Thinking Outside the Box Will Be Your Savior During Covid

Dec 13, 2021

Traditional sales are now over. Whatever you were doing in the past is no longer a path to success in the near future. We often look back at historical events to try and understand the direction our future is going. The Spanish Flu pandemic lasted two years and it took another three years before things went back to “normal.” Although there maybe similarities in how the two pandemics impacted the world, still, today is very different than 1918.

In 1918, there was no online shopping or services; we certainly couldn’t work from home, yet alone. work from home in a remote area of the country handling regional, national, or international business.

Understand reality and change your mentality.

As salespeople, we have to learn that in any disaster, war, economic downturn, or health crisis, there are always winners and losers. And as salespeople, we have to start thinking outside the box.

Ask yourself what it is you are going to do in the next five years to sell. Ask yourself how can you take advantage of the current environment and not let it destroy you. Ordinary salespeople are hard to change their habits.  Like all humans, we react to pain and pleasure and unless the pain is great, we typically settle for what we know.  This type of reaction will not work in this new marketplace. The pain is real now and is will get a lot worst soon.

Worldwide bankruptcy will be real.  Some such as large retailers will use bankruptcy to shred bad leases and restructure but a number of business both large and small will be gone forever and a number of them will be your current clients.

Think outside the box.

There’s a few steps you can take to get yourself thinking differently. First, you need to look at your current business model and understand who benefits within your model currently and who does not. If no one benefits, you need to start thinking about selling something else. If in your model you become aware that your clients will need help then the question you need to ask yourself is, “How can I help and how can I monetize that effort?” Once you make your decision, you can monetize your help. Then you need to ask, “How big of a market does this represent for me?” If it is marginal, you need to think of more ways you can grow your effort to produce solid sale results.

This is my fourth downturn.  I thought “outside the box” in two of the three previous downturns. During the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, I enjoyed three of the best years I ever had in my career by thinking outside the box.  I saw that no one was interested in buying commercial real estate and I found someone that did and tied that buyer to money that was interested in buying real estate for deep bargains.  I ended up buying and selling a number of San Francisco office buildings for ten cents on the dollar, bought them so cheap that we could beat out the competition in releasing these buildings and once the market turned, we sold them for pre-earthquake prices. During the Boom and Bust, I pivoted. When the bust happened, we switched gears and concentrated on subleases. My firm grabbed any sublease we could find to give us a strong set of listings. Once we that, we were able to find tenants that were seeking subleases at a discount. At the time, we dominated the marketplace.  The 2008-2009 crisis was the one market that I feel I fell flat.  I reacted slower to the market collapse and panicked. In a lot of ways, I survived, but I did not take advantage of the market. I vowed that that I would never let that happen again and when another downturn happened, I would be very aggressive early on to meet the pending market.

Since March, I have started a new real estate advisory and development company, hired a sales manager and upgraded my staff. I’ve also re-introduced a service that was very successful in assisting businesses with their subleases in the Bust called and I’m expanding and upgrading our agent pool.

Whatever business you are in, you need to study patterns and look for those winners. Go out and sell them because this could create a boom market for you for years to come.

Written by: Hans Hansson

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Hans Hansson is President of Starboard Commercial Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 35 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email [email protected] or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,