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It’s been about a month since the world turned upside down with COVID-19, and it has created so many unknowns for us personally and in our businesses. I also believe there’s huge opportunity in moments of disruption. Opportunity to reevaluate and reset. Opportunity to serve others. Opportunity to come out even stronger on the other side.

As I look forward, there’s one thing that’s for certain. There’s never been a more important time to maintain agility. Agility will help you to keep optimism and harness opportunity in uncertainty. All things that your teams need in these moments from you as a leader. All things that your prospects and customers are looking for from sellers.

You’ve probably heard me discuss agility before. It’s one of the five capabilities I cover in my book, The Modern Seller. Agility is the ability to be nimble in your decisions and your actions. This skill is one of the most important factors in great leadership. With agility, you can rapidly analyze, understand, and decide when faced with new situations and new business problems.

Agility Through Three Lenses

This article is adapted from a recent webinar with Bill Fournet of the Persimmon Group. Bill is an expert in leading teams through disruption. You can watch our conversation here.  In the webinar we talk about agility through three lenses: strategy, revenue growth, and operational performance. Each lens plays a role in your ability to succeed through this crisis and on the other side of it.

 Lens #1: Strategy

In the case of COVID-19, the shift came quickly for most of us and upended strategy. Our first decisions are almost purely reactionary. Decisions like remote work arrangements or determining how to support customers (and staff) from remote locations. In some cases, the strategy was a decision to temporarily shutter offices and operations.

Agility is making the best decisions we can with the information at hand. When new information becomes available – which in this crisis is almost hourly – we decide what to do with that information and pivot. Below are a few ways to help you remain agile in strategy:

  1. When it comes to agility in strategy, one skill to leverage is strategic speed. I wrote about strategic speed in The Modern Seller. Strategic speed balances that ability to look out to the future with the ability to look at what’s right in front of us at the same time. Even though we’re dealing with the COVID crisis in the near term, our long-term success depends on being able to compartmentalize COVID a bit and continue work toward our strategic goals.
  2. With the initial wave of reaction behind us, it’s a good time to slow the pace and think through some important questions. For example, what adjustments do you need to make to the strategic plan in short term? In the long term? Prioritize your strategic pillars that are the most critical. Then consider your key performance indicators for each pillar. What can you accomplish in the short term that will propel you forward for the long term? How can you lead by example in these times?

Lens #2: Revenue

As we’re thinking about revenue, our goal is to stabilize and then return to a place of growth. Some industries are thriving right now, while others are understandably struggling.

Below are a few strategies:

  1. As you are looking at your organization, you want to identify your most productive verticals right now. Then on the other side of that coin, consider how do you mitigate your at-risk verticals. You may have a vertical that is shut down or high risk. You may have to readjust your pipeline for those verticals so you can focus on others that are going to be the most productive in the short term– and even through the rest of this year.
  2. It will be critical that we not retreat from our customers. Be very forward facing with them, and connect with them. Reach out to all prospects and customers in your pipeline and ask what they’re seeing in their businesses. Some customers might be ready to move forward. Other customers might be in a holding pattern. Adjust accordingly and meet them where they are. If we’re forward facing in the marketplace, we’ll be remembered when we get to the other side of the crisis.
  3. Finally, you may need to reframe your pipeline, especially if you have at-risk verticals. This could include altering forecasts of closing new business. Taking a very honest assessment of the pipeline will help you to know where you are today so you can make appropriate adjustments in your sales activities.

 Lens #3: Operational Performance

This last lens relates to team and productivity. What are your daily touch points? Do you need to shift your pace or method of communication? How do they provide updates so that you have a sense of what work is occurring? Below are some strategies to assist with daily productivity:

  1. If you are someone who’s in an individual contributor role, I’d encourage you to proactively engage your leader. Talk through the items you’re working to accomplish this week and this quarter. It can be a two-way dialogue. A leader will appreciate the proactive reach out, rather than you waiting to be engaged by them.
  2. Remember to keep perspective and keep your energy up. In a continued state of disruption, it’s easy for change fatigue to set in. It’s easy for energy to be zapped. I’m reminded of some clients who were going through major transformations in multiple segments of their business, even before COVID landed on them. So now you have change coupled with even more change. Find ways to insert energy into your days and encourage your team to do the same.
  3. Our role is to continue building trust and providing confidence through this chaos and to solve problems.

When we’re disrupted so quickly and thoroughly, we can find ourselves in survival mode for a time. Then as decisions and actions come into play and some time passes, we’re ideally finding ourselves thriving in a new normal. We now have these new learnings that will make us better in the future. We can’t go back; we can only go forward. It’s our choice to move forward with optimism and agility, in the service of our teams and customers.

Be sure to read my other article from this series, all about building social capital and strategic relationships in disruptive times.


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