Disciplined ThinkingArticle by Colleen Francis, May 21, 2020
It’s important to keep finding things to remain positive about while in a crisis. To that end, I’ve talked about why it’s important to keep moving during tough times.
It is equally important, however, to safeguard the way you think. Never lose your ability to be objective, anticipate and adapt to change.
I like how Oliver Burkeman sums it up in his book, The Antidote: “Confronting the worst-case scenario saps it of much of its anxiety-inducing power. Happiness reached via positive thinking can be fleeting and brittle, negative visualization generates a vastly more dependable calm.”
Here are the five steps you must take now for a more disciplined approach to your thinking, which will help you take positive action during this time.
1. Define your mindset.
In the middle of a crisis, it’s OK to feel sad or to have moments when you feel helpless. You can feel something without having to become something. Take the time to define your mindset: your default, optimal setting for how you choose to approach and solve problems. That’s the place you work getting back to when you’re having a tough moment. In a recent LinkedIn Live video, I shared ways to do this, including getting regular exercise, fresh air, doing meditation, connecting with people you love, and looking for bright spots in an otherwise difficult news coverage.
2. Lean into your metrics.
The elements you measure and track in your business are more than just performance indicators: they are essential parts of the roadmap you’re going to need to get out of this mess. As one of my clients tells me, “We’ve never been so on top of our data as we are right now!” They analyze every piece of data to better understand profit, opportunity and change. Everything you need to do for this task is right there in your CRM, back-office system or even in your accounting ledgers. For some, I’m recommending a daily review of metrics. For others, it’s weekly due to the nature of their business. The key here is consistency and frequency.
3. Be ready to course correct.
U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” By nature, plans are fragile because they depend heavily on things not changing unexpectedly. But planning is made far more resilient when we build-in the ability to pivot quickly according to changing conditions. That’s why I get all my clients to look at their sales velocity (again, that formula is: opportunities multiplied by average deal size, multiplied by win rate percentage, divided by sales-cycle length in days). Using that powerful tool—and not just in a crisis—gives you instant information on whether your daily contribution to your business is trending up or down, so you can take action now.
4. Watch your market.
As Bob Dylan once said, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Don’t wait for marketplace experts to tell you what’s already happening on the ground. My clients are watching their markets closely, spotting opportunities and taking action to leverage bright spots. They are experiencing newfound success working with industries such as grocery and food-supply chain, waste hauling, government, IT, video conferencing, equipment for working from home, exercise equipment, infrastructure projects, and of course medical supplies.
If you can’t pivot your business to one of these growth markets, stay in touch with your existing client list. Don’t make the foolish mistake of believing that they aren’t working or buying anymore. Some shut-down businesses are taking this time to invest in new products and services. Many are looking for solutions to new problems. Or better solutions to old ones. Do not miss out on having any of those conversations.
5. Make sure your message is about serving.
Nobody ever wants to be sold to. But everyone wants to be seen and understood. Sales leaders know this and ensure that every time they communicate with customers and prospects, they do so in a manner that’s meant to be in service to them. Be helpful and offer yourself as a resource. That could be as simple as reaching out and asking, “How can I help?”
Some of my clients work in industries where supply-chain issues are causing a lot of worry. There, they reach out with a reassuring message, such as: “We recognize you do business with another supplier, and just wanted to let you know that we are operating, have capacity and are able to serve you as a back-up should you experience any supply issues.” This isn’t done to steal business, but rather to give people confidence knowing they have good options if something unexpected happens.
In other cases, clients of mine have customers whose operational status is unknown. In those instances, they’re contacting them to say, “Our customers are responding to this shut down in two ways: either they’re using this time to retool/invest, or they’re just waiting it out. I don’t want to make assumptions about how you are operating right now…so how can I best help you during this time?”
Get disciplined with your thinking! By doing this, you gain a sense of poise: one that gives you the emotional space you need to cope with daily challenges, but also a state to bounce back into where you are focused and resilient.