“Today, we are witnessing what will surely be remembered as a historic deployment of remote work and digital access to services across every domain, including medicine, education, government, entertainment, and more. In the coming weeks and months, services will be further digitized as the creativity of a massive work-from-home population gets rolling.”
Bob Swan – CEO of Intel

Tobi Popoola

Author Tobi Popoola

The Pandemic will change how we sell forever

In March 2020, the global economy as we know it came to a grinding halt. A once-in-a-century event was about to take place, and we as sellers had to figure out the best way to navigate this.

A strict NO-VISITORS policy made it very difficult to visit customer plants. It’s Jan 2021, the pandemic has been here for close to 1 year and it’s not going away any time soon. So the question to OEM business leaders is — how can we continue to support our service sales efforts without the option of on-site travel.

Sales and business leaders alike need to understand that because we are in a pandemic, opportunities for service sales are non-existent. Generally, across industry, demand has slowed (save for a few industries — pharmaceuticals comes top of mind), critical assets have been idled and the economy is awaiting recovery. I believe this is the perfect opportunity to support critical asset upgrades.

This demand void opens up for idle assets opportunities for training, assessments, and safety and controls upgrades. As OSHA standards become more stringent, opportunities for manufacturers to install new safety mechanisms to improve operator safety abound. The investment in safety would be offset by lower insurance premiums — a critical element for keeping plant costs low.

Opportunities to upgrade controls for legacy assets also exist, these come in many shapes — improved product handling, speed controls — incl. cycle time reduction and improved diagnostics.

The digital revolution we had been talking about for a while, is suddenly here. There is no running from it so we as business leaders and sales reps have to pivot the traditional ways we’ve done business in the past, to keep up with this new reality.

This calls for complete digitization where possible, of our service sales offerings. We need to meet our customers/buyers where they are, the only place we can — the internet.

Our digitization efforts should see a rollout of new digital service offerings. I’ll talk about a few I expect to see in 2021.

Remote Training

This is the standard hands-on maintenance training but completely remote. How can we do this? For one, a demo-room fitted with the asset or a component of it, with a live instructor. A corresponding classroom set-up at the customer site, with a live-stream of the instructor teaching the class via an MS teams/Zoom set-up. The training sessions should be opened up to an interactive Q&A session to answer any questions or double down on specific sections of the training that isn’t clear. This session can be run multiple times a day across multiple shifts. For information retention, a recorded version would be sent to all attendee emails for their records. This is a fantastic way for manufacturers to create an asset library of training tools that can be passed down to new employees.

Remote Assessments

This is also another pivot I expect to see more of in 2021. In times past, assessment engineers would have to conduct a hands-on assessment for performance, parts, and upgrades. Now, OEM businesses would have to get creative with these efforts. First off, the customer must be on-board, the one thing OEM business leaders don’t want to deal with is a customer who hasn’t fully bought into the plan. Finger-pointing, payment delays are all obstacles we would like to avoid especially in these times. A customer resource would be paired with a commissioning engineer or support staff and using MS Teams/Zoom, the customer resource would cycle through our assessment checklist, take pictures, and document on-site findings under the guidance of the OEM support staff. I’ve had colleagues at other organizations share that they used the same tactics for their commissioning efforts to major success.

24/7 Remote Support

In addition to the other remote support initiatives, I expect to see more of 24/7 remote support teams working with customers to keep their assets running. Remote login to the control systems combined with virtual technologies like zoom, allow for walking customers support staff through all necessary logic and controls changes to support production

In 2021, I expect to see more OEMs pivot their traditional service offerings to a more digitized effort. Supporting customer critical assets through the pandemic by a combination of remote support services.

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