Lessons From A CEO Roundtable: Delivering Customer Value During A Crisis

Over the past week or so, I have witnessed a gradual change in the tone of many business conversations. As we begin to move out of the panic phase, leaders seem to be focusing a bit less on crisis management and mitigating loss, and more on recovery, opportunity, and future growth. Is your business ready for what comes next? How can you move your business strategy from defense to offense without seeming opportunistic?

The short answer: authentically connecting and engaging with your clients right now is crucial.

In addition to understanding your value proposition, clients need to know that you ‘get’ their current situation, recognize their needs, and have their best interests at heart. We had an excellent conversation during a recent CEO Roundtable on how businesses can reinforce these relationships and deliver better customer value now, to help facilitate revenue and growth in the future.

The three key themes that came out of our discussion were mindset, client outreach, and reinvention:

Mindset

People will remember how you act during this period. What you say and how you behave now will have serious implications for your reputation and brand in the future.

Your clients are looking to you for empathy, generosity, and a personal commitment to act in their best interest. Your mindset needs to be more about selling a sense of partnership and community than about selling products and services. This is the time to revisit and focus on your core values—how can you honour and bring these values to life to help clients tackle the obstacles they are currently facing? It’s important to wear the hat of ‘we’re here to help’ and focus on value creation. Ask yourself, “What can I do to add value to my clients without any expectation of commerce?”

Only reach out to clients if you truly believe you can offer something to help them. Ask yourself “Is my intention pure?” By sharing expertise, skills, and insight—with NO agenda—you are building (or reinforcing) a bridge between the client and your company that will help grow your relationship, and hopefully your revenues, in the future.

Outreach

Before reaching out to any client, it is crucial to first ensure you understand their pain points from inside their frame of reference vs your own. Do you understand your customers’ customers? Asking the right questions is key: “What are you facing at this time?”, “How can we help get you through this difficult period?” Don’t just ‘show up and throw up’, instead, ‘shut up and listen.’ This is a great opportunity to connect, evolve, and reposition your brand from simply being a commodity supplier to being a trusted partner.

Go through your client list and identify who you might be able to help and how. Are they an essential service, or is their business down? If their business is down, reach out and offer to help any way you can. Provide that little bit extra, and ensure your sales team understands that your expectations are not about hunting and prospecting these clients but rather about delivering support and guidance.

If a client provides an essential product or service and has not been negatively affected by the current climate, think about how you might be able to secure more of their business. Is there an opportunity to do more for them by leveraging your existing resources to create a new product, service or process to meet their additional needs?

This is also a great time to engage with prospects providing essential products or services whose revenues may be up.

Reinvention

Moving forward you may need to think differently about your company, as going back to where you were before the pandemic may not be possible. Nor should you necessarily want to. Have any new opportunities presented themselves? Are there ways to innovate within your company? Has Zoom, or another online platform, exposed fresh ways to go to market, service your customers, increase scale, or add to or pivot your business offerings?

Ask yourself, “What do individuals and businesses need at this point (and what may they need in the future) as a result of COVID-19 and how can I adapt my company’s skills and expertise to better serve these evolving market trends?”

There is also an opportunity to reinforce your brand’s thought leadership position beyond the current crisis. Can you remain a valuable source of information and insight for your clients and prospects moving forward?


Closing thoughts

It can often be very difficult to reach C-suite and other senior executives, as their schedules tend to be full with meetings and travel. Now however is a great time to pick up the phone and engage directly with these key senior client contacts. Try to call two or three people every day to connect, ask questions, and get feedback on what’s important to their business right now—and then provide any value you can based on their needs. Remember, your focus should not be about selling, but on listening, providing support, and building and reinforcing relationships so that you can be top of mind when things eventually turn around.