During our Fireside Chat with the sales and business expert Cian McLoughlin we had some incredible questions from attendees that we ran out of time for. Cian has provided some thoughts and answers to those below.
ByronW: Cian, do you have any forecasted dates on when the business will be ready to talk about their own systems and process. Is after the Easter break just too early?
I’d love to tell you that I have some clarity on when the right time will be, but in all honesty I don’t. What I can say with confidence is that different businesses will adapt and adjust at different speeds to the new normal, with many businesses already operating quite seamlessly in a remote environment. Perhaps a more important question to ask is which industries are likely to bounce back quickest (think certain govt departments, some pockets of retail, healthcare) versus which industries are being smashed with no sign of short-term recovery (think airlines, hotels, non-essential retail). Here’s an interesting article which goes into some more depth on specific industry trends. If you can combine the industries that are rebounding, with a focus on a specific need or short-term challenge within that business, you have the potential to create some genuine engagement and sales opportunities.
Catherine Gardner-Gaskin: Shared experience has been a key for a lot of companies to create bonds with their customers - how do you see that in the future. Massive impact on the events industry for example.
Shared experience is something which undoubtedly has the capacity to connect us as humans, as evidenced by the number of positive stories and videos being shared about crowds of strangers singing together from balconies or cheering for health care workers. Before we went to air yesterday, Ian and I discussed a fascinating article by Mark Ritson, professor of Marketing at Melbourne Business School. Ritson cites some research from almost a hundred years ago, immediately following the Great Depression which found that…
“…companies that increased their ad budgets during the recession grew sales much faster than their rivals – not only during the downturn but also beyond it. Companies that decreased their advertising spend saw their sales decline both during the recession and then for the following three years. In relative terms, these companies actually underperformed even those that elected to do no advertising at all”.
My own personal take on this is that sharing the same experience doesn’t actually mean much on its own. The real question customers will be asking is what did you do during this period? Did you disappear, hunker-down, focus on yourself or did you step-up, provide value, reach out with empathy and compassion, maintain or increase your communication, keep your sense of humour? The answers to these questions, I suspect, may impact how well or harshly businesses are judged in the new future that awaits us all.
Ben: As a retailer, we definitely were forced to accelerate our move online, we got further in the last 2 months than we did in the first two years. I personally believe that change is here to stay.
Although this isn’t a question per se from Ben, it’s a statement that is worth some more scrutiny. So many businesses have talked a good game around Digital Transformation in recent times, but many have achieved more in the past fortnight than in the prior 2 years. Agility, creativity, progress over perfection, these traits are the ones that are rapidly coming to the fore as businesses, big and small, attempt to evolve on the fly. It’s no longer simply about the survival of the fittest, its survival of the most inquisitive and the most adaptable.
Eric Vigo: How will people start budgeting July 1? Usually, you can sell at this time, but in what ways will this disrupted?
I have no concrete answers to this question Eric, just my gut feel, supplemented with some anecdotal feedback from business owners and sales professionals. My sense is that budgets will be tight for the remainder of the calendar year. Those projects or purchases which are deemed low value or not mission-critical will almost certainly be shelved or at least pushed out. Discretionary spend across many businesses may drop and sign-off for individual purchasers may be reduced or rescinded completely. I believe that projects or programs which reduce risk, drive-out costs or prepare the business for a time when the economy recovers, will be the ones with the greatest chance of being funded. For other non-essential projects, my advice would be to sow the seeds now, earning you the right to engage in those discussions when the time is right for the business.
Tim Wilkes: When we emerge from the era of the "bug" in what ways do you think the world will be changed for the better?
That’s the $64,000 question isn’t it Tim? In a business context, I suspect we’ll find that working from home is here to stay. Businesses will realise that they don’t need the amount of real estate they once did and will get the added benefit of increased employee engagement, through the added flexibility for team members. The world of B2B sales will change dramatically, with virtual meetings playing a significantly greater role and customers keeping vendors at arm’s length for even longer. This might not seem a better outcome to some, but from a customer’s perspective, it’s definitely preferable.
In terms of how the real world will change Tim, I sincerely hope the positive impacts will be spread far and wide. We’re already seeing the green shoots of some early environmental benefits. I’m hopeful that not only will this environmental recovery accelerate, but that the lessons learned will ensure we avoid slipping back to our pre-COVID ways as a Global society. In terms of families and communities, one obvious outcome could be to increase the salary and benefits to our health-care workers and teachers, who we have suddenly realised are amongst the hardest working and most important people in our society. As people, many of us have become much more aware of our own mortality through this experience, which will hopefully ensure we become more empathetic and accepting as a society and less focused on short-term materialism.