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About this article
- Communicating with empathy and compassion is paramount in the pandemic
- Place yourself in the shoes of your clients and prospects before sending “business as usual” emails and marketing-focused materials
- Use images and videos to tell stories that take longer to read
- Be human by discussing challenges your clients are experiencing now
- Offer flexible meeting times to avoid interruptions
Many years ago when I was working in-house as a business development manager, a colleague entered my office, placed an RFP on my desk, and informed me that I had 48 hours to compile a response and get two copies couriered to the client. Now, this certainly wasn’t an egregious request – a two-day lead was much more time than the typical notice period and I had everything I needed to complete the assignment – except time and the will to complete it.
What my colleague didn’t know is that I was dealing with a deeply personal issue at that moment – a very close family member had passed just 15 minutes prior to the assignment and I was struggling.
I reexamine that interaction from time-to-time because it bothers me – both the request that lacked empathy, at no fault of my colleague except for failing to ask what might keep me from completing the task, and my own lack of empathy for the pile of work my colleague had to manage every day. Things should have played out much differently.
As I think about it now, in light of the global pandemic swirling around us, I have the unique opportunity to replay this interaction with a much better outcome. I can choose to be empathic and communicate with compassion in all my interactions, because we are all in the same boat.
In my personal interactions, this is almost effortless because I know my friends well and I can quickly adjust my communication style based simply by a look on their faces or a change in their voices. But, how do I do this in my professional interactions? How can I be empathetic to how they are experiencing this pandemic and use those insights to communicate compassionately to cut through the noise?
After bouncing this idea around with some really smart colleagues, I’ve come up with four simple ways to demonstrate compassion in all my professional interactions.
1. Don’t send “business as usual” communications – because business is no such thing right now.
If you haven’t revamped your email and business communications style around the pandemic already, you are late to the game. But, you can catch up. I currently receive no fewer than 75-100 daily calls, emails, printed pieces (yes, I’m still getting a lot of mail) and LinkedIn requests soliciting my business. The messages that catch my attention are those that include:
- Introductions that address the pandemic in a human way
- A quick synopsis of the longer article or white paper I’ve received in a “Need to Know” or executive summary section
- The length of time it will take me to read the material (I love this – it demonstrates that the sender is mindful of my limited time)
- A video or image that tells the story in pictures because I can more easily absorb those at the end of a long day
- Content broken down into vignettes that I can read over several days
2. Engage in small talk
To do this effectively, avoid opening a meeting with business. Ask questions about how your clients are dealing with their work-for-home situation. You shouldn’t get too personal here, but in today’s environment you’ll find asking the simplest of questions will lead to the most unexpected responses. So – take the time to hear them out and respond with your own experiences. Doing this might give you just the opportunity to build a stronger, longer-lasting relationship.
Now, if you think that I just suggested that you should break the most cardinal of meeting rules – “get down to business, don’t waste time,” remember that we are people, not robots. We are all experiencing a rollercoaster of different emotions every day – so be human and address the elephant in the room.
And if this still offers you limited comfort, try joining a conference call 10 minutes early and spend that pre-meeting time chatting with the early arrivers.
3. Don’t duplicate content
Your clients are getting bombarded with marketing messages now more than ever – and much of it is repetitive content that is being produced by every other firm around the globe. The content that will be read is the content that looks at the situation from a new point-of-view or focuses on fringe elements of a topic that have yet to be examined. Yes, it’s important that your clients and prospects get a feeling for your general expertise, but focusing on non-examined nuances will lead to an increase in readership and demonstrate that you are producing content that doesn’t waste the reader’s time.
4. Offer flexible meeting times
I’m certainly not an early riser but scheduling 6:00 a.m. meetings around the needs of the meeting attendees has been a big hit. Living and working from home has produced a slew of clients wearing multiple hats all at the same time – and the best time for them is often in the morning before small children and spouses have started their day – or after-hours when all the other daily chores have been completed.
Remember, we are all human and our clients want to know that “we get them.” By communicating compassionately, you might not only earn a lifetime client, but a lifetime friend.