Accelerating out of the Pandemic
Finally, and after much anticipation, the COVID vaccines are becoming available. Depending on your location, the first responders, those with underlying conditions, and other necessary workers have been vaccinated and the elderly have scheduled their shots. According to news reports the government plans to have inoculated over 100 million people by the end of March. Barring no unforeseen issues, the rest of the country will be loosening by Summer. The business restrictions throttling distributor sales will be lifted. There will be no “official end” to the Pandemic, but things will gradually return to life.
The question for progressive distributors becomes, “How can we accelerate business growth through this time?” Distributors face two choices:
- Wait until the Pandemic is over and react to the new conditions.
- Build a plan and begin laying the groundwork for growth today.
If you are planning, here are a few things Distribution Expert, Frank Hurtte of River Heights Consulting recommends you prepare for.
Customers have been through the COVID wringer, too. For the past 11 or so months the distributor’s connection to customers has been distanced and stressed. Thankfully, they are buying, but do you really know if their purchases are being made from habit. Are there underlying changes underway in their busines structure you do not know about? Things like decentralizing engineering, work from home plans, shifting into future mode, and several others come to mind. Do you really know what they are? Build a plan to quickly gather this information.
Recognize talent, especially technical talent, will be in short supply. When the economy hits the expected long-term growth cycle, what are your plans to find, recruit, and onboard new workers? Building systems which pulls high-skilled workers out of mundane tasks and enhances productivity should be part of the plan. Building productivity shifts from “nice to have” to a strategic necessity.
Build a real process around product launches. There is an avalanche of new products and technologies which were not launched during the Pandemic period. Important products, products which are the future of your sales growth, need to be quickly and efficiently rolled out to customers. A process will minimize wasted energy and misplaced effort. Those who get it right will grow much faster than those who do not. Building on our last point, anything you can do to automate the process is a plus.
Learn how to use digital/webstore presence as a tool. Research and surveys directed toward every level of industrially focused customers point to an exploding use of B2B ecommerce and webstore. One River Heights Consulting survey discovered 100 percent of those surveyed used webstores every day. Those surveyed were a mix of engineers and technicians working for OEMs, panel builders, and end users in the electrical automation space. Simply stated customers like yours.
The data alone only tells a portion of the story. Some customers use their favorite distributor’s webstore daily and never pushed the buy button once. Instead, the tool serves as their electronic catalog. The survey discovered, customers have all but thrown away their catalogs, preferring instead to employ the convenience of the webstore to make buying decisions which are then channeled through their purchasing department. But the use of distributor digitalization does not stop there.
Armed with the proper tools, customers can determine whether the product is in stock. Many confess their buying decisions are often based not on the exact product specification, but on both specification and stock status. When the webstore indicates the distributor has a local inventory, the customer knows delivery times will not slow down their build times. As a side bar, the stock status often eliminates resource consuming phone calls to the distributor to “check stock” prior to placing an order. Inside salespeople are freed to do things adding greater customer value.
A well-developed webstore need not be entirely customer facing. Product selector tools built into the webstore allow an inside salesperson to quickly provide expert advice to customers… even if they are not that familiar with a product line. By asking the customer a series of questions, they can “drop down” to precisely the part required for the customer application. Further, if several parts meet the customer’s need, they can easily create a product comparator which can then be emailed to the customer for a final decision. If your webstore is mobile friendly, an outside salesperson can use their pad to make a similar search while the customer watches. Again, the search results can then be shared with the customer via an email or texted link.
Accelerating out of the Pandemic
The Beaulieu’s (Alan and Brian) of ITR Economics are predicting a brisk turnaround in 2021-22. Most of this is back loaded for the second half of the year. Preparing and executing plans for this important growth period is essential to maximize on the opportunity. A solid digital sales platform is an essential part of the plan. KYKLO can help. There is no faster or more cost-effective way to engage customers online than with the KYKLO process. Because KYKLO provides a “plug and play” type of environment, your customer ready website will be one bit of planning you can mark – done.