Features | May 05, 2020
Tips for Distributors During COVID-19
As part of a webinar series, PSDA hosted “Critical Conversations for Distributors: The Economic Impact of COVID-19.” Led by industry veterans Stuart Boyar and Roger Buck, the hour-long discussion began with an overview of how distributors can adapt to changing circumstances around the virus before transitioning to an open discussion among participants on challenges and strategies during these unpredictable times.
Boyer and Buck laid out strategies and advice for different members of distributor teams. When it comes to adapting and reacting to the crisis, they shared ideas around these points for consideration:
- Employees should communicate frequently to ensure that distributors’ messages remain uniform. In a typical office environment, it is easy to pop over to a colleague’s desk and share news. With teams largely working remotely, extra effort must be put into consistently communicating updates and information. Clients should be able to get the same information and answers from every employee.
- Employees should look for new markets that need help during the crisis. Distributors can help impacted industries navigate the situation. From health care to home delivery, construction, utilities and more, there are markets in need of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources. Proactively reaching out to potential clients in those industries can forge a path forward through the crisis.
- Sales teams should seek virtual solutions both for internal and external use. Tools like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts can be useful to maintain contact with clients, while Slack or Google Docs can help facilitate internal communications. Sales teams should remember that it is most important now to help clients make it through turbulent times. Building relationships and trust will pay off down the line, even if clients are not making purchases right now.
- Marketing teams should pivot from paper to digital. With the virus changing how we interact with physical items, digital marketing is surging. Be ready to convey your organization’s message through multiple channels, and make sure you are sharing correct, timely information that is frequently updated through your website and channels.
- Administrative teams should ensure that they and all other employees are equipped with reliable software and tools to communicate effectively. By setting the tone with the right messaging and setting a standard for internal communication, administrators can keep operations running smoothly even though employees are working remotely.
- Management should clearly define and communicate new business objectives. The virus has upended the traditional business model, so that one-, three- and five-year plans have been replaced with 15-, 30- and 90-day plans. Management should keep employees updated on the state of those plans.
- Management should check in with strategic business partners, bankers, accountants and attorneys. In openly communicating with strategic partners, distributors can gain a better idea of the resources available to them. Discussion with bankers and accountants can clarify financial options and opportunities, while attorneys can shed light on the responsibilities laid out in leases and contracts.
In the second half of the webinar, participants engaged in a group discussion on actions they have taken and strategies they have identified. The discussion touched on these ideas:
- Caution is necessary when shifting to a new business model. PPE has become a hot market as people seek gloves, masks and hand sanitizer, but distributors should not jump in feet first without doing research and finding trusted, vetted partners.
- It is essential to vet vendors and strategic partners. News stories have exposed counterfeit products hitting the market. It may be tempting to jump on an opportunity to provide PPE, but proper vetting must be done first to ensure that the products are legitimate and they meet all necessary standards — for example, that hand sanitizer is medical grade instead of alcohol free.
- Be ready for all scenarios. Ideally, distributors will be able to keep workers on their payroll with minimal changes, if any. But the outbreak remains unpredictable, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) relief application process is lengthy, so distributors would do well to craft plans covering a variety of scenarios, from a best-case to a worst-case possibility and everything in between.
Despite challenging and uncharted circumstances, the PSDA community and its leaders are finding ways to band together and share best practices. Discussions like these show the power of such community and serve as an opportunity to learn from each other when it’s needed most.
To access the webinar recording, visit PSDA’s COVID-19 Resource Center. A complementary webinar was held for manufacturers, and the recording can also be found in the resource center.
Business/Growth Strategies Distributors/Resellers COVID-19