The ROI of Leadership Transparency in Difficult Times

From consulting to a startup role at Eloqua marketing automation, an IPO experience, and a sale to Oracle — Mike Couch has seen it all. Now Managing Partner and CEO at Couch & Associates, his expertise in marketing technology and the CRM space is highly sought by companies wanting to make more data-driven decisions. He recently shared ideas for how sales and marketing teams can find new growth during these uncertain times.

Mike Couch

Mike Couch, Couch & Associates

How to find new growth for sales and marketing teams: Reorient yourself

Today’s situation is complex, and companies face a spectrum of circumstances. 

  • Some organizations are still being tremendously impacted
  • For others, there was uncertainty and then a plateau effect
  • Still others are doing well because of their particular product or service

What’s important is to categorize or reorient yourself, then adjust and respond accordingly. “First understand where you lie in that continuum, and that will guide your next steps,” says Mike. 

How can you repurpose team members?

“If you feel you’ll be struggling over the long term, look at how you can repurpose team members who might be having trouble staying busy during this time. For example, sales people who can’t do typical activities like traveling or conferences,” he suggests.

“An effective plan for them would be to engage with your existing market and the customers you have and have options to build and maintain relationships in a more conversational form. That has the added bonus of bringing firsthand market research back into your company,” he says. 

Consider shifting to more content

For companies still enduring hardship, it’s clearly not time to be growing your team or building out solutions, Couch declares. Instead, using the time to produce content and be more educational in your space is a good idea. “Content as a whole has shifted in the last ten years to be more educational, and overall marketers feel more pressure to do more of that anyway.”

According to Mike, this is also a good time to be investing in your business operations. If you do have to pause and take a breath now as a business, do some of this backend operational work that maybe wasn’t a priority. “You’ll be a more effective team in the long run, as we eventually bounce back from this and get back to business,” he declares.

What to do in B2B demand generation now

How to handle demand generation during this shift from everything normal? It’s a tough question that torments many B2B marketers. Part of the answer is “prepare to be flexible.” 

Couch & Associates pivoted from their traditional lead gen audience when they saw increased demand in the healthcare space for services Couch could provide. Tactics they applied to B2B lead generation are now shifting to help clients with patient management. (And remember, don’t forget your current customers; nurture those existing relationships evan as you pivot to new openings.)

Another idea for a B2B demand gen pivot: digital transformation

Just as people quarantined at home find themselves with unexpected time, look for alternative ways to use the time you may have as an organization. “If you’re doing less selling now, shift to other inevitable and necessary things like digital transformations — initiatives you were going to do anyway.” He’s seeing companies concentrating on their costs, learning, online events and more video content, just to make more of what they can do.

Leading teams with transparency and empathy

During this interview, we asked about Mike’s view from the leadership perspective. For him, the most important thing in being a responsive leader is to be as transparent and empathetic to his colleagues as possible. “The team’s looking to you for focus and vision,” he declares. Already running virtually as a remote team, Couch has had more all-hands meetings over the past few months as one way to share information and stay in touch. 

Give the gift of transparency

The biggest thing, he says, is to understand leaders don’t have all the answers, “but you can have transparency about threats to the business. Transparency and empathy are truly appreciated, but in the past, these qualities might have been seen as weakness. Now they’re seen as leadership,” said Mike. 

“The crisis has opened the door for leaders to be more transparent and empathetic with the people they work with, because everyone is going through a unique situation with different circumstances at home and unique challenges. Some are home alone, some are home with five kids. They’re all different. Transparency builds trust and helps you get through any problem.

Transparency and empathy turn into trust

When you give the gift of transparency to your team and provide clearer positioning of the company as a whole, you build camaraderie and trust. The benefits can be long-lasting. “Trust trickles down. When you practice it internally, it trickles out to customers, so that’s a really positive thing you can do, regardless of how this pandemic is hitting you,” he explains. “People will look back and remember how you made them feel.” 

Leaders who listen as well as communicate can provide better tools and resources for teams and customers to help them persevere. “By listening and being empathetic, we make sure we’re financing things like counseling sessions and how to master anxiety, so by listening and being transparent, you get the same back in return.”

“Stay positive and focus on the opportunities that do exist in a time like this that can benefit you. It’s about understanding where you sit now, adapting for the future potential for your company, and making sure you’re listening and transparent.”

Want more ideas? Try this article from our True Influence CEO Brian Giese: “10 Ideas for Activating B2B Demand Generation during COVID-19.”

1Comment
  • James Ellis
    Posted at 16:32h, 10 August Reply

    Great insights here from Mike and as a member of Couch & Associates I completely agree with the effectiveness of an open and honest leadership style, even more so in these uncertain times.

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