COVID Outcomes: What’s Permanent and What’s Not?

One of the top insights to come out of TMSA’s May 27 Strategic Interest Group, comprised of an even split of sales professionals, marketers and consultants, was the demise of sales travel due to the efficiencies of virtual sales meetings. 

The savings are hard to deny, said one attendee who knows larger logistics companies that have saved millions as a result of sales forces being grounded during the pandemic.  

Virtual sales calls are here to stay like it or not (mostly not). 

Attendees cited the potential harm to business growth that is likely to occur if travel budgets don’t rebound. Sales in transportation and logistics is very much a contact sport, according to the discussion. When sales professionals make the time to travel and meet in person, clients make the time to discuss new possibilities, chiefly the potential expansion of services.  

One attendee remarked that over Zoom, meetings lean to account maintenance at the expense of account management where the potential for growth lies. It turns out the positive efficiencies of video conferences with their limited windows and hard stops are also their biggest negative to sales professionals.

Good meeting hygiene (the other kind) matters.  

To maximize virtual opportunities, the group suggested setting an agenda, stating expectations, determining questions to ask ahead of time and having a punch list of needed answers.  

In addition to these hygiene basics, being in the moment matters, as well. One sales professional recounted seeing a guitar in a prospects background during a Zoom call. Being a drummer, he arranged a jam session for their next virtual meeting. 

Conference travel will be under scrutiny.

Attendees agreed permanent cuts to sales travel will be joined by conference travel cuts. The prevailing strategy among the companies represented is to keep traveling to events with valuable networking opportunities. For events that were educational in nature, the companies intended to attend virtually so they could save the travel expense and allow their sales people to continue working at the office or at home.  

Companies plan to better manage their space.

The strategies for going back to work that were expressed by attendees reflect the industry at large. One smaller company realized they were fine without a terra firma office and decided to stay 100% virtual with monthly in-person meetings. Other companies planned to keep a portion of their workforce virtual and then reduce the number of floors they occupied. One business planned to do this and then use the free space to spread out workstations—a safety precaution, they said, against a potential COVID-19 resurgence.  

Workers have flexpectations. 

Members of the group agreed that getting workforces back in the office was going to be harder than expected. People who had worked from home, enjoyed the flexibility, and after nearly two years, have adjusted their lives and routines. Americans are fierce when it comes to defending their independence, one participant observed.  

According to the opinions expressed, smart companies are taking a collaborative approach. One large logistics provider polled workers at each of its operating groups before rolling out their back-to-work plans, which varied by location.  

Another company gave an example of an employee who was hesitant to come back. Although he liked his virtual routine, his performance spiked once he was back onsite and he subsequently shared it was the right move. He found being able to pop into different departments in person was an undeniable advantage. 

Nevertheless most agreed that workers are not going to be keen about giving up their work from home flexibility. Group members cautioned they expect turnover and attrition. “People will quit, I’m already hearing it from colleagues who’ve been told they’re going back to in-office,” one said.  

Companies have learned enough to write a book—and many are.

Across the board, attendees said their companies are compiling the SOPs and learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are doing so in anticipation of a resurgence of the virus. Others, just to prepare for whatever this crazy world serves up next.  

Preparedness will perpetuate.

In addition to writing “the book” of pandemic learnings, others have instituted preparedness task forces. One company is even going so far as to purposely keep a percent of their workforce at home as a hedge against future outbreaks. 

Companies that prepare for the future and learn from the past had an advantage when COVID locked us down and out. One attendee described a client who had been practicing work-from-home drills well before the pandemic hit. A Canadian participant described how SARS prepared Canadian companies for the COVID outbreak because they had some experience with safety policies and emergency procedures.  

Gratitude and appreciation: two outcomes everyone hopes will be permanent.  

Appreciation for essential workers received a lot of attention during the pandemic. Their many faces and facets of their service continues to amaze as their stories unfold.  

Workers in transportation and logistics being recognized for their essentiality is an outcome all wanted to see continue. Another was appreciation for the at-home worker. The pandemic opened the eyes of many to how hard people work from home. Busting the negative stereotypes was a welcome outcome to the professionals who had been working from home prior to the pandemic. 

We want to know what you think.

Bring your insights, your opinions and your curiosity to the next 1-hour Strategic Interest Group, “A Check In on Customer Experience” on July 29th at 4PM Eastern / 3PM Central. Register here

And don’t miss the best in-person networking opportunity of the year. Join sales and marketing professionals from throughout the industry as we rise together from recent events at TMSA’s 2021 Annual Conference in Nashville October 3–6Learn more 

Conrad Winter is a freelance copywriter specializing in content and copy writing for transportation and logistics. Based in Metuchen, NJ, he creates website copy, campaigns, blog posts, whitepapers and case studies for carriers, 3PLs and industry associations. 

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