Just as many around the world were feeling the impacts of impending shutdowns, my business was rocked with a major shift. Within the first weeks of the pandemic, a year’s worth of live keynote speeches and seminars were suddenly canceled. Like an earthquake, the reality of a rapidly changing market had shaken the business I’d nurtured for over 30 years to its core. These live events, which had been the backbone of my business, had evaporated overnight… and I was stuck.
Still reeling in disbelief, I called a meeting. As our team gathered virtually, I asked the only question I could think of, “How will we replace this revenue?” Everyone chimed in offering their ideas, but with so much uncertainty, nothing seemed to fit. We were stymied. Just then, it occurred to me: go back to the basics. As we revisited our five core values: consumer centricity, empathy, creativity, positivity, and curiosity, we realized something: we had been asking the wrong question.
Instead of asking, “How can we replace this revenue?” we should have been asking, “How can we serve our clients?” After all, the last thing our customers were thinking was, “How can I spend more money?” This wasn’t the time for an ask. So we contacted all of our customers over the next few days and offered our help. Facilitating free sessions and inviting customers to share new insights and best practices, we helped them grow together. Offering virtual lunch-and-learns with timely content like, “The Adaptive Seller,” “A Party Without Pants”, “How to reHumanize the Sales Process in a Digital World,” and “The Four Pillars of an Effective Virtual Training and Coaching Program”, we helped our clients not just increase skill, but foster a sense of teamwork and community amidst isolation. And even though I found myself missing the hugs, the energy, and togetherness of past live events, I felt the same sense of purpose.
I began to brainstorm other ways we could support our clients and I realized that despite the overwhelming uncertainty and change, we hadn’t been impacted as severely as I thought. We were actually very fortunate and so were our clients. In fact, many of them had taken advantage of our virtual learning long before “going virtual” became a necessity. But now, rather than leveraging online learning as a follow-up, clients were using it differently. We saw teams training, growing, and staying accountable even while physically distanced.
As we worked to design new solutions, we remained focused on our values. Designing a different type of interactive virtual experience to replace our live events, we hired experts, took courses, and then performed beta tests with our best clients. We knew we couldn’t simply take what we did live and deliver it on a Zoom meeting.
In a virtual event, people’s attention spans are much shorter than if they were in a convention center or hotel ballroom. We knew we needed to increase interest by mixing things up, adding elements of surprise, and including the audience as much as possible.
The result? We created virtual rock shows complete with themes, contests, breakout rooms, collaboration, and real life case studies. Said one of our recent clients in the technology space:
“We thought Shari was dynamic live, but this event took virtual learning to a completely new level of interactivity, fun, and learning for our team! After just one event, one of our new reps closed a 250,000 sale!”
It’s been 3 months since losing a year of live keynote speeches and seminars. Even though I still don’t have a crystal ball and I’m still not sure how it all will play out, I now have more clarity than ever. As much as this has been a crisis, it’s been an opportunity to learn and grow.
The cliff notes? When things are unclear, go back to the basics. Revisit your foundation and connect with your values. Reflection demands humility, self-awareness, and courage. It requires the humility to challenge your assumptions and to admit that you may be wrong. It takes the courage to ask difficult questions and choose compassion and creation over selfishness and scarcity. Only when we tune inward to understand and integrate our own emotions and fears, can we turn outward to alleviate pain, support others, and ultimately energize our team around shared values. In a time of crisis, building new skills matters, but building character matters more.
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I love this post, Shari! Everything about it – the honesty, the authencity, the heart and helping your clients! #backtobasics! Love your book!! It’s the best book on the market.
Joshua, thank you so much! #Backtobasics has really been our lifeline in this pandemic. So happy you loved Heart and Sell too! Stay safe.
Great post! I’d love to hear more about how you created a ” virtual rock shows complete with themes, contests, breakout rooms, collaboration, and real life case studies.” We are working on converting F2F training to the virtual world and have made some progress, but would be great to learn what you did and the outcomes. P.S. I forward your videos from LinkedIn to our sales force. You are a rock star.
Tremendous article Shari — thank you for not only sharing it, but having the humbleness to be open on such a raw topic yet still sharing it so others could learn with you. Well done!
Thank you, Doug. It wasn’t easy to share but I’m glad it’s helpful!
Thank you, randy. I just sent you a message on LinkedIn
Shari: Thanks for the uplifting words…been a long fan (Linkedin, Blogs, website) and just re-read my highlighted notes on my “Heart and Sell” book.
I too have been recently challenged with the (COVID workforce reduction) loss of my Sales Management position on December 1st and recall the very “re-inventing things” I was managing with my team during the many months of the pandemic to make a difference.
Also like you, have had to “go back to the basics”, (“not a spring chicken any more”) and rewire my priorities and “needs, wants & have-to-haves”.
It’s interesting that this post just arrived in my inbox, 6 months after you originally posted it. Whether that was a glitch or intentional, I’m glad I read it. For me in my business right now, your message hit the nail on the head. Back to basics, back to values! From there innovation can arise. Thank you!
I’m glad this provided you with insights. Sometimes looking in is more powerful than reaching out. 🙏
As usual Shari, you so know what your’e talking about. I will share this with my whole team to pass on the immense wisdom it contains. We are very much looking forward to our time in the Levetin Sales Academy that i signed us up for last month. So i see I’m not alone as the lunatic in the asylum thinking now is the time to invest in learning the “how to” in todays brave new world. Just emulating what you do yourself is worth the price of admission. Kindest personal regards, stuart. http://Www.leisuremanagementplus.com
Thank you for your comments, Tony.Glad I can add value..And I see you’re a fellow scuba diver?