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12 Nov, 2020

Strengthening Business During COVID: Interview with Amanda Cole

Irene Kwon

Member Spotlight  
Blog Types

Read time: 4 minutes, 5 seconds

SMPS DC is profiling members of our Chapter to learn more about how business development strategies have changed during the COVID-19 era. Through this series, we hope you have a chance to learn more about how our members are adapting their tactics and approach to new business, how they continue to mine leads, and strengthen their respective businesses and firms during these challenging times.

Meet Amanda Cole, Business Development Representative at Land Design and SMPS DC’s Education Director, and learn her tips for strengthening business during this uncertain time. Amanda is an A/E/C industry trained professional with proven experience in marketing, proposal management, technical writing, communications, and business development. She joined LandDesign in late 2018 as their Business Development Representative for the DC area helping connect the firm to valuable opportunities. During her 8+ years in the industry, she has been an active member of SMPS, along with several other industry organizations, and now leads the SMPS DC chapter’s Education Committee.

What are your top three tips on continuing business development during COVID?

1. Our team has put a tremendous amount of effort into staying connected to our current clients. The pandemic has taken away our ability to “bump” into clients at networking events, allowing us the ability to casually connect. These casual interactions have been replaced with purposeful touchpoints and genuine interest in how each of our clients are working through this time, as well as afford us the opportunity to learn how we can better serve them. These interactions have allowed us into spaces we would not normally go – their home offices (or makeshift home offices). We have heard their kids and pets in the background, seen the artwork they surround themselves with and had meaningful conversations we might not have otherwise had, allowing us to build stronger relationships.

2. Listening has also been key. While not unique to other interactions, actively listening to their challenges and how they are approaching this moment has allowed us to connect our clients to resources that might help them move forward. Listening to our clients has also afforded us the opportunity to build a solid picture of where we think our markets are going and how we can position ourselves for more work.

3. Lastly, don’t forget about your own network. Continuing to cultivate our own network is critical to all of our success during this pandemic and beyond. Without the typical networking activities, the pandemic has limited us to one degree of separation. My network has allowed me to reach out to others and work to establish new relationships. Additionally, its always nice to hear how others are coping during the pandemic and I love to hear about the things people have been able to accomplish during this time – as well as seeing everyone’s COVID puppies!

During this time, I believe that the most important thing about business development is compassion. We are all experiencing this pandemic differently and a little compassion for each other can go a long way to helping build strong relationships.

Video fatigue is real. Any innovative ways to keep in touch with clients when everyone is Zoomed out?

Video fatigue is real and as the months go on with no end in sight, another Zoom meeting feels daunting. With the advances in technology, I think we have come to under-estimate the value of a simple phone call. Phone calls allow us to disconnect from our screens a bit and move around the room while we connect. And let’s face it – many of us are tired of seeing our own faces on camera! A phone call feels old school these days (almost like a handwritten letter) but also feels much more personal in the sea of video chats.

In addition to video fatigue related to meetings, there is no shortage of online conferences and webinars. On a positive note, we have been able to expand our knowledge and sit in on conferences we could not otherwise devote resources to. However, we are all tired. One thing I think can help make us feel less fatigued is to set clear goals when going into webinars and conferences as we similarly would at in-person events of the past and try to find the opportunity to engage with others. You typically can still see attendees and can always reach out to the speakers. We have found that speakers are quick to respond to a note after their presentation and have further conversation. I have found that doing this allows your brain to focus on the value of attending instead of how tired you are of doing so.

What are you doing with the newfound time that you are saving from traveling?

I think the consensus is, despite not traveling, the additional time has been filled with more meetings! We can now squeeze more meetings into a day without needing to travel from place to place. So, to put a positive spin on it, I have been connecting more!

Even I struggle with working from home and my ability to stay in my desk chair all day long. Now more than ever, it is important for us all to practice mindfulness and keep ourselves healthy. I have found that it helps to schedule breaks and disconnect for an hour or even a little more over lunch. I have also learned that I need to set hard stops for myself each day, or I will never leave my desk.

Any tips on how to build a stronger, lasting relationship with new clients during COVID when it’s difficult to meet in person?

We’ve been able to leverage current client relationship for introductions to new ones. Once the introduction is made, we set a loosely structured, introduction video call focused on getting comfortable and conversing. We find that having a presentation ready to go detracts from the genuine connection and prefer to follow up these conversations with a package that reinforces our discussion. From there, we try to find opportunities to connect further by sharing articles or webinars that might be of interest or engaging on LinkedIn.