By Rachel Massey, director of marketing at Huthwaite International
During troubling and unpredictable times, it’s natural for businesses, no matter what industry or sector, to feel anxious and unsure what the next steps should be. A crisis period can be daunting, but there are simple measures that businesses can stick to in order to improve their chance of success. Here are my eight tips to help futureproof your business in uncertain times.
1) Stick to what works
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Things are uncertain for the whole nation, so know that it’s not just your business that may be struggling. Now isn’t the time to make any drastic changes to your business as the future is too unpredictable. Instead – focus on a proven sales methodology. Stick to tactics you know work. Now is more important than ever to take the time to carefully listen to their requirements, instead of getting lost in the unpredictability. Focus on open discussions and conversations, this means you can position yourself as a helpful adviser and problem solver – something valuable to your customers during a crisis.
2) Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Although you may be finding yourself in a slightly subdued position, negotiations can still take place and you shouldn’t be afraid of doing so. In fact, now is an opportunity for businesses to negotiate and strengthen their positions with new or existing customer, either to reach an agreement or settle on a compromise that satisfies both parties. There is no harm in negotiating during a crisis. If anything, it may lead to a more pleasant and agreeable deal for both parties.
3) Ensure constant and consistent communication
It’s important to ensure that messages, updates and announcements are relayed effectively and efficiently and this shouldn’t change during a crisis. In fact, levels of communication for businesses should increase. This goes for all communications for the business whether it’s internal, to customers or to third parties. This constant communication is reassuring and helps keep spirits and motivations high. It also helps people to feel informed and prioritised during uncertain times. Keep conversations clear and consistent. If the advice and updates are confusing and provide conflicting opinions and frequent changes in direction, confidence will be damaged or lost completely.
4) Remember feelings matter even more
Being really honest with your customers and confirming that you are ‘delighted’ or ‘disappointed’ within negotiations is powerful verbal behaviour. In times of crisis, when negotiations may be high stakes or highly emotional, the other party might disagree with you on the substance of the negotiation but nobody can refute your comments on your own feelings, which means referring to them can help establish a co-operative climate. Some 60 per cent of skilled negotiators in our research say they do it.
5) Build a position of authority
For many businesses, this crisis period can be key to help establish a position of authority. Utilise this phase to help build or maintain that authoritative position that can be carried through, once the period of uncertainty comes to an end. If you’re able to offer consistent guidance to your customers in a time of need, they will see you as an irreplaceable asset.
6) Consider where you add value
In the current climate, many people across the globe will be reluctant to spend in large quantities and may be in a position where they need to hold back and not make any hasty decisions. This is where it’s really important to take a step back and consider how you can truly add value. This will provide benefits not only in the short term, but also in the long run. Of course, initially, the value you can add will be appreciated and will allow you to maintain a positive relationship. But in the long run, this kind of value-added proposition will go in your favour. These acts of going above and beyond will be noted and will lead to an increased sense of trust and appreciation long term – something invaluable for businesses.
7) Be prepared to be adaptable
Of course, for all industries, this turbulent time is a period of transition and adaptation and it’s really important to anticipate that. If not, you may find yourself thrown in at the deep end as the matter progresses. It’s important to acknowledge that the buying cycle will inevitably change and you will have to adapt with it and this may mean having a strategy in place for various outcomes. Therefore, having regular briefings and communication announcements to ensure everyone is on board should procedures need to change and also keeping a close eye on the specific news stories, policy changes etc. of industries you work with is essential. It’s important to try to stay ahead of the game and anticipate what might happen so that when or if it does, you are prepared.
8) Negotiate to access hidden cash
According to Huthwaite research, businesses with a systematic approach to sales and negotiations experienced 42.7% greater revenue growth than those without. When times are challenging, looking at where you can negotiate with your own suppliers can be a key way to alleviate funds and help overcome cash flow issues. Consider what contracts you have in place and where there may be some wriggle room to reduce rates and help ease the burden of heavy and regular financial outlay.