Coronavirus and Dealers: Challenges of Doing Business in COVID-19 Landscape

In the words of famed Monty Python trouper John Cleese, “And now for something completely different.”

Last week, ENX Magazine announced it is publishing its May and June issues as a single publication, with plans to resume the normal editorial schedule for July. Ordinarily, we would feature weekly articles based on the month’s State of the Industry report. Since the June portion of our editorial is focused on how the industry is reacting, responding and coping with the global pandemic, we will include periodic stories on that theme throughout May and June. Certainly, it is our hope that by late June, COVID-19 will become less of a talk track.

Our first look at the changed landscape tackles the thorny question of how to conduct business from an operations standpoint, given that those customers that aren’t already shuttered are quite skittish about opening their doors (particularly clients in the foreground of providing essential services) to outsiders. In some instances, techs/reps wearing gloves and masks while toting wipes and hand sanitizer can open doors. But is it enough?

Chip Crunk, RJ Young

“A lot of customers don’t want non-employees in their offices right now,” noted Chip Crunk, president and CEO of RJ Young. “It’s hard to make new contacts with potential customers because, right now, all of these businesses are in survival mode. The last thing they want to do is talk to some salesperson.”

Dealing with Stress

Jim Loffler, Loffler Companies

Stressing safety is the No. 1 priority for Loffler Companies, which counts hospitals, clinics and businesses that support those organizations among its clients. Founder and CEO Jim Loffler notes good communication with the customer is essential to ensuring that a service technician is not entering an area that may have been exposed to COVID-19. The dealer has worked with various sources to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure visitors are properly equipped.

“It causes hardship and stress on people—the leadership team, all employees, customers and their families. It’s hard on people,” Loffler said. “You try your best to keep positive and not worry.”

Jeff Gau, Marco

Marco approaches sales engagement from two vantage points: copiers and IT. The conversational tones are contrasting, according to CEO Jeff Gau. The IT conversation can touch on solutions to address the need for working from home, connectivity, laptops, hardware and managed services. But a copier rep would invariably be pulled into a conversation about reducing payments.

“Calling on the copier decision maker is a bit of an obstacle,” Gau said. “Calling on IT decision makers is opportunistic. We needed to develop a better talk track for our copier reps.”

Prospecting Blues

Dan Meyer, Impact Networking

Impact Networking has shifted the strategy of engaging clients and prospects. Outside sales reps, for example, now spend a majority of their day prospecting by phone from home, whereas in the past it occupied just a fraction of the rep’s day, notes company President Dan Meyer.

“Imagine spending eight hours a day for the last four weeks prospecting during a pandemic,” Meyer said. “Although our management team, trainers and support personnel have done a good job mixing in other activities, it has still been a difficult and stressful change.”

Patrick Layton, Impact Networking

The transition was far easier on the IT operations end, where most engineers and IT professionals are used to working remotely on client networks, added Patrick Layton, vice president of managed IT for Impact Networking. The biggest challenge was at the onset of the stay-at-home orders, as not all businesses were employing good social distancing practices. That triggered some trepidation among the IT engineers.

“As the stay at home orders have continued, we have had clients put a lot of work on hold,” Layton added. “We have been talking to many (clients) about how now is the perfect time to do infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, as nobody is in the office and our engineers can work safely and not affect the end-users working from home.”

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.