It goes without saying that most industries are working under challenging circumstances and your business will most likely have felt the effects of COVID-19 in one way or another. If you’ve found yourself with a much thinner client list, don’t despair.

Winning new business during lockdown might not be easy, but there are things you can do to try and boost your roster. At the very least, you’ll be helping make your transition back to ‘normal’ a bit easier by forging new relationships remotely.

Is it okay to approach potential clients right now?

You may desperately want to focus on new business, but feel unsure about how to do it and whether approaching people you don’t know is even justifiable given the circumstances. Don’t underestimate the fact that businesses in your target market want and need commerce to continue. Just make sure you’re approaching the right prospects – and in the right way.

Budgets may be significantly tighter, and businesses may have to keep costs to an absolute minimum in order to survive right now. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your efforts will be in vain. Every new conversation you have and every relationship you start during lockdown can be converted from lead to client later in the year.

It’s important to think about how you go about these conversations. Be sensitive, empathetic and kind in your approach. Show that you’re available for advice or help regardless of financial reward. Being more generous in times of crisis will hold you in good stead in the future, when budgets relax a little. There will be a lot of lost revenue to be made up by everyone: you want to be first in line when channels reopen.

Treat those initial conversations more like ones you’d have with a neighbour. We’re establishing new professional codes and behaviours, so use this as a chance to make a more relaxed and personal connection. We’re all feeling a little thrown and humbled in our new situations. Appealing to our human side is a really important way of building trust, something that can’t be underestimated right now, and may just land you some business.

Understand new challenges and opportunities

This is not the time to go for the hard, rehearsed sell, or to reel off multiple case studies. We’re living through a new normal, and business needs are different. Do your research and show that you’re on top of new trends and habits that you can help feed into. Have a think about how you would add real value at a time when value is monitored more closely than ever.

What challenges are your potential clients dealing with right now? They’ll have likely changed from what they were pre-pandemic. Do your research, start conversations and aim to offer support. Businesses are looking for guidance, advice and opportunity. If you’re the one getting in touch to ask questions, you can work out if you’re able to help. Aim to offer support and build a relationship first and foremost, then new business might follow.

Do you need to diversify?

Business has been disrupted across each level and within every industry. Product launches, campaigns and strategies have gone out the window. We keep reading that we’re living through unprecedented times, but can you make the most out of this? Think about how to adapt and diversify your business to meet new needs, and make this as obvious as possible.

Are there any industries you could appeal to that might be thriving right now? Consider what you currently offer and how you could adapt this to maximum mutual benefit. Can you reach out to businesses you’ve worked with before? Think about how you could be of use to them anew. Adapting your offering slightly may be easier than you think, but make sure you take time to ask yourself crucial questions if you’re thinking about pivoting.

Use your networks

Generating leads is hard work, but it’s worth it to try right now while usual states of play are up in the air. Life is different and we’re watching new habits emerge (and potentially take hold). People may be more open to listen, and we’re also spending more time online than ever before. There’s more potential for conversation than ever before and your own networks are an excellent place to start.

Professional networks are hugely important at the moment so ask yourself if you’re using yours to its fullest potential. Ensuring that your professional and company profile are as up to date and slick as possible is crucial with so many more eyes potentially on them. While face-to-face meetings aren’t possible you need your digital persona to be as convincing and impressive as possible.

Take a look at our tips for how to network in the current climate for advice on the best ways to reach out during times of crisis. It’s one thing to do your research, it’s another to show it. Engage with updates and share your learning. Even if you don’t get a huge response, those posts are there to advertise your expertise and significance.

Many leads in small businesses are generated by word of mouth, so appeal to your existing networks. Ask your contacts if they know anyone else who might be able to use your product of service. Don’t underestimate the power of your connections. This is the perfect environment to tap into the network you’ve built – you might be surprised by what comes up.

Play the long game

We’re all feeling a little off kilter right now and many businesses are looking for guidance. Building your new business pipeline by offering advice and engaging with current issues will help you in the long run, if not immediately. Don’t expect to pick up new work right away, but initiating and nurturing relationships now could be the saviour of your business when things begin to return to normal.

Embrace the change and adapt to new needs. We’re learning that we’re much stronger together – hopefully this is one habit that will stick around after lockdown.