Business operations do not necessarily have to come to a complete stop during the COVID-19 global health emergency.
The coronavirus known as COVID-19, no doubt, caused the amendment or outright modification of more than a few business plans. Measures put into place to mitigate the transmission of the virus during the 14-day incubation period physically separate all of us by the recommended minimum of two meters.
In reality, most businesses are wisely extending that contact barrier with work-from-home protocols that are sending large segments of the workforce home, along with their laptops and smartphones.
The Good News: Business Technology
The good news regarding this necessity is that technology has provided many of us with the ability to continue with our work-related tasks and responsibilities with very little fuss.
Teleconferencing, mobility, eCommerce and many other technologies are now commonplace or readily available. Companies that have never thought of offering telecommuting options to their employees are now faced with the reality of having that as their only option.
For many companies, and for many operations within those companies, this challenge can be answered.
Revenue Generation under COVID-19
While some may see a discussion of revenue generation in the context of this crisis to be cold or insensitive, allow me to make a couple of observations.
The more business activities we can preserve and maintain during this emergency, the less dire the emergency will be for all of us. Commerce moves money around our suppressed economy, and the movement of money is what keeps the economy from entirely collapsing. Additionally, the more parts of the economy we can maintain, even at diminished levels, the less difficult the ultimate recovery will be.
To that end, we have an obligation to each other to keep as much of our business operations functioning as we possibly can. We can do this and still maintain our critical efforts to mitigate the transmission and spread of this virus through reduced contact.
Specific Selling Activities and Technological Enablers
Selling products has always been accomplished through human interaction – essentially, people talking to other people about problems and solutions.
Years ago, we realised that it was impractical to send a sales rep into the field for every single opportunity. The telephone began to replace the knock on the door almost as soon as it was invented. With the advent of the internet, eCommerce sites and online research resources, we have all become quite comfortable with buying and selling things without physically talking to another human.
Even with more complex products and solutions requiring protracted sales cycles that involve discovery and solution evaluations, technology is stepping up to help those activities continue.
Engaging with prospects, qualifying them and implementing detailed discovery operations can all be performed with minimal individual contact between seller and buyer.
Teleconferencing technology can provide dispersed teams that represent both buyer and seller to interact in real time. Guided-selling tools such as CPQ powered with scripted interviewing bring AI-powered experts into the telepresence of the buyer and seller even though all are remotely engaged by phone or video link.
Demos and proposal presentations can also be executed online via shared resources and video links between the selling and buying teams. Trial use of certain types of products can be authorised and delivered via cloud-based resources or physically delivered via normal logistical channels.
Following the sale, billing and payment are already automated in the vast majority of cases. Implementation or installation of products may involve people physically visiting facilities and, in those cases, preventative measures and protective protocols must be observed.
Stepping Up for Your Customers
This crisis provides an excellent opportunity for companies to demonstrate why they were the best choice for their customers.
Almost all companies are going to have some unusual needs and requirements during this difficult time. The friendships you strengthen now and those that are newly made now will be the ones that will carry on into the future beyond this horrible time.
Now is the time to be flexible in terms of payment schedules and really almost any calendar-driven obligations. Delivery schedules will require added flexibility, and letting vendors off the financial hook for missed deadlines whenever possible is one way to be a good corporate neighbor.
Be cognisant of the fact that your customer or vendor has an obligation to protect their employees just as much as your own. Anything you can do to facilitate that protection in terms of the expectations you place upon your customers or vendors is more than a courtesy, it is a moral obligation.
Business Operations in the Future
If there is one lesson to be learned in this crisis it is the need for preparedness for this type of emergency. We must have the tools to operate in a dispersed mode. In the weeks and months to come, lessons will be learned. Planning and protocols for this type of crisis should become part of the normal operations for any business.
Some companies will benefit from having work-at-home drills; specific days when companies can practice work from home just like they practice building evacuations during fire drills today.
The need for this type of preparation is driven by the likelihood that COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic to threaten the world. But it should be the last pandemic we face with so little preparation.