From the Top, The Representor, Fall 2020
by Chuck Tanzola, CPMR, ERA President
“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Next stop … the Twilight Zone!”
With some variation, these were Rod Serling’s opening words for the 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone that aired over five years from 1959 – 1964. (I remember watching the re-runs). For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Wikipedia summarizes it this way:
“Each episode presents a stand-alone story in which characters find themselves dealing with often disturbing or unusual events, an experience described as entering ‘the Twilight Zone,’ often with a surprise ending and a moral.”
In my last article for The Representor, “Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore,” I spoke of three periods related to the pandemic, which I called Survival, Searching and Stability. (I’ve since come to favor the terms Triage, Transition and Transformation, but regardless of the term you prefer, the concept is the same.) Today, I would like to share a few thoughts related to our current, collective “Twilight Zone” experience; each of the periods I previously identified, and the journey to that “wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.”
In my previous column, I wrote that the initial Triage period had largely passed. While I still believe that, as the widespread effects of the pandemic linger, we may see increasing inability to survive on the part of some companies. This could lead to renewed emergency survival tactics and merger and acquisition activity. My first thought is this: I sure hope it doesn’t last for five years!
As I think about the Transition period we find ourselves in, I begin with a question: “What is the connection between Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, The Beatles, James Brown, Fats Domino, Bill Haley & The Comets, Brenda Lee, Peggy Lee, Trini Lopez, Muddy Waters, Tom Jones, Jay & The Americans, The Everly Brothers, Dean Reed, Sammy Davis Jr., Little Richard, and Wilbert Harrison?“ Yes, they are all performers, but there is a unique connection beyond that fact; and I suspect that for most of us that connection is not as easily made. This is analogous to a challenge we all have today — making connections.
During this time, the “rules” are shifting. How we connect with customers, channel partners, manufacturers and industry, in general, continues to evolve.
As work from home, social distancing and the lack of in-person meetings continue, feeling connected is harder than ever for each of us, our employees, and likely for every member of the industry. Despite all our advanced communications technology, we need to be aware that people feel less connected than ever before. What hasn’t diminished though, is the importance of connection. My second thought is this: Investing in a proactive and consistent connection strategy is more critical than ever before.
In this column, I have customarily promoted the ERA Conference; typically held annually in Austin, Texas, in late February/early March.
As you undoubtedly know by now, we will be transitioning to a virtual format for 2021. While nothing is typical right now, our conference committee has demonstrated a consistent ability to provide a world-class conference filled with valuable content; and I expect the 2021 ERA Conference to be no different in that regard. With the particularly apropos 2021 conference theme, “Stronger Together: Reconnecting and Reinventing for Success” — enhanced participation in the virtual ERA Conference is a great part of a proactive connection strategy.
As I consider the journey to the transformation of a post-COVID-19 world, let’s start with the inevitable question posed on every journey: Are we there yet?
In short … no, we are not there yet. Our GPS is constantly “re-calculating.” So, what will it be like when we get there? What is the surprise ending and what will be the lesson(s) of COVID-19? “Imagine if you will …” is a familiar Serling Twilight Zone expression; and in staying with our theme, some of my thoughts are as follows:
Imagine if you will … a time when the rapid implementation of innovative and new sales strategies and tactics are understood as the acceleration of strategic process imperatives as opposed to a reactive response to situationally dictated limitations.
Imagine if you will … a time when sales effort is judged not by the number of miles traveled to customer locations. A time when video sales calls are accepted as an additional sales technique as opposed to a compromise alternative sales methodology.
Imagine if you will … a time when we will return to travel and to in-person industry connection events – when “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is once again more applicable than “What happens in the basement, …”
Imagine if you will … a time when being valuable is the result of your developed connections, capabilities, ideas, skills and experiences, and being valued is an acknowledgment of those developments, connections and contributions, independent of the company name on the business card.
Imagine if you will … a time when the “new normal” is no longer the “new normal,” but rather just Normal … “… a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.”
“Imagine if you will …” These are just a few of my thoughts. What are yours?
Send me your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Full disclosure: I originally planned the title of this column to be “I’m Going to Kansas City” as a follow up to my previous column and based on a Leiber and Stoller song that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the year I was born, but the Twilight Zone theme just seems more appropriate. For the trivia buffs in the reading audience, that song was also named one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll” and each of the performers listed above recorded that song — a rather unique connection.