In April, I had the honor of speaking at the AICC Spring Meeting in Amelia Island, Florida, as a panelist in a Member Town Hall on Top Industry . Considering it was our first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the first question brought to the table was particularly relevant for the nearly 200 people in attendance: What procedures were put in place during the pandemic that you believe will become a part of everyday life?
As I begin to travel around the country again and talk to people about how their businesses are changing, three process changes stick out to me as ways we all can take problems from the pandemic and turn them into benefits for our businesses.
The first is supply chain management. Many of us have had supply chain contingencies built into our daily processes for years. If one supplier goes down, we all have backup. What I have found particularly interesting during the pandemic is the attention to detail when discussing emergency supply chain protocols. Companies are diversifying their supplier base and going into great detail with their current suppliers to understand their protocols, whether there are disruptions in their supply chain, and what their reliance is on foreign products. It is something that will without a doubt become a part of their normal supply chain management, creating an all-encompassing protection plan for their businesses.
Perhaps one of the more interesting byproducts of the pandemic was the improvement in efficiency. I’ve heard stories from industry friends, one person said they reorganized a material staging area in their plant in order to reduce human touches on the material itself. The move reduced the number of touches from four people to one person before it went on the machine. Not only did the move end up being safer for the employees in terms of COVID exposure, but in the end, the company realized it was much more efficient.
The third lasting aspect of pandemic-affected business is sales tactics. In a recent virtual think tank that I hosted, we interviewed sales expert Mark Allen Roberts, who presented several staggering statistics from McKinsey & Co. He reported that 70%–80% of B2B buyers prefer virtual sales, even when COVID restrictions are lifted. Also, 70% of B2B buyers feel comfortable purchasing up to $50,000 virtually, without ever meeting a sales rep, and nearly 30% of those same buyers feel comfortable spending up to $500,000 without in-person contact! These numbers are shocking and a clear indication that a permanent shift in sales tactics is on the horizon.
Being back in person at an AICC event was incredible, and I don’t think there will ever be a time when we replace the in-person dynamic of business, particularly in sales. I believe the pandemic gave us an opportunity to innovate within our businesses and has created opportunities for growth that perhaps we didn’t even know existed.
Joe Morelli is vice president of sales and marketing for Huston Patterson Printers and is vice Chair of AICC’s Associate board.