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Starting and Building Business Relationships During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Social distancing and travel restrictions definitely make it harder to engage prospective clients as well as build and maintain business relationships. The days of the salesman road-warrior have come to an abrupt stop. No more travel and expense accounts, now what? The world may have slowed down, but business is still being done, just more remotely.

Here are 4 strategies for making the most of the situation.

1. Videoconference if possible.

Lots of stories about the sudden rise of videoconferencing. No surprise. The technology works very well and is the closest thing to actually being there. Encourage all your calls or meetings to be videoconferences. With all the distractions present at home, it ensures that the person is engaged in the conversation and lets you pick up on nonverbal cues to help improve understanding and allow everyone to communicate more clearly.

2. Fostering trust on video.

The little things make a big difference. Whether it's how you dress or what's in you background or how you ask ice breaker questions. This is a good reminder list to keep around before you start your next video call.

  • Movement. Be mindful of perceived eye contact and gaze. Intentionally keep hand gestures in the video box.

  • Environment. Use the entire box provided by the webcam mindfully, to complement body-related with environment-related nonverbal elements.

  • Review your background before initiating the call. Is anything unsuitable or distracting captured on-screen?

  • Touch. Don’t fiddle with things off-screen. Provide verbal surrogates for physical touch, such as “It’s good to meet you, I wish we could shake hands”.

  • Tone. Try to be more mindful of enunciation and tone. Be careful not to misidentify your counterpart’s pauses and talk over them.

  • Appearance. Dress in a contextually suitably manner—taking into account the nature of the interaction while remaining congruent with your background environment.

3. Do you really need to record this?

If you must record, the key is getting consent. Respecting privacy and not recording videoconferences without the participants' consent is not only polite, but actually required by law in many places. Also, you should consider that consent to record and consent to distribute are two different things. Consent must be provided, and can also be withdrawn at any time.  

4. Adopting the HEART principles.          

There are a few versions of HEART, but this recent one from Harvard Business Review seems extremely relevant during the present times:

  • Humanize your company;

  • Educate about change; 

  • Assure stability; 

  • Revolutionize offerings; and

  • Tackle the future.

While you are trying to keep the company moving forward, managing staff reductions, or simply trying to meet sales quotas, it's always good to remember that we are people dealing with people.

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