As we all struggle with the new business environment driven by Covid-19, one thing is clear - you must do all you can to retain, if not grow, your current client relationships. This is particularly important if you’ve been working on a contract that’s due to expire before things settle into the new normal. If you’re faced with a rebid to keep that client, you have more reasons than ever to do all it might take to win.
At The Artemis Partnership, if we hear from a client that a rebid is imminent, here’s the first question we ask: Have you done a client satisfaction survey? That is, do you REALLY know what they think of you after having worked with you?
Why Conduct a Survey?
In today’s competitive and nearly chaotic corporate environment, companies will ask a lot from their providers, especially during a rebid. They will expect faster, better and more efficient work than before. That means that your firm needs to demonstrate its competitive advantage in a multitude of ways, including client service.
Conducting a survey will provide your organization with new information that will help immeasurably in a rebid scenario. While you often go into a rebid with assumptions, survey results will confirm or reinforce new information to make your rebid stronger. When your firm conducts client surveys, you demonstrate to your clients that you care about the relationship and are open to ways to improve it.
It’s All About Timing
Feedback is vital. But asking for it only when notified that a current relationship is going to RFP might be too late.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when gathering feedback is not conducting regular client surveys. We tell our clients to send out the survey well before a rebid, and allow time to implement changes before going through the rebid process.
As far as frequency goes, if you have a retainer client, conduct surveys each year, and give your client plenty of lead time to plan for it. Twice a year might even be better. Pair an annual, formal survey, with a half-year briefer, but structured, check-in. When you are planning a survey for a project-based client, send the survey at the conclusion of the project. (For longer projects, check-ins at logical mileposts can make sense.) This also gives your firm another communication touch point following the project to propose the next opportunity to engage with them again.
What Should You Ask in the Survey?
It’s not enough to send out a survey, the questions you include need to be carefully worded and chosen to deliver feedback that matters and can impact your performance, and ultimately their satisfaction. Avoid yes and no responses, and leave room for open commentary.
An important question to ask is “Did we meet, exceed, or fall short of expectations?” Surveys should also include questions about what your organization did well and what could be improved, as well as the quality of the work, quality of the team, and value compared to cost.
Finally, once your client surveys are completed, review findings with your teams and create action plans to put the feedback into motion. A client survey can be one of your most helpful tools when used the right way, but could backfire if your client doesn’t see their feedback used meaningfully.
The Artemis Partnership can help your organization create, conduct and interpret effective client surveys to positively impact this year’s results.
- Bob Wiesner, Managing Partner, The Americas
Societal norms are being forcibly torn away, customs such as the simple handshake which has been the staple of closing a deal for thousands of years, are now being written off in the face of mitigating the spread of Covid-19. However, despite these cultural changes, this does not impact the ability for clients and businesses to conduct business. What does, however, is the sudden zeitgeist of 'social distancing'.
The '2 metre rule' in force around much of the world has rendered face-to-face selling unacceptable, dangerous even while we are in this situation. Maybe when social distancing restrictions are relaxed then the old ways will resume, but I think we are seeing shifts that will outlast the easing of restrictions.
The custom of face to face meetings, the foundation of trade and bartering in our civilisation, and far older than the handshake, has now spontaneously become less relevant. You could say that ever since the advent of high-speed internet and video calling this has been always coming, but this global crisis has certainly accelerated it, breaking cultural barriers in the name of necessity, propelling Zoom and other video calling services into household names.
Are we seeing the end of face-to-face selling in this current environment of lockdown and social distancing?
Maybe not the end, but certainly a shift. Ask yourself: 'Why do we arrange meetings with clients? What purpose traditionally does a face to face meeting serve?'
We all know the answer: to make the client feel comfortable and at ease with you and your business, build trust and rapport, gauge emotion through eye contact and body movements, and the list goes on and on.
However, ask yourself now: 'Do you think your client would feel comfortable, or have time to build rapport and trust with you, when they are too busy wondering about what diseases you could be spreading, or how soon they could take their mask off?' Even when restrictions are officially dropped, will people want to go back to the old ways?
For those who are thinking video calls will soon be rendered obsolete once lockdown has ended, it is looking increasingly likely that B2B as well as clients will adapt and embrace this shift towards technology over more traditional face to face methods as this will be the way to generate better levels of rapport. Until a vaccine is found and distributed amongst billions of people (and perhaps even after that), a client will never feel completely comfortable in meeting others face to face, and so it is up to you and your business to maximise their confidence and trust in your services and your reputation however you do end up communicating.
So what to do – the answer is obvious, simply be better than most when doing video calls. We still need the opportunity to gauge people’s energy levels, examine subtleties from their body language which is vital to communication but now it is online. When it comes to business video calls with clients, a professional and technically sound setup is crucial in this new norm of B2B. No longer are expenses for travel and commutes a priority. Instead spend a tiny percentage of what you would have spent on airlines and car expenses on your video set-up such as the resolution of your camera, your microphone and even the background view of your own home to optimise the professionalism you portray to your clients and prospects.
How you present yourself on a video call is more important than you think. Although it might seem tempting to turn up to a video call wearing 'around the house' clothes, it is vital to view these video calls as an extension of yourself and your business. How you present yourself, and the effort you make in your own personal presentation will influence your perception by the client. They might assume that if you don't care enough to spend some time making yourself appear business-like you may not care enough to deal with their business professionally.
In addition, maintaining the discipline of eye contact is crucial in this new digital medium. If your eyes are darting across the screen, although it might seem normal behaviour for using a monitor, to the client at the other end it will simply look like you are nervous or distracted, either of which will send the completely wrong message and does not instill confidence. Make sure to move your camera and the position of your video call on your monitor so that it always appears that you are looking directly into the camera, even if sometimes you might not be.
Spending time to search and invest in the equipment necessary to reinforce client confidence in you during this period is vital. The investment that would yield the most immediate and noticeable difference in your video calls is of course your camera. Despite some high-end laptop cameras being able to record in 720p, your best bet still remains a full HD separate webcam as the ability to adjust and position your camera relative to your monitor is invaluable. Also, it might not sound like much, but the difference between 720p and 1080p when on a live video call will ensure that you client is not distracted or annoyed by a pixely screen instead of focusing on what you are saying.
My personal recommendation would be a Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam which should sell for about £85. This has an inbuilt microphone as well as recording in 1080p and so should be perfect for any video conference call you might need to do.
The second most important part of your equipment is a microphone and speaker set up. If you already have a functional webcam, you may not need one, however try recording yourself and listening to it back, you may be surprised just how bad some of those microphones are on laptops, and even on specialised HD webcams. The less said about 'out of the drawer' Apple Airpods or other phone type earphones the better.
Another option is business headphones with inbuilt mic, which if high quality like a Jabra headset, can sound great. However, if you are worried this might make you look like a junior person working in a call centre rather than a senior executive you will need a separate microphone and speakers.
Most desk microphones are quite large, and also work best when only 10 cm or so away from your mouth so probably the best option would be a clip on lapel or lavalier USB condenser mini microphone. These are low cost around £15 and are small and discreet, looks professional, and most sound very good for voice. There are wireless versions but forgetting to charge it and running out of battery mid meeting, will send a very unprofessional message. For the corded version, make sure you have a cord or an extension long enough to move around easily if you need to stand-up on the call.
Once you have invested in the equipment necessary for instilling confidence and trust in your client during your video calls, it is important to consider a professional background, and what message that will convey to those viewing it.
You have two options, the first being your current home background, however it is important to make sure that it is clean, tidy and professional. A little bit of personality is sometimes even welcome, but ensure that it does not distract from you or your message.
The second option being a green screen set up, the support for which is already built into Zoom with no additional programs needed. However, a space is needed for this to cover the view of your webcam, and at present green screen set ups, like all at-home business equipment is in high demand. The danger of a green screen set up, is if you lack a professional background for it, then it can easily undo the trust and confidence built by the rest of your professional set up. For example, having a space background, or a city that you don't live in, may look eye-catching, but will unfortunately distract and in some cases send the wrong message.
Lastly give some thought to lighting. Like every visual recording, conference calls work best with a high level of lighting on you and on the background (if you wish to show it). So consider investing in a £50 or so desk light that has a adjustable light for both colour and intensity and an adjustable stand so that you can direct the light onto your face, and have other simple lighting for the background.
So that sums up what you need – less than £200 and some thinking will allow you to create an environment for effective face-to-virtual-face selling for as long as it is needed.
In the end, however, this digital medium presents you and your business with the opportunity to embrace the new and capitalise on change. Once this virus has been eradicated, you will be surprised how investing in video conferencing will become the new norm. Investing now will ensure you remain ahead of the curve for when face-to-face selling goes the way of the door-to-door salesman.
Stay safe and keep selling.
- Ian Forbes, Manging Partner, Europe
For many, new business pursuits during Covid-19 feel totally new. Pitches and oral presentations are occurring via Zoom or other videoconference platforms. There are collaboration challenges as the inability of pursuit teams to assemble together during the preparation process is compromised. Establishing chemistry is more difficult. And differentiating a proposed solution in a way that is compelling and convincing is hampered by the lack of in-person presentation opportunities.
Yet, with everything that is different in a business environment where many – if not all – are working from home, it is interesting how some of the fundamental principles still apply.
With that in mind, here are six tips toward adapting to the new normal:.
Our bet is that Covid-19 isn’t going away any time soon. And waiting for the old normal to return is clearly not the best approach. Embrace the opportunities presented by the new pursuit dynamics – especially those which are grounded in fundamental principles that have always resulted in a greater win percentage – and use this time to emerge a stronger pursuit team.
- Cliff Scott, Associate, The Americas
As states begin to implement, or consider, plans to re-open, businesses must make the transition from cost-cutting (survive) to revenue growth (thrive).
The Artemis Partnership has been advising its clients since March to start preparing right away for growth. We’ve heard strong agreement – in principle – but many have been holding back on the steps that are necessary. Growth requires investment of focus, energy, time and money. And some investment has been hard to rationalize.
Now, it’s evident that it’s time to get serious about revenue growth.
Revenue Recovery is Now Job One
McKinsey recently published this article on the post-COVID-19 business world. Their number one area of strategic focus for companies as they consider how to emerge from the pandemic was Rapid Revenue Recovery. Here’s an important comment from McKinsey:
Speed matters: It will not be enough for companies to recover revenues gradually as the crisis abates. They will need to fundamentally rethink their revenue profile, to position themselves for the long term and to get ahead of the competition. (emphasis added)
The authors took a B2C perspective. We feel the connections to B2B are clear and tight. Consider their three priority steps to achieve revenue growth:
Identify and Prioritize Revenue Opportunities
Careful consideration of your opportunities will go a long way here. Your best revenue opportunities are likely to come from re-engaging those clients you’ve already done business with. Before chasing every new project that surfaces, make sure you’re providing outstanding service and attention to current and recent clients.
Then, as you look for new opportunities, place your emphasis on those that are winnable. Don’t spread yourself thin by pursuing too many low value or low probability RFPs. Keep this in mind: Winning requires “intensity.” You’ll need concentrated effort to win in an even more competitive environment. This effort will be obvious to your prospect, as will the lack of effort.
Act with Urgency
If you do business in a highly competitive market, especially one driven by RFPs, it’s likely there will be fewer being issued over the next 6-18 months. And the income available per RFP might be depressed as well.
You must therefore have a line of sight for anticipated new business opportunities, before RFPs are announced. Focus your resources only on those that meet your growth, operating and brand criteria. Then do everything you can to put yourself in the best position to win - that is, to be the hands-down favorite – before the RFP is issued. Establish relationships now. Provide support and thought leadership now. Build trust now.
We believe in this idea: You can’t cost-cut your way to growth. We understand how important it’s been to focus on the bottom line in the last couple of months, just to stay in business. The time is here to look seriously at how you’re going to grow your topline. Revenue recovery isn’t for later. The path to it is for right now. Companies that are aware, and aggressive, will thrive. And those companies will be able to rehire employees, support their communities, and delight their clients. This quote from the McKinsey article means so much today:
Rapid revenue response isn’t just a way to survive the crisis. It’s the next normal for how companies will have to operate.
- Bob Wiesner, Managing Partner, The Americas