Commentary: Be Intentional about Preserving Positive Changes Brought on by COVID-19 - Modern Distribution Management

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Commentary: Be Intentional about Preserving Positive Changes Brought on by COVID-19

Take note of new business practices youd like to preserve as the country opens back up.
young worker at express courier with Coronavirus protection mask

A lot has changed in these past three months or so. Practices that we were convinced, often over decades of rote repetition, were the best or only way to do things, were suddenly no longer possible. We had no choice but to change and thus find out what happens on the other side. It’s been a stressful time in many meaningful ways and I don’t want to minimize the challenges, but I also feel we cannot let this unique time in history pass without recognizing its gifts as well. 

I listened to a comedy podcast recently where the New York-based commentators briefly mentioned the sentiment in America in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and joked about how the comradery lasted, in their view, about three weeks. I lived near the Pentagon at the time, and I too recall that too-brief change. It was a throwaway remark, but the podcasters’ comments got me thinking. From a business perspective, how can we be intentional about preserving the positive changes to company practices that have come out of COVID-19 disruption? How do we avoid bouncing back to old ineffective habits as the country opens back up?

We have started a new initiative here at MDM, expanding our 4th annual Sales GPS conference into a larger project, the MDM 2020 Sales Transformation Network, that we intend to take into 2021 and beyond. Members are invited to live, monthly roundtable discussions in addition to the Sales GPS conference, and have access to a virtual sales transformation library and an upcoming members-only discussion forum. (If you would like more information on the network, visit — the next live roundtable will take place on Tuesday, June 16). 

In preparation for the live roundtables, we survey participants to assess their sales challenges in order to tailor the discussion to their needs. A topic that comes up over and over again is behavior change management, particularly for sales team members who may have grown a little too comfortable with decades of doing things the same way — and bringing in a big commission in the process.

As Distribution Performance Project’s Al Bates points out in the conclusion to his three-part series on financial improvement measure in a down market, “An Action Plan to Improve Long-Term Performance,” payroll as a percent of sales has been trending upward for the past decade. Sales force payroll makes up about one-third of distributors’ overall payroll. 

It makes financial sense for distributors to focus on efficiencies in the sales area of the business when examining which practices from the COVID-19 shutdowns to carry into the future. For example, how necessary are those expensive road trips for in-person customer visits? Why can’t we blur the lines between outside sales and inside sales duties and create a more cohesive accountability system for the sales department in the process?

I encourage you, before your business shifts too far back to the way things were, to take some time to write down what’s worked well for you during these past few months and make an intentional plan to carry those efforts forward. 

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