Recently, I wrote an article for our member newsletter that briefly touched on the challenges we faced in 2020 and how we were forced to adapt the way we did business. Every day was a new challenge, and we met each one head-on. We swiftly created workarounds for every aspect of business, including remote work schedules and Zoom meetings for sales calls. We implemented creative strategies to protect both our customers and staff and we learned to plan and navigate supply chain inefficiencies and delays.
Last year was rife with unpredictability, but how can we turn those struggles into successes going forward? Let’s reflect on that hard work and how we can make it pay off for the remainder of the year.
Turning Obstacles into Opportunities that Drive Growth and Profit in 2021
Like it or not, we have no idea what normal is going to look like for the foreseeable future. However, we know it will take considerable effort to navigate these uncharted waters. History always reminds us that the best way to plan for the future is to study the past — even the most recent past.
The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted every link in the supply chain, but it also opened our eyes to the weakest links in that chain. It forced us to make immediate changes to survive in the moment. What we do next will determine our success.
Not only are more sales reps reaching retirement age, but the distribution industry is also experiencing a skills gap. Distributors are also facing an increased need for health and safety measures. Distributors should invest in increased training for existing employees and be open to new recruitment strategies.
Rather than turning away otherwise qualified candidates due to a lack of hard skills, distributors should consider those candidates who are trainable and possess unteachable soft skills (ie: communication skills, problem-solving and empathy). It’s good to begin sooner rather than later, before more aggressive companies thin the applicant pool.
Supply and Demand
To ensure supply chain resiliency, distributors must evaluate their current supply and demand and then map a risk strategy based on factors like product availability, vendor reliability, product alternatives and other logistics. If customers can’t rely on their distributor for timely sourcing of their product needs, they will look elsewhere. Distributors looking to overcome these market changes should explore analytics to better forecast customer needs and automation to increase productivity from the warehouse to delivery.
Most distributors were keenly aware that consumers were shifting their focus online, but the pandemic accelerated that demand. As shutdowns limited in-person sales opportunities, one channel remained open — ecommerce. That was a saving grace for many distributors who had already begun to invest in an online presence. For distributors that haven’t begun to expand their online footprint, there’s no better time than now to upgrade existing technology and explore an omnichannel approach to sales. But don’t overlook the importance of training your sales team on these technological improvements to help them achieve success.
Adaptability makes us stronger, smarter and more agile. We’ve witnessed our members adapt and thrive despite the difficulties they’ve faced. Let’s turn those difficulties into wins. Learn how NetPlus Alliance helps distributors adapt to unpredictable market conditions and build stronger relationships in 2021.