COVID-19 / Guest posts

Connecting while distancing: An extrovert’s thoughts on business development amid COVID-19

With in-person meetings and networking events canceled, what's an outgoing operator to do? "Check in. Reach out. Offer a helping hand," writes Kapowza Director of Accounts Sean Sutherland.

Start new conversations with old contacts. Photo by Flickr user peter pallander, used under a Creative Commons license.
This is a guest post by Sean Sutherland, director of accounts at Baltimore creative agency Kapowza.

We’re in a pretty unique time. I don’t need to impart to you how hard it is to adapt to the new normal when the normals are redefined daily in this evolving situation. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, each day brings with it new restrictions, new warnings, and, of course, new ways for a business to handle itself in order to keep the lights on.

It’s an interesting time for folks across the board, let alone those responsible for sales and business development efforts. All the daily tasks typically related to workflow — the commute, the water cooler talk, coffee meetings, happy hour drinks — disrupted to the point that these are concepts all looked back on fondly, with some level of nostalgia. Sure, we still have conference calls … but I digress. How can we expect to operate business as usual if the times aren’t? Hopefully, by now, you’ve settled into a rhythm at your home office, set up your own Zoom account, and are trying to make the best of self-imposed quarantining or social distancing.

Even with most conferences and events postponed for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t mean you can’t connect and continue to build your business. Speaking as an extrovert, reaching out, having a call, text, or even a video chat is a great way to expend some of that energy.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Maybe you shouldn’t be selling right now …

Everyone from KFC to that one taco truck you visited four years ago on vacation is reminding you they’re there for you during this pandemic. Pitching anything right now might come off as tone-deaf, especially when speaking to industries that have been hit the hardest during this time: restaurants, hotels, airlines, etc.

Now I’m not saying don’t market yourself, but the most important thing you can do at this time is to be respectful of this situation and the stresses it’s putting on all of us. Perhaps take this time to invest in learning new software, platforms, or digital solutions that can make your life a little easier when we’ve put the coronavirus to bed. It’s a great time to focus on professional development.

I’ve been so encouraged by how other groups have stepped up, namely EcoMap Baltimore in aggregating information from local restaurants and small businesses who need support, Startup Soiree for launching the COVID-19 Small Business Forum, and of course, Early Light Media for opening up their studio for free crisis communications videos.

So much of what makes business development so effective is about nurturing relationships, providing value and giving back. If your company can offer something or be a resource to struggling industries or local businesses, by all means, promote that.

But now is not the time to launch your Q2 marketing push. This is a subtle reminder to make sure you’re not running some scheduled social updates. Also, please don’t try to become another resource for news about COVID-19. Stick with what your business is doing to handle this situation.

Catch up with old contacts

I recently wrote on LinkedIn about the struggles I’m having as a BD professional during this time. This month, prior to the shifts made necessary by COVID-19, I had three conferences and about a dozen or so larger networking events on my docket. It was a little more than usual, but nothing I couldn’t handle. In fact, due to my extroverted nature, I was looking forward to the chance to meet new people, imbibe, and share the best that’s available in Baltimore with some out-of-town professionals.

All of that is gone and, of course, it’s for the right reasons. The decisions made by those organizers were difficult, but ultimately necessary to try to flatten the curve.

Removing in-person networking events just limits the opportunity to connect with new contacts. So why not spend some time catching up with old ones?

Now is the best time to reexamine your existing network, get back in touch with those who you haven’t contacted in a while. Prior to the move to remote work for Kapowza, I collected every business card I had collected in the past four years and have been falling down the rabbit hole making sure they’re as up to date as possible within my CRM. I’ve thrown some away, kept others, and realized just how infrequently I reengaged potential clients.

Another great idea shared by a few friends of mine in BD is to download your first level connections on LinkedIn. I would bet there are a ton within your own network that you haven’t reached out to in a while.

Just be sure to keep it honest, with a more personal touch when you reach out.

Communicate, appropriately

It’ll be a while before we all see a crowded coffee shop, grab some happy hour deals at the local pub or walk the halls of a crowded conference. Thankfully, the right tools are available now to meet people where they are: likely in home offices or on couches.

Whether it be through emails, Zoom conferencing or Google Hangouts, having a virtual presence is paramount — not just for your BD efforts, but for maintaining team morale as a company. I’ve been really appreciative of the number of webinars that have come across my inbox in the last few days, all from individuals and companies looking to communicate and help out in whatever way they can.

Check in. Reach out. Offer a helping hand — even if it’s just to talk about maintaining some semblance of normalcy. The extroverts out there will appreciate it.

Just make sure you do it appropriately.


At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that we’re all just people. We’re all trying to make sense of this, so remember it’s flesh and blood behind that business card or email, not just logos and brands out there.

In the meantime, do your best to lessen your exposure, practice common sense and, for god sakes, someone tell KFC to stop sending me emails about their response to COVID-19.

Companies: Kapowza
Series: Coronavirus

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