Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

How Rapidi is thriving by giving back

As a firefighter volunteer, one tech CEO was determined to use his experience fighting fires, and his company's capabilities to accelerate business digital transformation, to help their stakeholders and communities fight the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses can be the greatest platform for change.

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In February 2020, right before international travel closed down, Henning Lund, CEO of Rapidi in Denmark, found himself in Australia. He was working as a volunteer firefighter helping farmers in Australia remove debris and rebuilt their properties after the devastating winter bush fires.

"It was February and suddenly nearly six inches of rain fell on the barren landscape. Within days, the ashes turned green again. Australia's nature has experienced bush-fires for thousands of years and it was amazing to see nature starting to recover in front our eyes. It was also motivating to experience how the farmers managed to look forward and have a positive mindset, despite the crisis they experienced and the time they needed to wait until they got the help they needed," said Lund. 

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Henning Lund, CEO of Rapidi

As Lund returned to his CEO "day job" amidst the growing pandemic, his volunteer experiences played into the events unfolding before his eyes, and led him to do some genuine soul-searching. As a company, you must decide: Are you aiming to delay death or prolong life? Are you contemplating closing down and only focusing on cost-cutting? Or are you determined to help your community, working to come out difficult times all the more stronger?

Lund decided to focus on the latter. Rapidi, a leading provider of Salesforce to Microsoft ERP integration solutions, committed to offer 100 no-cost implementations to help their customers get ready for online sales and order fulfillment. That's a lot for a company the size of Rapidi. And like Salesforce, Lund's company also donates employee time to help their local community. In fact, Lund is currently on stand-by for the local fire department of his hometown near Copenhagen.

In addition, Rapidi employees, who have some uncommitted time due to the crisis, are now focusing on learning new subject areas so that the greater team can emerge stronger from the crisis. This culture of investment in people allows Rapidi to grow "specialist" and "generalist skills", making them able to cope and adapt in these uncertain times. We sat down with Lund to learn more about flexibility, community, and resiliency.

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How is COVID-19 changing the way you work and sell?

Lund: At Rapidi, we have always been working and selling online, so we have felt very little change over the last couple of months. But before Rapidi, I worked at more traditional companies, where the culture was to always meet customers in person all over the world, resulting in hundreds of travel days. After joining, it took me months to get used to meeting customers online. I think that's what many companies and their employees are going through right now -- but they need to do this in days or weeks. This is a difficult change if you are not prepared to be agile and adapt to change.

Once you get used to working online, it's much more productive as I can have three to four meetings in the same time as I could have a single meeting in my old job. Also, customers find it easier to agree to a short online meeting than an in-person meeting. Today, meeting customers in-person is something we only do if there's something we need to do in-person, such as a full-day workshop.

Important advice for selling online?

  1. Be precise: "Selling online is all about having a precise message. It is easier for potential customers to commit to a short online meeting, but you can't spend a lot of time "weaving" -- you must get to the point! We sell solutions for integrating Salesforce with Microsoft ERP systems and use blueprints and demos to quickly establish a common understanding of the problem and potential solution that we're offering."
  2. Share values: Creating a relationship with a potential customer can be challenging when online. We feel it's important to quickly establish shared values such as "agility" and "flexibility". Companies that are not interested in creating more flexibility around their ERP solutions will typically not be a good fit for our solutions.
  3. Listen for buying signals: This is particularly tricky when not meeting in-person -- and the reason why having a precise message and establish shared values are key. If your sales team currently has a little more time, spend it figuring out what the buying signals typically are for your specific products and solutions. What should your sellers be listening for in an online sales meeting?

The biggest takeaway from your Australia experience?

"Many have asked about my experience as a volunteer firefighter in Australia and whether the massive devastations made the biggest impression on me. What made the biggest impression was not the destruction caused by the fire, but the resilience and immense gratitude of the people we helped. I believe that we'll get through this crisis, too, by helping each other," said Lund.

Lund is a CEO that believes businesses can be the greatest platform for change and that values create value. His company is working hard to ensure that all of their stakeholders -- employees, customers, partners, and their communities -- are able to face the current pandemic with assurance that together, we will make it through these difficult times. We will lean into each other for support and fight the battle with empathy, forgiveness, generosity and love. Not all CEOs are firefighters, but all CEOs have the opportunity to show courage and deep passion for ensuring stakeholder success. 

This article was co-authored by Liv Tornquist, senior manager of market strategy and Thomas Cozzolino, senior director of market strategy – both at Salesforce