If you’re still working, as I am, you’ve already discovered that you need to work differently — in a few different ways. As the Zen expression goes, “this understanding applies to all things.”
Face-to-face meetings are a thing of the past, one of which we did “before.” To be completely honest, the two things I miss most about them are the long drives to other cities, and expense account business meals. If anything, staying in touch with my dealer base has become more critical than ever. My roster of dealer accounts fits neatly right now into two silos: shut down, or still open (but operating under heightened safety protocols).
As it happens, my communication with my dealers also falls into two categories. I’m still in touch with my shut-down accounts, but it’s not a sales call; it’s a personal one. When I reach out, I want to know how they’re doing personally. I like these people, and I care about their well-being. I’m doing the same with my accounts that are still open, of course. I’ve noticed that lately, my work communications veer more into the personal realm than before. That’s understandable, we all miss the human interaction that we get less of these days.
At the same time, my communication with my open accounts covers vital business: stock, availability, shipping, etc. My dealers are mostly busy with the B2B space right now — and much of the demand is for vital equipment. So, staying on top of the fulfillment process is essential. There’s also a third category of people I’m reaching out to that’s distinct from my dealer base: that’s prospective accounts that I’d been working on signing up before COVID-19 brought so much to a screeching halt.
Those contacts fall into the category of the personal call. I don’t blame anyone right now for not wanting to sign up for a new vendor. This too shall pass (I hope) — but they appreciate having someone reach out to see how they’re doing. I’ve always been a big believer that not every call has to be a sales call. Getting to know people and building bonds can be a lot more important than just talking about your products. I could go on, but that’s a whole other topic.
At this point, I should acknowledge that not everyone reading this is a vendor or distributor rep. Most of you are AV pros, and your outreach to your client base will be similar yet different. I’ll reiterate what I said before: People appreciate the effort that you take to reach out and ask how they’re doing. Also, everyone is a little lonely and stir-crazy.
Reaching out to your client base is more on the personal side, much like what my wife, who’s a realtor, has been doing: calling old clients to ask after their well-being. People remember that. Those of you who know me will know that you couldn’t expect me to not close out without referencing the film Jerry McGuire, and the words of his mentor Dicky Fox: “The key to this business is personal relationships!”