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It’s official. I’m Zoomed out. Tired of the endless webinars. Tired of asking, “What’s happening in your market?” While the past few months have been a wonderful opportunity to catch up on training and rethink how we interact and travel, I believe there is no replacement for face-to-face interaction with the showroom community. We are visual people by nature, and if we didn’t care about the expression of ideas and the ability to read another person’s interest, we likely wouldn’t be in the business.
I started in March as one of the biggest proponents of webinars and doing my best to keep the tempo of communications up with my showrooms. It just isn’t the same as being in the field.
I was speaking with a great friend of mine, who is a sales exec for a product line we partner with, and he shared this same sentiment. He said, “When you get on a training call, and more than half of the team members don’t have their cameras on, there is no way to see if they are engaged or paying attention to what you are trying to teach.”
And while I have had my camera off for many a meeting, it has usually been for a good reason (bad background, bad hair, bad outfit, etc.), at least in my mind. But he is 100 percent right; the problem with webinars is the ability not to be present, or not be fully engaged. You can actively multitask and tune out whomever you choose, and still be “on the call.”
The other major issue with webinars, especially if there is a sizeable group, is when a technology hiccup occurs. Whether it’s on the webinar host’s end, the Wi-Fi or whatever — a minor glitch will pretty much guarantee that 80 percent of those on the call will use it as an excuse not to return to the call. I mean, you have an excuse now. You tried, they failed, and you can go about your business — right?
Think about anyone older than a millennial now with a razor-thin patience level and a low tolerance for technology. I am still of the generation who remembers slapping the side of a television or at least moving the antenna around to improve the signal. Not the case with a webinar.
We are in a time where attention spans are at an all-time low. We as a country seem impatient. In the decorative bath and kitchen showrooms, business is still pumping along quite well, despite my early predictions of a nine-month sales year. The showroom personnel don’t want unexpected visits from reps since they hardly have time to try to source products in a broken supply chain.
That leaves the reps requesting additional Zoom meetings instead. Now they are frustrated that they can’t get their message across to the showrooms and help build sales. It’s a doom loop.
Patience, Courtesy and Kindness
I ask you to demonstrate patience and understand that we need to help each other through this. Showrooms should take time out, within reason, to listen to the reps visiting them. With the supply chain as screwed up as it is right now, they may have an idea or a solution for you to get out of a long lead time. They may have a friend who can help; likewise, you may be able to help them by knowing a line that could get them out of a jam.
It is the spirit of the independent showrooms that I try to instill in my conversations with colleagues. Be nice to each other. Wear a mask, and smile enough so they can see it in your eyes.
I also would ask you to think before you post if you do choose to participate in social media. I love it when I see showrooms posting new displays, newly completed projects, new recipes cooked, and new hobbies featured. This is the essence of what social media was about. It has now taken a turn to misinformation, politics, religion and race — and has never been more depressing.
Sadly, I find myself doom scrolling the network news to see who has the winning propaganda of the day, and watch Facebook to see who is more outraged over what. It needs to stop, and it can change with you.
While we still need to put on masks and stay six-feet apart, please put down your phones and take an appointment with a rep or two. Learn what they are trying to accomplish; if they show that they truly care about your company and your business, please support them. They are having less fun than you if they are on the road right now. Bathrooms and restaurants are at a premium now with so many businesses closed, so being a rep is a very uncomfortable thing right now.
Cut them a break — at a distance. Make sure they make an appointment and have an agenda. Make sure both of you are prepared and make the right business decisions.
While a good deal of industries are flourishing right now, especially in the health and wellness sector like us, there are manufacturers who are struggling right now because of an imbalance of inventory, cash flow, supply issues, etc. All I can ask for is that you listen and see if there is a solution somewhere in the discussion.
As I mentioned before, I am a fan of face-to-face meetings. But I am still staying put, calling instead of emailing and trying to keep the personal connections rolling until we all have a better understanding of what we are facing and hoping for the best. I wish you all safety and good health, and hope this fall brings us good news and optimism.