Beyond COVID-19: Elite Dealers Ponder 2020’s Greatest Challenges

As we work our way through the balance of a thoroughly unforgettable year, we take solace in knowing that while every business has its share of adversity and challenges, the global pandemic was a shared experience that impacted all of us in different ways.

Solace, you say? Certainly. We’ve all heard the expression “misery loves company,” but giving credit for our readership having more evolved sensibilities, we can rephrase it as “taking comfort.” Let’s just hope the next pandemic is at least another 100 years in the future.

As we put together the form for this year’s Elite Dealer competition, we prefaced the year’s greatest challenges by asking “Discounting the business disruption caused by COVID-19…” The hope was to avoid having 100-plus answers detailing how every dealer mobilized in short order to set up their employees in a remote working environment. But we’re not naïve. There is no discounting that behind every challenge or adjustment made by dealers during the year lurks COVID-19 as a root cause.

As we explore this month’s topic of top 2020 challenges, we have a strong sampling of some of the initiatives undertaken by dealers to keep moving forward in a positive and productive manner.

As many dealers have experienced, XMC of Bartlett, Tennessee struggled with the inability to connect in-person with both internal and external customers. In order to facilitate relationship building, the dealer quickly adjusted to focus on ways to digitally provide the experience via software platforms designed for live and recorded video.

“We also recognized that delivering a virtual conversation, proposal or internal team meeting required a skill set that many professionals are unaccustomed to, especially among the most tenured team members,” the dealer wrote. “We identified resources and implemented training programs that focused on accelerating comfort levels with this technology, communication and way of doing business. This resulted in a ‘positive disruption’ to our business that is a high contributor for our success during 2020.”

From an internal standpoint, this initiative enabled “togetherness and connection” when physical presence was not possible. XMC will continue to focus on this “skill-set evolution” as a moving forward strategy for business.

Logistical Task

One of 2020’s watershed moments for Alpha Laser & Imaging of Evansville, Indiana, also put the dealer through a rigorous test. The company forged an agreement with a health care facility that entailed installing more than 400 MFPs. It was a challenging task from a logistics standpoint, and the scheduling process was quite exacting.

“We had flowcharts and many meetings for everything we had to do,” the dealer reported. “It was impressive to see our team execute a deal this large.”

When the pandemic constricted sales of new equipment, Advanced Business Solutions of St. Augustine, Florida, needed to refocus on selling more used or refurbished gear to address the needs of clients. The numbers bear this out: refurbished equipment sales climbed 30% year over year during the period from March to June.

“This affected our new gear sales, of course, but our manufacturers worked well with us as we relayed that information to them,” Advanced Business Solutions wrote.

When prospecting and setting appointments with net-new business prospects became a challenge for Altek Business Systems of Telford, Pennsylvania, the company hired a consultant who helped design and implement a disruptive marketing campaign. This consisted of different mailers, videos and social media to differentiate Altek from its competition.

“It has worked well for us as our sales force of five is generating 5-10 net-new appointments per week,” the company reported.

Operating in an ever-changing environment, Kraft Business Systems of Grand Rapids, Michigan, sought to remain relevant and expand its boundaries beyond print production. That meant a willingness to venture into unchartered territory.

“We had to understand what worked, what products and services were needed and try to match our offerings and ability into the long term,” the dealer reported. “We were willing to push ourselves to grow outside of our comfort zone in order to meet the needs of our customers and stay relevant.”

Come Together

In an effort to strengthen its company culture, Yuma Office Equipment of Yuma, Arizona, became more involved with its team members. The dealer found that doing volunteer work as a team went a long way toward strengthening bonds.

“Negativity without a solution is not tolerated the way it used to be,” the dealer wrote. “We also started working with a company, Culture Index, which we will be using in the future.”

With much emphasis placed on fieldwork and prospecting, training can often be an under-addressed area for dealers. That’s why Blue Technologies took the opportunity to shore up its program. The Cleveland-based dealer took a deeper look at its new-hire training, creating milestones for growth and achievement post-training. The company developed a comprehensive 100-day evaluation that covers every aspect of the sale, including setting the appointment, building rapport, delivering the commitment to excellence, product demonstration, closing, writing the order, training and installation.

“The sales manager and sales trainer spend half a day on this process which includes feedback, grading of performance, and development of learning loops as needed to enhance sales performance and achievement,” the dealer noted.

Systel Business Equipment of Fayetteville, North Carolina noted an influx of mega dealers into its market without acquisition or authorization by manufacturers. These intruders weren’t abiding by the geographic boundaries and territories that other dealers generally adhere to, and Systel felt its business had been jeopardized.

How did the dealer respond to the territorial trampling?  “Fortunately, we were able to overcome this situation by securing and upgrading all of our customers in that area who were aggressively being sought after,” Systel wrote. “At the end of the day, longstanding relationships make a difference and we are grateful to have such loyal customers and employees that are committed to making a difference.”

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.