While the coronavirus has been on our radar for a while, the changes to our daily lives have been rapid.
However, it’s important to remember that the challenge we all face right now is a health issue first, then secondly, an economic issue.
In this article, we’ll break down the actionable measures our clients in the wholesale industry have been taking to keep themselves healthy, and financially stable in the midst of a global pandemic.
Hopefully, we can share a new angle or idea that could help a wholesale business right now. Before we go ahead, the advice below isn’t meant to be used in making final decisions for your business. The purpose of this article is to give you a few ideas that might guide you through this period.
Staff segregation & minimising in-person contact
As a wholesale business, fulfilling orders is simply a task that can’t be carried out online. People need to be in your warehouse, handling orders and shipments. If one person in your workforce becomes ill with the coronavirus, this can completely shut down your business as all staff will need to go into isolation.
On the other hand, your staff probably need the work to pay their bills and you need them to keep the business going altogether.
One solution we’re seeing our clients implement is internal isolation within their warehouse. Firstly, any admin, or sales staff that don’t need to be on-premises have been shifted to home-based work.
From here, people that need to be in the warehouse are then segregated to their own individual section, with a process in place to limit or completely eliminate contact with staff from another section. If you can minimise the contact between your staff, you’re creating a safer working environment for your staff and limiting the odds of team isolation within your business.
Another solution is to operate with only one person in the warehouse at any given time. If you follow this method, the person working the shift will need to disinfect any working surfaces that they use. However, we acknowledge that for the majority of businesses, this might not be a possible option given the size of their operation.
Wholesale specific hygiene practises
This section is for your sales staff. If they’re not already operating completely online (more on this below) and are still meeting clients in person, then you need to consider the various points of exposure they will encounter.
Are they using a hand-held device to process sales? Now is the time to ensure that they are the only ones touching the device with routine disinfection, especially if other people will use that device on another shift.
For example, a big feature of our App is the ability for a rep to let their customer place the orders on the device themself - for now, this is a no-go! Make sure your sales rep is the only person handling your sales device.
Lastly, if a business requires you to visit them in person, it might be time to implement a basic screening process to ensure the safety of your staff. A question such as, ‘have any of your staff been exposed to anyone diagnosed with the coronavirus?’ can flag any dangers in advance.
We all need orders right now, but if your staff are at risk in the process, it’s not worth it.
Rapid digitisation of the wholesale business model
How has your business adjusted to the new digital landscape? For a wholesale business to be viable, their ability to have stock presented online and easily accessible to their clients has never been more important.
Having your sales reps being able to generate orders via an online meeting or a call is paramount.
Depending on your industry, the importance of your online capabilities might be the difference between your supplier providing essential products or being out of stock. How we respond to this crisis as wholesale businesses has never mattered more to the wider community.
Another important move our clients are making is serving the B2C market. With common household items being out of stock, and people looking to rapidly launch their own business, having the general public being able to access and buy your products online opens up a new revenue stream.
If your business needs help creating a custom order portal for your clients or an e-commerce store we can help you out.
Transparent communication between staff & customers
Transparent communication between you and your staff, customers and stakeholders is imperative as we enter further uncertainty.
Hard decisions will inevitably need to be made, but we can make things easier for ourselves by being honest and open.
This means regularly checking in with your staff to make sure they’re doing okay, and answering any pressing questions that they may have.
It means openly sharing the status of the business, and the rationale behind the major decisions you may need to act on.
This also means that now is the time to deepen your relationships with your customer. We’re all in this together, and working on mutual problems together to create a ‘win/win’ outcome is crucial.
While things are tough now, everything will eventually go back to normal. How you act in the face of these challenges will have a lasting impact on your business when business is back to normal.
In summary, it’s important to remember that the challenge we face right now is first and foremost a health issue. It’s about keeping people safe and doing our part to flatten the curve. Secondly, it’s about keeping the lights on and as many people employed as you can.
Separating your staff if they still need to work on-site is an important measure, so is carefully considering the points of contact that need to be regularly sanitised.
Once we know that we’re doing everything we can as a wholesale business to keep everyone safe, then we can work hard on digitising our business model. It’s important for cash-flow now and will become a massive strength of your business once order is restored.
Lastly, clear communication with empathy for the person we’re talking to has never been in higher demand. Let’s work together on this one and come out the other side with newfound strengths, and lessons that last us a lifetime.
We’d love to hear how your wholesale business is adapting in the comments below.
Inzant is a sales app that allows wholesale reps to generate online orders and facilitate mobile sales. On top of this, we create custom online order portals for your clients so they can place orders themself and build e-commerce stores.
Feel free to reach out if your wholesale business needs help with its online sales capability.