Representor Summer 2020 - Marketing Group Digest

Summer 2020 – Marketing Group Digest

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COMPONENTS – 2020: uncertainty remains

Bob Evans, CPMR
EK Micro
Rolling Meadows, Ill.

As I sat down to write this article, I happened to have the Winter 2020 issue of The Representor on my desk. The cover story was titled, “2020 Industry Forecast: A review of key trends, challenges and opportunities.” The third paragraph of the article began, “While all indicators point toward a positive 2020, some uncertainty remains.” It is clear now that the overarching theme of 2020 is uncertainty. In the thesaurus, you will find the following synonyms for the word; unpredictability, unreliability, precariousness, variability, disquiet, uneasiness and anxiety. It’s safe to say that we are all probably feeling a few of these emotions as we face the second half of this year. When will the pandemic subside? How will we work in the midst of, and after it? Where will the numbers stand on Dec. 31, 2020? Questions such as these are on the lips of the majority of manufacturers, reps and distributors; not only here in the U.S., but across the globe as countries live through various phases of the COVID-19 onslaught.

In the middle of this though, I have witnessed amazing resilience, ingenuity, persistence and creativity exhibited by the three “legs” of our industry stool — manufacturers, reps and distributors. In spite of some “Zoom fatigue,” there have been brilliant efforts to stay in touch by all three constituencies via video conferencing and other forms of not-in-person communication. In many ways, we haven’t lost much ground and we have learned new skills and adopted new tools in the bargain. Don’t get me wrong, as an avowed field salesperson, I have been climbing the walls, anxious to again hit the road and visit customers. Eventually, though, we will emerge from this COVID-19 cloud and we will be better for it. Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, famously said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” You can be sure that we will see this illustrated over and over again in the coming months. At least of this, I am certain.

MATERIALS, ASSEMBLY, PRODUCTION & SUPPLY – Plan for the unexpected

Troy Gunnin
Sun Rep
Tampa, Fla.

In the Spring issue of The Representor I wrote about the importance of communication. At that point, little did I know that we were about to face a much greater challenge in communicating with our customers, our coworkers, our factories, friends, and yes, even our families. We must stay at home and find creative ways to visit. It is tough if you have someone in the hospital or nursing home. We have learned to FaceTime or Skype with friends and family. We attend church on Facebook or live stream on YouTube. We wear our masks, wash our hands and social distance.

We went, overnight, from scheduling sales calls, factory visits, trade show planning and bustling business activity to, canceled sales calls, travel bans, canceled trade shows and “How we gonna do this?” The pandemic drastically altered business plans and forced all to regroup and put together a workable approach to business going forward. Hopefully, there were some safeguards in place.

Last summer, a fortuitous lightning strike resulting in a fried phone system, including internet, etc., forced us to do something we had been saying for some time that we must do — upgrade our server. We went with VoIP phones that allow us to have an office phone wherever we have a computer. Software upgrades and a lot of cloud-based stuff allows us to basically function, again, wherever we have a computer connection. So, when the shutdown came, fortunately, we were prepared. I shudder to think, “What if … ?” It’s hard to plan for things like COVID-19. But this experience should prompt us to constantly be aware of and plan for the unexpected.

In the absence of face-to-face sales calls and factory visits, I’m sure all of us have become much more familiar with Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, YouTube and endless conference calls.
I have news for you! Those will be a part of our routine for some time to come. I suspect that “work from home” will continue to play a significant role and that will make our communication skills much more important in dealing with this “new normal.” We must become very proficient in using the available digital options when working with our customers and factories. We certainly hope that face-to-face communication will be possible again soon, but we must be prepared to deal with the realities of the moment, whatever that may be.

I’m an optimist. I believe that we will learn from this and use the experience to become more efficient and do a better job for our principals, our customers and ourselves. If we don’t … well, you get the picture, and it’s not pretty.

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