How to Keep Your Professional Services Practice Going (without going “viral”): tips for coronavirus

With SXSW down for the coronavirus count, along with the NBA, NHL, NCAA, MLB, and innumerable smaller events, how do you handle lead generation for your professional services firm? How do you replace the networking opportunities? The in-person meetings that you need to help current clients, and find more?

Here are some tips to help. (You can skip the intro medical background, assuming you know this stuff already.)

Medical Background

In case you have been living under a rock and your first stop is here, a particular strain of coronavirus, dubbed Covid-19, seems to have originated in China, and has no spread across the globe. No one knows exactly how many people have it, or what the true mortality rate is, but estimates are about 10-20x more deadly than flu, with elderly people with other medical issues by far the most vulnerable. Part of the problem is the strain is relatively mild for many people, and can incubate for a long time. It’s not nearly as deadly as ebola, but this means it can spread much further. SARS and H1N1 were considered more lethal, but Covid-19 has already killed more people.

As a relatively healthy middle-aged person with young kids, I’m not panicking for my immediate family (although after two of us got the flu this winter, even after getting flu shots, even having a mild case is not something I’d be looking forward to). But, as happened in Italy, if you pass it to elderly or other vulnerable people, you can quickly run out of hospital beds and respirators (required in many cases because of the way the virus attacks the lungs), and end up in triage situations more reminiscent of wartime than seasonal flu.

Meanwhile, the reality TV show host currently playing president in the US has made the problem far worse. At this point, given the lack of testing, the virus is probably just about everywhere.

So why bother with shutting everything down? Let’s just say the NBA doesn’t shut itself down lightly. But it really comes down to exponential growth rates. If you don’t try to slow the spread of the virus, you risk almost everyone getting the virus right about now, and overwhelming the healthcare system. But if you can slow the spread, you might still end up with half or more of the global population getting the virus, but hopefully the healthcare system can handle the flow of patients who need critical care.

flatten the curve on coronavirus

From the very useful site Also see Tomas Pueyo’s great comprehensive view, including lots of charts. Take the time to read through it.

Replacing Networking

So what should you do? How do you replace the networking events? If SXSW was your big lead generation activity for the year, how bad is it?

Switch to Virtual

Make sure you replace time you devoted to in-person networking to virtual networking.

  • You can attend or host virtual summits.
  • Do one-to-one video calls.
  • Or just pick up the phone and (don’t) touch someone.
  • Host a virtual coffee, lunch, or happy hour.

While email, Slack, and other text-based tools are helpful, nothing replaces conversation like conversation.

If you want some free tools to do video conferencing, try:

I’ve used all of these tools this week, depending on the conversation. All work reasonably well, but none work perfectly. (I wish I could just make one simple recommendation.)

(Update: if you want a video with tips for doing video, click here.)

The point is not the particular tool, it’s putting the time in your calendar to connect with people– both scheduled calls and time to just reach out to people. If you usually meet with 50 people per week through events, calling 10 people per day may seem daunting, but it really doesn’t take much time. (Depending on how much traffic and other buffer time your events require, you may even save time.)

This not only keeps your business going (although expect a lot of things to slow down), it keeps your spirit going, because even us introverts are not supposed to be socially isolated all the time.

Here’s a free calculator to help you figure out how many people you can stay connected to via calls.

Make Your Website Do More Work for You

If you’ve relied on word-of-mouth, that will get harder, even if you’re making the time to call people, so you need your website to pick up the slack. Make sure you website makes it clear exactly who you help and how. Cut out the fluff and the B.S.

Reviewing your own copy is hard, so I recommend finding a buddy and reviewing each other’s sites. (If you can’t find one, ping me, and I’ll pair people up or do it myself.)

To start, just consider highlighting content, especially on the home page as:

  • Green: about the visitor
  • Yellow: confusing or unclear
  • Red: about you, your company, and your products

You want your site to be mostly green with some red thrown in. If it’s yellow and red with a smattering of green, it’s unlikely to resonate with visitors.

Replace big chunks of red with content that will help your best prospects. Consider adding some video of you talking as you would to a friend about who you help, how, and why. (Another place where you and your website buddy can hold each other accountable. While professional video is great, you can do a pretty solid job with most modern phones. And if your website doesn’t do much for conversion today, what do you have to lose?)

At the next level, make sure your actual positioning, message, and, most critically, your Call to Action(s) are solid. Make sure your home page, your blog page(s) (if appropriate) and any other important pages, have useful information for visitors, and a strong call to action for your ideal prospects.

Think of “teaching”, not “marketing”– someone who wants to call you can do that via your contact page, but don’t push visitors, even referrals who are checking out your website to jump to a call or a what they might see as a high pressure sales situation. Teach them about how to solve their problem. This gets them into your world and leads to conversations.

You can use this free “mad libs” style tool to help with positioning, messaging, creating the call to action, and the Lead Magnet behind the call to action.

You probably don’t need a ton of leads, but a steady flow of high quality leads makes all the difference.

Present Proposals Remotely

I’ve always been a big fan of delivering proposals in person when possible, even though a big part of Mimiran CRM is online proposals. 😉 I like to send the proposal link just before I walk into the meeting, so we can review together and make adjustments if needed.

You should still schedule time to go through the proposal with your prospect (in fact, you should do that before committing to write the proposal). But make that a virtual meeting, preferably over video. It’s great to see some body language and facial expressions as people read. Note that this is not about using tricks and gimmicks to close more deals (although you will close more deals), it’s about understanding the prospect– what they are really excited about, what they are nervous about, to make sure you deliver the best results for them.

Deliver Work Remotely

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do the work remotely, when possible. This seems pretty obvious, but in case it’s not, discuss remote options with your clients and your team, if applicable.

More Medical Information

And if you need to take your bad news medicine with a dose of humor, here’s John Oliver:

And while this may be the hardest advice to follow: don’t panic. Stress depresses your immune system. 😉

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