The coronavirus pandemic has upended the way we live our lives, from minor inconveniences of not being able to see friends to major obstacles to businesses’ abilities to function. This has resulted in devastating impacts on the global supply chain and the service, tourism, retail, and manufacturing sectors. While sales agencies and sales representatives have been challenged to modernize for some time now, the arrival of COVID-19 necessitated immediate transformation; whole segments of the industry were paralyzed overnight and inability to adapt could be fatal. Trade shows and marts were canceled around the country, in-store retail sales fell through the floor, and former brick-and-mortar stalwarts such as J.Crew and Neiman Marcus found themselves filling for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The one exception to an otherwise universal decimation of retail sales? eCommerce. As physical locations shuttered in the face of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, online sales skyrocketed. Now, as states consider reopening, many are wondering if consumer behavior will revert to pre-pandemic patterns or if we will have transitioned permanently into a remote selling era. Further, if we are in a new digital-first sales reality, what can agencies and representatives do to better serve their customers and ensure their own survival in the post-COVID landscape?
A new sales rep model
The coronavirus pandemic intensified challenges already facing the traditional sales rep model: high operational costs, lost revenues, shrinking retail square footage, and lagging investment in enablement and integration.
With displaced retailers carrying and ordering less inventory, margins have grown slimmer and cost protections remain top-of-mind. Crowded stores and malls remain risky propositions from a public health and safety perspective. As consumers turn increasingly to online shopping, using contactless or buy-now-pay-later payment solutions with curbside pickup or delivery services, physical retail must undergo a metamorphosis. These changes have retailers looking at their physical store locations through a different lens — one part fulfillment center, one part warehouse — but not all are ready for the transition.
Meanwhile, reps are feeling the pressure to bring their sales business and back office online; as face-to-face interactions are canceled or postponed indefinitely, the ability to work remotely is no longer a nice-to-have but a business requirement. Since most sales reps are relationship builders, not eCommerce or IT experts, the successful integration of technology into these work styles (as well as cost of integration) remains a real roadblock to progressing their digital evolution.
Investing in cloud-based technology and the road ahead
A rapidly changing sales landscape does not have to mean bad news for sales agencies and reps. Change presents an opportunity for innovation. As reps learn to combine their interpersonal skills with the right technology partner, a new kind of selling is possible: one that leverages strong personal connections with the convenience, cost-saving, and customer-centric possibilities of cloud-based technology.
Agencies also stand to benefit from successful technology integration, as they come with more than their fair share of time-consuming administrative work — from calculating commissions and filing expense reports to manually processing orders. Technologies that help reps do their work remotely go hand-in-hand with streamlining these administrative tasks for the agency.
Software as a service (and a solution)
In order to be competitive today as a small-to-midsize rep agency, you need to have a tech platform that solves your day-to-day business problems, whether they be understanding top sellers in different categories or managing your back office and sales.
A cloud-based SaaS solution like Aleran presents a unique opportunity for SMBs (who account for an estimated 40% of all economic activity in the U.S.) looking to survive and thrive in a post-COVID sales landscape. The platform was built expressly for sales agencies and reps; it automates, simplifies, and streamlines the time-consuming back office tasks that form the heart and soul of their sales and order management. Unlike other platforms, Aleran gets its users up and running in minutes (as opposed to days, weeks, or even months), so they can get on with the business of selling. A cloud-based software means users can access these tools from anywhere with an Internet connection, whether they’re working from home or taking orders in the field. Finally, the platform is price-sensitive and purchased as a monthly subscription service, which means no costly integrations or lengthy service contracts to contend with.
The Aleran platform includes a suite of solutions, from REPDESK and REPPAD, which streamline order management, commission tracking and rep/customer management; to VENDORDESK a secure vendor management tool for real-time order processing, back-end systems integration and reporting; to MARKETPLACE and CATALOG CATALYST, two eCommerce solutions that will have you creating custom websites and clickable product catalogs in minutes. The Aleran eCommerce platform also includes Merchant Services, which both ensures PCI compliance and saves in credit card processing costs-if you are looking to process payments online, and a new suggestive selling feature on REPDESK, which recommends top performing items to customers, increasing a rep’s average order value. Together, each part of the platform comes together to give sales agencies and reps the tools they need to thrive in today’s digital-first sales landscape.
Contact Aleran today to speak with a Consultant or Request a Demo. 888-388-2408