The business disaster we are in as a result of the COVID -19 crisis has totally changed what everyone thought would be a good year. Not only has it changed to financial results we all planned for, but it has also changed the sales process and relationships we depend on to drive the future. If you depended on models or AI to tell you what you should expect, I suspect you are finding they aren’t giving you a very good picture of what’s coming and what you need to do.
What should we do when you need to predict the unpredictable?
Models and Artificial Intelligence business (AI) prediction capability in your CRM is great when the future is likely to look a lot like some version of the past. They both depend on looking at a lot of data and using it to extrapolate what the likely future will be.
We have all made enormous changes in the way we work, play, and live over the past few months. All these changes, multiplied by billions of individuals, will flow through the economy and make the future look very different than any past example in our lifetimes. The ability of AI or other analytic models to anticipate the impact of this disruption is questionable at best and impossible at worst.
- Forecast models can’t anticipate 25% unemployment
- Cuts to retail access and limited reopening or open and then close and then reopening again have no historical precedent.
- Leads won’t come from trade shows for a long time, and the end of customer onsite visits will change relationships and the models just don’t apply to this new condition
- Trend prediction from past behavior doesn’t work if there are massive changes happening quickly and with little warning as the economy adjusts to a future that looks nothing like the past
The volatility that is assured going forward needs a new approach to let you guess what the best business strategy is going forward is. Here are some thoughts about what you should do to take some of the risk out of the future.
Evaluate how you measure what is happening –
- Look carefully at what the data is telling you about what is happening to the business. Evaluate metrics, look at trend data and carefully structure dashboards and visualizations to quickly show you what is happening.
- Trust the data more than the models. Look for indications of customers who are struggling and find a way to compensate or help them.
- Look at the data in short time windows to find changes. The economy is changing more rapidly than it has ever changed before so your data evaluation needs to be based on short term changes and rapid reaction strategies.
- Question what you are seeing, there will be a lot of misdirection that happens from panic or confusion. Get to the bottom of why something is happening and make sure it is meaningful and not something you best ignore.
Check, and Check again as you see changes and get better insight.
- Look at what happened compared to what your expectations were, adjust to fit what the data showed you over time.
- Build analytic reports and track what you expected versus what happened so you can build confidence.
Don’t panic, keep calm and avoid over reaction
- Take time to check and double check what customers are doing before taking difficult to reverse steps like layoffs, or factory closures so you can avoid cutting more than is really needed.
- Look for consistent directions from multiple customers to find a trend and avoid reacting to things that don’t make a difference.
Talk to your Customers
- Find out what they think and find ways to help them keep control and build confidence.
- Customer relationships can be strengthened if you look like you understand what they are facing and are willing to help them minimize the impact of the market changes they face.
- Be empathetic and compassionate.
- Be the calm voice in the storm that helps get both you and your customers through this situation with minimum impact.
Don’t forget your employees and team members.
- The people on your team are just as concerned personally as everyone else.
- Fear of catching the disease, losing family members, and losing their job and ability to support their families is real – You need to keep their faith too.
- You need to believe you can come out of this stronger than ever if you build confidence in your teams and at your customers.
While it is understandable that everyone is afraid of what COVID-19 might do to them personally and to their future if you work to limit and manage the fear of the unknown we can all get through this and build a different better future together.