offering solutions for what it is they’re facing — the screeching halt of the life they had cultivated and come to know. Personally, it’s a total turn-off to receive impersonal one-size-fits-all messages clogging my inbox, especially during worldwide crises where my work attention needs to be focused on supporting our employees and partners.
Do we proceed with business as usual?
I’ve seen a broad spectrum in the way states are handling shelter in place mandates and how they’re defining essential businesses and workers. For industries my organization serves and relies upon, construction and manufacturing fall under a very large umbrella with a lot of nuances. Some companies are completely shutting down construction, some are shutting down manufacturing plants entirely, others are using manufacturing capabilities to retool and support the production of personal protective equipment (PPE), but many — during this crisis and others — do whatever they can to continue business as usual.
According to a study published in the “New England Journal of Medicine,” COVID-19 can remain viable in the air for three hours. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could want to take that risk. During pandemics, we also need to examine how realistic it is to complete construction projects and maintain a six-foot distance between people. At any given site, there could be a dozen different trades that all need to share the same space, materials and equipment that require several people to handle or transport.
So in times like these, the question is: now what? Does NBD completely go away during a crisis? I don’t think so; it just needs to be added to the list of activities that need to become more empathetic and more human. Crises are the times to consider the products and services your company offers and figure out how they can support potential partners. During health crises and economic downturns, companies may take huge economic hits and face furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts while trying to navigate situations no one was prepared for.
In order to infuse empathy and humanity into our NBD approaches during challenging times, we need to take these factors into consideration before pushing the send button. For me, that means sharing your knowledge and resources to support like-minded organizations in moments like these. For example: our parent company is global, my company is regional and we offer integrated solutions that support individual and collaborative work, both remotely and within physical spaces. In a business like this, you could offer free webinars like our parent company did to help broadcast your best practices for staying connected while working apart. You could utilize your CRM to share those webinars with a long list of current partners, potential partners and others that may choose to “go in a different direction.” I personalized each email and added in vulnerable messages like, “I have no other intention but to offer our experience as you move into uncharted waters.” I truly felt good sending those messages.
With the permission of my parent company, I will be reaching out to share blueprints and instructions for producing PPE, and you could share similar knowledge with your contacts.
If ever there was a time to stop inappropriate NBD practices, it’s during times of crisis. If ever there was an opportunity for us to pause, reflect and create opportunities to support one another, it’s during times of crisis. If ever there was a time to put our energy into creating products, processes, software or strategies to strengthen our communities, it’s during times of crisis.