I recently had a Zoom call with executives from a potential partner company overseas, who used their CEO’s phone to give us a close overview of a new product they would like to sell internationally. In the Pre-COVID era, one team would have flown across continents to meet in-person, spending a lot of money and travel time for a single meeting. Though it would have been nice to meet the new partners in-person, we achieved the same results with a two-hour Zoom call as we would have with an expensive trip. The company shipped a product sample, which was tested and approved; and we had subsequent Zoom meetings about marketing strategy and sales expectations. This experience has led me and others to ask: How should I be spending my time and money in this new era?
A recent article by the well-known firm McKinsey, These eight charts show how COVID-19 has changed B2B sales forever, shows that B2B sales leaders now prefer digital self-serve and remote engagement over face-to-face interaction; and companies expect this digital shift to stick. Self-serve and remote interactions have made it easier to obtain information, place orders, and arrange service.
Like my recent experience with the company located in a foreign market, companies are discovering they can be just as effective by engaging virtually; and the money saved can be allocated to support other efforts that will lead to business growth. This is clearly relevant to SMEs, which traditionally have more budget constraints. This does not mean that in-person meetings are dead and will completely disappear, but they can certainly be reduced. It is the same with teleworking. Many jobs can be successfully performed remotely, though being in the same room with colleagues is important and makes some activities easier to perform and more effective.
I do not believe we will ultimately only communicate with our partners on virtual platforms, but we will certainly be more inclined to replace in-person meetings with video conferences. Face-to-face interaction is still important, but not always necessary; and I expect we’ll see more companies implement flexible teleworking policies. This trend has been growing for the past two decades.
What is clear is that most organizations, in particular SMEs, were unprepared for a pandemic or similarly extreme situations. Hopefully, more organizations now realize the importance of performing internal audits and having contingency plans for any event that could impact their business.
When I look at the organizations that have been successful during this difficult time, I see six characteristics among them:
How should you be spending your time and money in this new era? Begin by asking whether your company exhibits the six characteristics above.