I have many parents of young children as clients, and these past few months of lockdown have been a very trying period for them. In Singapore, generally both parents work — we don’t have many stay-at-home moms in this generation. So I have to be more sensitive to their accessibility as they try to juggle family and working from home.
In the past, I would just call them and ask for an annual review. But now, it’s very hard to get their attention. I have been sending out WhatsApp blasts on new products or changes in the government measures implemented to care for and support Singaporeans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has actually been helping people a lot — they’ve spent about $100 billion on us in the last two months. I’m giving clients updates on this, because they probably don’t have time to read up on it themselves. Good news is important to keep the spirits up.
I sent daily texts during the month of April, and it didn’t matter if they didn’t read them, because I had a follow-up plan.
In May, I sent out more than $1,500 worth of cakes to my top clients. I ordered them through one of my small-business owner friends who owns a bakery, so I was supporting her too. At times like this, I think it is important to do our part to support local businesses to keep them going.
Generally in Asia, we value gratitude and reciprocity in business relationships. A timely delivered cake is appreciated in this stressful period of adjustment, as one of Singaporeans’ favorite pastimes is to eat. Beyond that, it shows our business relationship is not purely transactional; my clients’ well-being and good cheer are in my thoughts as well.
This gesture especially delights younger clients, who like Instagrammable stuff. The cake is great for Instagram, and so is the card I send with it, because the bakery owner who designed it is very creative.
These are the same people who have been receiving the WhatsApp updates, so when they thank me with a picture of the cake on WhatsApp, I also ask them if they have read through the texts I’ve sent. I suggest we spend 45 minutes, at their convenience, to go over all the information.
Sometimes they’ll say, “Why don’t you just tell me over WhatsApp? Why don’t you tell me over a call?” I tell them that when it comes to certain things, I want to share the materials over a video conference so they can understand it better. And then from the 45-minute call, I can set a future appointment.
I use Webex for these appointments, because some of my clients were concerned about the security on Zoom. Webex is free and, from anecdotal evidence, seems more secure. The only downside is that people are more familiar with Zoom, so it takes a bit of coaching when you ask them to go to Webex. I reassure them, “Don’t worry, it’s the exact same process. It’s not going to be that hard.”
I also encourage them to use their laptop or iPad for our discussions, because the phone screen is just too small and they’ll drift off. They can’t concentrate. I have found if you’re on the phone any longer than 30 minutes, they’re not listening anymore.
I join with both my laptop and my iPad, using the app GoodNotes on my iPad. It’s as if you’re meeting with them and making notes in person. When you share the screen on your iPad, essentially what happens is that they’ll see you face-to-face over video conference on a properly mounted laptop, but they’ll also see the notes I’ve written on the iPad with my Apple pen.
It’s important to use both the iPad and the laptop so they can still see your face upright in a smart posture when you share your screen. Imagine the alternative of using the same iPad both for the camera and to share the screen for note taking — assuming you are laying your iPad flat to write on and the camera faces upward. The view of under your chin or nostrils may not be an impression you’d like to leave your prospect with.
I have received a lot of good reviews about this process from my clients. They feel that it is exactly like meeting in person.
I actually ran two experiments with a colleague. I asked him to present a topic that I had never heard of before. I realized that when he wrote things on the shared screen and then started talking, my eyes gravitated toward him and looked at him speaking. It helped me concentrate better.
But if I were to only see the writing, I’d drift off because I can’t really understand what’s on the shared screen since it’s not in my area of expertise. These are small things that I figured out that really work for me.