With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the U.S., doing business has changed drastically. While the steel and manufacturing industries were deemed essential, we have had to learn to adapt to the different climate.
Between Metalwest and Norfolk Iron & Metal we have several locations throughout the country. Each location has had a different experience with the pandemic based on local regulations and hot spots. To better understand how our teams have adapted, some of our sales reps shared their thoughts.
In your opinion, how has the pandemic affected our industry?
“For me personally, I’ve always been grateful for the business,” said John Chojnowski, outside sales rep for Metalwest’s Ogden, UT branch. “Going through all the craziness, I’ve had a greater appreciation for the business given to me and Metalwest.”
“I think it’s dramatically impacted our industry in several ways,” said Jacy Marrs, outside sales rep for Metalwest’s Garland, TX branch. “The uncertainty of customers and end users, drop in cost of material and demand, fear in the work environments, and social distancing is still hard to comply with on each individual opinion.”
“It has very much so affected it,” said Steve Merryman, outside sales rep for Metalwest’s New Century, KS branch. “Business was steady through March and then we started to see a pull back with customer orders the following months and pricing continued to deteriorate in the market which impacted margins due to the level of business. The pandemic impacted the mills, with workforce reduction, slowdown in production or a two-week shut down with some mills causing mill orders to be late.”
How has the pandemic affected your customers individually?
“Our customer base has been amazingly adaptable and have so many unique solutions,” said Greg McMichael, outside sales rep for Norfolk Iron’s Greeley, CO branch. “Some of our customers are developing new product lines and expanding their geographical territories to increase or maintain their market share.”
“Gaming is almost non-existent,” said Tara Chartier, inside sales rep for Metalwest’s Ogden, UT branch. “With Las Vegas being shut down, nothing was going on in that town for a couple of months and it’s been extremely slow to come back. Housing has been booming and hasn’t slowed down at all and anything medical also continues to grow. People being home has had DIY projects in full swing. A lot of big buildings have been pushed out to later dates or put on hold which effects a lot of HVAC business.”
“A con for our customers has been how to keep employee’s safe, but also protect the business,” said John Staiber, outside sales rep for Metalwest’s Monroe Twp., NJ branch. “But, they are able to build confidence in employees by allowing them to work remotely and be productive that way.”
“Two of my largest customers closed for two weeks due to an infection internally,” said Gary Marinelli, outside sales rep for Metalwest’s Brighton, CO branch. “Many customers are doing whatever they can to try to maintain their business. Needless to say, I have to believe everyone is working harder and smarter through this unique situation.”
Do you think this is the new normal or what is your view of the future for doing business?
“In regards to the new “normal,” no I don’t think this is it,” said John Chojnowski. “I truly believe we will see the truth come out of all the craziness in America and we will actually have a much better economy as well as a greater appreciation for each other as a human race regardless of your political affiliation.”
“We are always in a new normal in my opinion,” said Greg McMichael. “The companies that best adjust will thrive, survive, or perish.”
“Personally, it’s hard to say,” said Jacy Marrs. “I do think eventually there will be a cure for the pandemic and things will return to new normal with more caution in socializing than before the pandemic. I believe it will have long lasting affects to travel, all social events, and the food service industry, like restaurants and bars, for a few years after the pandemic.”
“This is just a pause,” said John Staiber. “Things will return to a new and improved normal.”
What advice/best practices could you give to other sales reps who may be having a hard time with the current social climate?
“My advice would be to keep in contact more frequently with customers who are not seeing visitors right now,” said Steve Merryman. “Conference and video calls are an option if you have several key people you would like to meet with. Keep your name in front of the customer by sending literature pertaining to their business or industry; offer to meet your buyer for lunch or dinner to get a face-to-face meeting, if possible. If that is not an option, offer to meet them outside the office for a short sale visit. I have done a few of them lately.”
“Take a deep breath, you cannot change what is going on,” said Tara Chartier. “The best thing to do is ask for help. Your teammates are here to make things easier on you, that’s why you are called a team. And when they are stressed, return the favor. We are all in this together, not one person is going through this alone.”
“If anything is quite evident doing business through this situation, is that relationships are at the forefront more than ever,” said Gary Marinelli. “Relationships have helped me strive and achieve more than I ever expected during these times. If you don’t have that strong base of accounts to build your territory on and haven’t developed lasting relationships, then you probably are struggling. Relationships, a diversity of types of accounts, and a broad base of active transactional accounts are the key to success and a strong foundation to build upon with developmental and contractual type of accounts being the icing on the cake.”
While this may or may not be the new normal, it has completely affected the way we and our customers do business and operate. From our sales reps’ perspective, there is a lot optimism that we will come out of this stronger than before.