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How should I handle my business NOW?

Thoughts about business development, marketing, sales and everything in between

As with most everyone else, the coronavirus caught me unprepared.  I had to find a way to adapt. I had to step back and adjust my approach and my priorities. Forced to shift from a very intensive travel schedule—where I would meet partners, customers and potential customers almost every week—to WFH (work from home) based, non-face-to-face meetings. 

Whom should I contact first, and how? 
When is it appropriate or not appropriate to contact, given the various scenarios playing out in other countries? 
How do adjust my contact approach?

My pre-quarantine routine usually revolved around these F2F meetings alternating between: one week “on the road” and one week to handle the follow ups. In zero time, I had to rethink how to build the pipeline, maintain relationships and follow up on the open opportunities. At the same time, I had to actively create such opportunities without waiting for tradeshows and other F2F meetings—all this while managing an even more dispersed marketing, business and support teams who themselves were adjusting to working from home (#WFH) and all that it entails.

When looking at my accounts and my travel schedule, I decided to develop my outreach according to the different stages of each opportunity. This meant organizing my accounts and customers into four levels, with different tools for each.

1: Existing Projects

Existing projects and customers are the basis of my business. These are the most important with respect to day-to-day attention but also most directly affect my known future; these required close contact and engagement to continue to keep those projects flourishing and revealing new opportunities to be of service. You and your existing customers usually share the same level of attention to a given project but may also be juggling other interests and projects. During this period, it’s important to keep track of these customers, their concerns and their changing business environment. Also, be aware of their customers’ needs and the ripple effects around their business and be supportive to their changing needs. It’s also a really good opportunity to deepen your direct customer relations. People have more availability to talk and are likely to do so more openly than usual. 

My team and I are maintaining regular communication with these customers and analyzing the ripple effect on their business from the ODMs and other partners that are involved in the projects in which we are engaged. In addition, as most of the internal team are #WFH, it’s important to verify that the same level of attention is being provided by the technical team. Watch for technical issues that might arise and that they are getting appropriate attention while at the same time we continue to track project milestones and ensure those are being hit.

2: Identified projects: Known accounts

Level two comprises new customers with whom we are already engaged and already awarded a project or will very soon be awarded. For this level of customers, there might be a slowdown in activity due to the changes we are all going through. It’s likely that most of the customers are also #WFH and unless there is a specific team(s) that is dealing with the future projects, the activity might be reprioritized. Again, it’s important to maintain regular tracking meetings, both internally and externally, to support the project and the customers’ needs, and keep things moving forward. If we’re still in the evaluation period, we also need to ensure any physical deliverables such as hardware (EVBs etc) continues to be shipped to the customer in a timely manner. 

In these times, we must also carefully evaluate our in-house resources allocation and supply the customers with which there is the highest probability of a successful outcome with the appropriate hardware and technology expertise. 

One final consideration is the validity of the project given the current climate. Could we propose a change, e.g. enabling additional functionalities and use cases that can enhance the urgency of bringing this project online?

3: New accounts; Known contacts

This level is tricky, as it involves people and contacts you already know, but have yet to engage in business. Maybe you met them briefly at prior events or through social media, or you met them personally and there is already a degree of open dialog. As these contacts might represent your future pipeline, it’s important to keep a line of communication open with them. In my case, unlike my pre quarantine days, where I had planned trips in which I combined F2F meetings with new contacts and known contacts and followed up afterward, I needed to initiate and approach them more actively and create an opportunity for a call. I also could not rely solely upon that F2F meetings or networking events where I meet all the relevant people. Instead, I needed to restart the engagement more slowly. For example, start with a call with the known contact and follow up so he or she will bring in the relevant people again. This is also incredibly time-consuming in looking first for the opening, thinking about the approach and then chasing down to start the discussion. But, on the other hand, it is incredibly worthwhile in terms of long-term business relationships and potential.

There is also opportunity here: Since most of the people are working from home, there might be a greater chance your contact will be more open for a call. But be prepared. I have already received a response that went something like this: “Great to hear from you, let’s talk in few months, in any case we are not allowed to engage with new vendors in this period.”

Lastly, we should verify we have the right tools to present. In my business, In F2F meetings the demo is an important, if not critical, element. Since we can’t physically demonstrate the solutions, we had to quickly create a video demonstration. This has turned into an unexpected opportunity – I can now reach more people with a readily available video demo that can be used as an opener to persuade my potential customers to spend time to take your call.

4: New contacts: New accounts

In all of this, I must continue to cultivate brand new relationships and opportunities. How do we find new contacts and new accounts when all the tradeshows, dinners and industry forums are canceled or postponed? How will we do lead generation? For me and my team, we had to enhance our marketing and lead-generation tools. Up until now, we relied mainly on traditional F2F tools. Now we have to take different approaches. Here are some ideas:

  • Newsletters: Gather industry and your own news updates and share them routinely in social media and through various distribution lists.
  • Video interviews with existing customers: This is a great tool to retain as well as attract new customers. 
  • Webinars and meet-ups: There are more to join now than ever. These are great opportunities for discussing general or industry-specific issues.
  • Press releases: It’s important to keep everyone updated regarding new product launches and business news – in the past we released such announcements towards tradeshows, now we need to do that on a routine basis.  
  • Social media: Becomes more important than ever. Use social media to attract attention and engage with new leads.
  • Research, research and more research: You can never learn too much about the potential areas and communities where you previously had no contacts.

To summarize: It may well be that by the end of this strange period we have completely changed the way we conduct business. Or, we will quickly revert back to our old routines. Personally, I believe it will be a combination. We’ll keep what works, adapt accordingly and be better as a result.

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the subject. In the meantime, keep safe and healthy,

Tali Chen
DSP Group, an IoTC Member

About Me:

Tali Chen

Tali brings more than 20 years of executive management experience to DSP Group with strong voice in the semiconductor industry. In her multifaceted role as CVP Corporate Development, she heads up DSP Group’s corporate marketing and communications, and is the Chief Marketing Officer for the company. Additionally, Tali is responsible for leading the IoT business line in DSP Group. Before joining DSP Group, Tali was Director of Commercial Legal Affairs at RADA Electronic Industries, a Major in the Israeli Defense Forces, the founding manager of the “Atidim for Industry” program, and an intern at the IDF Ombudsman’s office. Tali holds a LLB in Law and Government with honors from the prestigious Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) of Herzliya and an MBA from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.