5 steps to keep business development alive in the pandemic

As we enter another week of this pandemic, more and more days are starting to feel like Groundhog Day. Some states are reopening in some capacity or another, while others are still under strict safer-at-home orders. This has created an interesting mix of challenges and opportunities among those I’ve talked to in the CPA profession.

About 25 percent of those I talk to have found a way in the last month to reinvent their services and packages to align with clients’ needs during this time and are still closing new business. The other three-quarters are becoming fatigued by Paycheck Protection Program loans and keeping current clients happy when so much is uncertain and unclear.

Regardless of which camp you find yourself in (and maybe it’s a little bit of both throughout your firm), your business development pipeline is in one of two places: Either you’re chugging along closing regular business, or you’ve frozen up as time and attention is turned elsewhere. The turbulent state of the economy and marketplace has left us with the question of what’s next for business development, how do we thaw out frozen pipelines, and how do we endure several more weeks or months of the unknown?

Here are a few actions you can take in your business development activity to reignite the fire now, and set yourself up for the inevitable changes to how you will do business as a long-term result of this pandemic. Even just doing one of these can make a difference in your business development efforts.

1. Dig into your old pipelines

If you haven’t already, dig back into your prospects from six to 12 months ago and just touch base with every single one of them. Every contact in your pipeline took considerable effort to acquire and nurture, so don’t let that effort be lost forever if you can help them during this time. Ask questions like “How are you doing?” and “Do you need help with PPP forgiveness or other SBA programs?” etc. You may trigger a need that didn’t exist before.

2. Reframe what business development means

If you’re used to going to networking events, shaking hands and building relationships in-person, then these few months have no doubt been difficult for you. The reality is those events may not return next month or even this year, so it’s time to reframe what business development looks like.

So, if your trade or business group is not doing virtual networking events, then start your own. Carefully select a few contacts and send out some invites. Keep the conversation alive. No doubt you’ll all have something to talk about during this time. Networking isn’t dead; it just looks different.

3. Take your value virtual

Much like virtual networking events, consider how you can share the value of your services with your prospects virtually. You may already be hosting webinars, but how else can you connect? A client or prospect virtual roundtable may be an option that opens doors for your clients and prospects to hear from others who are facing similar challenges, to discuss challenges, and to celebrate wins. Connecting like-minded individuals to share and discuss in a safe and open-minded environment is incredibly valuable to clients and prospects who may be feeling lost and lonely during this time.

4. Monetize and capitalize on your content

If you’ve been hosting webinars and writing articles during this time, don’t miss out on opportunities to capitalize on these connections. Every piece of content you put out should have a clear call to action at the end. Likewise, every question that comes through during a webinar is an opportunity to follow up and continue to strengthen a connection with a prospect or client. Do not let these opportunities slip away as they are low-hanging fruit — you know exactly what the prospect needs right now because they’ve told you.

5. Sample your innovations

If you have been thinking about how you can repackage and innovate your services to meet your clients’ new challenges, now is the time to start sampling those programs. How can you affordably price these packages while providing maximum value using the resources available to you? Is there a way to scale and replicate these services using available technology? Select a small group of clients who would be open to this new setup to test it out over the next few months. Ask them for feedback. Then you can refine for long-term use. If you’ve been considering alternative service packages and billing structures the past few years, this could be the time to try it out.

The only thing that is constant is change, and we’ve seen more of it the past few months than many of us dreamed we’d experience in our lifetimes. Life is not going to go back to normal how we knew it before, but that just creates an opportunity for a better new normal in business development. Use this time to reconnect, rethink, reinvent and repackage, and you’ll be one step ahead when life and the industry move on to the new normal.