Ailene Grego
President & CEO
SouthEast LINK
Atlanta, Georgia

Meredith Reuben
EBP Supply Solutions,
A Division of Imperial Dade
Milford, Connecticut

Nick Spallone
Tahoe Supply Company
Las Vegas, Nevada

The pandemic forced a change in sales strategies and we saw an uptick in virtual selling. What are the pros/cons to selling in a virtual environment?

Spallone: I look at it as just another tool in the bag. The employees that embrace it are much more successful.

Reuben: The pros of selling in a virtual environment are that it can be a very efficient way of demonstrating the value of a product or service to the customer. Generally, we found that buyers were much more available during the pandemic lockdown periods, and even now in this hybrid time.

Selling still has a component of relationship development and I believe that personal visits enhance that relationship more effectively. During a personal call, a sales person can also "observe" more — other issues in the building, new people who are influencers, and other opportunities.

Virtual selling can be very laser-focused to solve and inform for particular issues, and it certainly can be more efficient where transit ways are congested, etc.

Grego: Virtual meetings are now commonplace and most people enjoy the ability to free up more time by cutting out travel. What we lose is human connection, and the ability to see, touch and feel when doing a demonstration. The culture of the company is at risk without human interaction.

Do you expect sales strategies to permanently change to include a virtual component as we move into the future?

Spallone: Absolutely.

Reuben: Definitely.

Grego: Selling strategies have emerged to include a virtual component because people demand it. In most cases, though, a hybrid approach is ideal. Choosing only one or the other will be damaging to your overall business. The virtual component is advantageous in that we can connect to more people in a shorter amount of time and at less cost, however, human connection is still important to secure true relationships. Sales are still dependent on relationships.

The pandemic thrust cleaning into the spotlight and we saw an emergence of new products and technologies, as well as a growing interest in existing offerings that were often deemed too expensive or "luxury" to many customers in the pre-pandemic environment. What do you see sticking around?

Reuben: Our team gets excited about selling innovation. Two categories that I believe are here to stay are robotics and disinfecting wipes. Robotics metrics have been shown to enhance productivity of cleaning staff, allowing them to focus on important, highly visible areas of the building. Especially in healthcare and even in offices, disinfecting wipes are getting better and better in terms of dwell times and breadth of efficacy. Just like facial tissue, I think that will become part of the office environment.

Grego: Interest in "luxury" items has increased to help offset deficiencies in the labor pool. Also, with CARES Act money, those who couldn't afford it before, now have the opportunity to engage in these conversations. Many more people are now interested in equipment that can enhance their ability to adhere to cleaning and disinfection protocols with fewer bodies.

Spallone: We are so fortunate to be at this crossroads. We see how cleanliness has a direct impact on overall business wellbeing and the bottom line. The free market will dictate how this plays out, but people don't want and won't accept dirty facilities anymore. This seismic shift will have a tremendous impact on everything moving forward.

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