Hit the COVID Reset Button
I have AFib, a common heart condition that can cause both arrhythmia and a heart rate that can go from 65 bpm to a sustained rate of 165 in, well, a heartbeat. A few years back, I had an ablation in order to deal with those irritating and dangerous symptoms. For the most part, it worked. For years, I’ve only had minor symptoms, usually during stressful times — like when money gets tight or when Tom Brady signs with Tampa Bay. Other than that, practically nothing.
But then, COVID-19 hit.
In the span of 10 days’ time this spring, I experienced three episodes the likes of which I have not seen since before my operation. My primary care physician told me people who have had COVID have seen their symptoms return with the benefits of their procedures erased. “It’s as if,” she said, “the reset button was hit.”
All during the pandemic, people talked about things getting back to normal. That expectation was wildly optimistic and hilariously naïve. At the time of this writing, the nation is less than half vaccinated and, while businesses and restaurants are opening back up, that reveal either looks like a weaker version of the original or a new animal altogether. Practically nothing looks the same. It’s time to accept the fact that we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Fortunately, there is opportunity in every problem. The fact that the pandemic changed the rules is one of the best things to happen to printing salespeople since Gutenberg said, “I should hire someone to peddle this stuff.” The intrepid print salesperson who is paying attention can benefit from this new normal. The trick is to read between the lines and create sales opportunities where none existed previously.
Something You Can Bank on
Take banks, for example. Through the end of April of this year, Wells Fargo will have closed 138 branches, with 112 more scheduled to be shuttered before the end of the year. So what? Who cares? Well, think about that factoid from a printing standpoint.
Banks, like any other business, need to communicate with their customers. By Jan. 1, 2022, Wells Fargo will have 250 less bank lobbies in which to display banners and distribute fliers trying to get customers to refinance their loans, and 250 less places for window clings to convince prospects who are walking and driving by to bring their hard-earned dollars inside and open an account.
What can you do about it? Try this: “The purpose of my call is to talk with you about how I can help communicate your message to customers and prospects. With Wells Fargo having closed 250 branches, and now more customers than ever doing business through their mobile device, I’d imagine you have a challenge when it comes to connecting. I can help.”
This is your opportunity to up your sales pitch. Bring a new message, not to the buyer but rather to the decision-maker. Somewhere across town, a well-dressed banker is pacing back and forth, wringing their hands looking for solutions to this and other challenges brought about by the COVID reset button. It’s your move.
A Good Lesson About ROI
And what about colleges? Schools were in trouble even before the pandemic. For seven years in a row, from 2012 to 2019, less kids applied to colleges and universities than the year before. Some questioned the value of a college degree while others — for some crazy reason —felt uneasy about being saddled with an average of $50,000 school loan balance upon graduation. Kids these days. Go figure.
Add to that the handiwork of Rick Singer and his “pay not to play” scheme to get rich kids into college, and the business model as a whole took a beating during COVID.
Schools responded to the pandemic by sending kids home, but not returning any money for housing. The college classroom looked a lot like the student’s bedroom — because it was. Emerging from COVID, colleges and universities have way more questions than answers about what comes next.
What can you do about it? Try this: “The purpose of my call is to talk to you about how we can help get you some answers. Using variable data and inkjet digital printing technology, your school can test messages customized to the individual as a way of targeting the best fit for you.”
This is your opportunity to expand your capabilities. One advantage of using variable data and inkjet printing is to help the undecided decide. Printing in small quantities, with short turnaround times, can give a school the ability to test different messages, adjust, and try again. Given the fact that the COVID reset button has changed the rules, it’s the perfect time to play this card.
Dealers Caught Off Guard
And what about the automotive industry? A year ago, those knuckleheads told the makers of semiconductor chips they’d be canceling orders because, after all, who’s gonna want to buy a new car during the pandemic? It turns out, everyone.
Cities saw a migration to the suburbs, and people who never owned a car suddenly needed one. Plus, with bank rates at historic lows, money was cheap and flowing everywhere. As a result, new car inventories were drained and the big news story there was factories being shut down because of a lack of parts and, in particular, no semiconductor chips. I read in the Wall Street Journal this issue was going to extend into 2022.
What can you do about it? What can car dealers do to make money when they don’t have new cars to sell? What tools do you have in your toolbox? Why not read up on the automobile industry, become a subject matter expert, and take your questions down to the local dealership. Learn more about what their business needs are.
You might find that used car prices are up 13% over last year (they are). You might learn that the market is anxiously awaiting the switch from gas powered to electric vehicles (it is). The COVID reset button has thrown this business model on its ear. Why not go down and kick some tires?
Food delivery services flourished during the pandemic. Workers went from an office at the office, to an office at home. Nonprofits took a huge hit. Travel and hospitality are coming back, but what comes after the initial rush of summer travelers? There are opportunities everywhere!
If you sell print, you cannot bring your old pitch and expect it to work going forward. This is an unprecedented time in the graphic arts industry for the solutions-based sales rep to help customers find their answers.
Armed with new capabilities like variable data and inkjet printing, bring your curiosity to these and other markets. COVID changed everything. Nothing is back to normal, and that’s a good thing for you. Solve the problem, earn the order.
As for my AFib, my cardiologist recommended I rethink my intake of caffeine and alcohol. Apparently, there is a direct connection between quantities consumed and AFib. Hey, if I need to drink more of each to improve my health, so be it. Wish me luck.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.