Business Survival In the Midst Of COVID-19
Last evening, COVID-19 became very real to me. Not because anyone I know is sick but because I sat at the dinner table and stared at my son and he should not have been there! He should be in college right now but all students at his university got sent home yesterday to attend classes online for at least two weeks. And then it further hit home when I realized how the constant news talk of “social distancing” is going to impact his job search this Spring. He’s a senior and there’s no doubt that, between the current economic slowdown and “social distancing,” he’s going to have a more difficult time getting interviews and presenting himself than he would have had a year ago.
And then COVID-19 became even more real to me as I thought about all of my home improvement contractor and sales friends out there, especially those selling higher-end products that are geared toward a bit older, more affluent customer. I do not want to be alarmist but that demographic of older folks is going to be really shying away from inviting strangers into their homes for sales presentations until the virus spread has stopped.
So, what do you do? How do you keep business flowing? Your organization is likely at its largest size in many years, you have a lot of mouths to feed, probably more than ever before. How is your company going to counteract what is probably going to be a rocky next couple of months? I have a few ideas I’d like to share, broken down into four categories: 1) Stay healthy; 2) Sharpen your sales force and presentation; 3) Find new ways to sell; and 4) Attack some new markets. Let’s take a look at each of those.
You and your team cannot afford to fall sick during the next couple of months. You must be firing on all cylinders for maximum effectiveness. But yet your jobs involves being “out there” and in the public — you can’t hide in a hole. So, all of the usual things apply:
- Monitor the health of you and your team and watch vigilantly for any changes – fevers, cold symptoms, breathing difficulties – anything like that must be taken seriously.
- Get plenty of rest, eat healthy, and consider boosting your immune system with a quality multi-vitamin as well as zinc.
- Do all of the things you keep hearing about like frequent hand washing, not touching your face, and, yes, even “social distancing” – those you meet will be glad you are taking steps to protect their health as well as your own!
- Do not “back off” from your own company meetings – they will be more crucial than ever. But consider holding them via Zoom or Skype or conference call whenever possible – you want a healthy team and do not need illness sweeping through your company.
- Be very aware of those around you – if you see someone who is coughing or showing other signs of being sick, quite simply, stay at least 6’ away from them at all times. Avoid situations where you might be in large crowds and find it difficult to keep your distance from folks.
Finally, along the lines of staying healthy, develop a written Coronavirus Response Policy within your company that protects your team and your customers. And then let your customers and prospects know about it. You’ve already received the emails from big companies like airlines and rental car companies that are doing this – you can as well.
SHARPEN YOUR SALES FORCE AND PRESENTATION
During tough times, those who thrive are the ones who focus on being even better at what they do. Here are some great ways to do that:
- Take the time to hone your sales presentation and regularly train and rehearse your sales team.
- You may wish to do them by videoconferencing but do not cut back on regular meetings for your sales team – they will need all of the motivation, skills-sharpening, encouragement, and accountability you can provide!
- Attend the upcoming Metal Roofing Summit to take advantage of top notch speakers and great ways to increase your marketing, sales, and management success. Held April 27 – 29 in Dayton, Ohio, if you register to attend in person, you will also receive the ability to watch via live streaming if you’d prefer to not travel.
- Don’t forget to join us for the next Let’s Be Frank conference call / webinar. Featuring home improvement industry legend Frank Farmer of American Metal Roofs, the March 26 webinar will discuss the modern art of selling and how to guide customers to discovering that you are their best option. Below are details for how you can attend this valuable sales training lesson:
- Thursday, March 26 starting at 11 am Eastern
- Join webinar at: https://zoom.us/j/699388273
- Or call 646 558 8656 and use 699 388 273 as your pass code
FIND NEW WAYS TO SELL
As I mentioned earlier, especially if you often sell to an older, more affluent crowd, you are going to find it more difficult to generate leads in future weeks and more difficult to set appointments. Here are some ways to counteract that:
- As mentioned earlier, develop a company Coronavirus Response Policy for the wellbeing of your team and your customers. And then do all you can to let your prospects know about it. The big companies are not shying away from this right now and neither should you. You’re just as toe-to-toe with customers as they are.
- Your prospects will be having fewer sales presentations and getting fewer bids than usual. That can be a good thing if you make sure that yours is one of the sales presentations they hear! So, while it’s less than ideal, consider offering your customers the option of sales presentations via phone call or video conference. Zoom, Skype, and others offer great platforms for this. Your salespeople can still visit the exterior of the home in advance of the call to measure and take pictures, and then those things can be shown to the prospect during the presentation. (You might even find the homeowner stepping outside to talk to them!) Your prospects still need roofs despite COVID-19 – look for new ways to get in front of them if that is necessary.
- Get that Live Chat up and running on your website and staffed by a “live” team member as often as possible! You need to pull every lead you can and, while folks may be reluctant right now to fill out a form that says “Come visit me,” they may be very willing to engage in meaningful Live Chat.
- Offer a Spring Special! While folks may be concerned about the virus, they still like to watch out for their pocket book and they will respond to offers that might save them money.
- Home shows and fairs will continue to be poorly attended. But, do not give up on them. While your lead counts will be down, it will be motivated buyers in attendance more than the usual “looky-loos”.
- Work your past customer base for referrals. People are more likely to allow someone in their home who has been introduced to them by a trusted friend. Take advantage of that!
ATTACK SOME NEW MARKETS
It will be harder to get in front of homeowners but one thing that seems to be apparent is that business owners will be resilient and continue to drive ahead in the face of adversity. So, while it may be more difficult to get in front of homeowners, the general slowdown of business will mean that business owners and leaders will have more time than usual to spend with you. So, use this period as a time to focus on some of those markets that you’ve wanted to focus on in the past but never had the time to do it.
- Architects, Builders, and General Contractors can be great people to build long-term relationships with. Metal roofing is increasingly specified on new construction. Reach out and connect with folks who can begin to just call you when they need a metal roof on a project.
- Property management companies can help bring you larger commercial, light commercial, or multi-family projects. This might be a great year to focus on a smaller number of larger projects rather than having to sell a larger number of smaller jobs. Again, these are all people who will still be working despite COVID-19 concerns.
- Work your own network of properties perhaps that you visit or regularly drive by – restaurants, churches, etc. Look to get in front of people who know and trust you.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you. We will have some choppy waters ahead but we still work in a vibrant needs-driven industry and success will always come to those who work hard and stay ahead of the pack. In fact, that’s what we always strive to do here at the Residential Metal Roofing Executive Report – keep you ahead of the pack! So, please visit our website often and review past issues and ideas.
Use the next couple of months to develop practices in your business that will have results now as well as in healthier times. There are ways to thrive in tough times – go out and create them!
Stay healthy and well my friends
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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