Not only can merchants trial the software online, all implementation, data migration and training can all be done remotely as well, causing less disruption and keeping all parties completely safe.

Fast and efficient Without the clunky installation issues of legacy systems and the need for specialist hardware, installation and implementation can be achieved in much tighter time frames than has been traditional for industry-specific ERP systems.

Traditionally it would take several months from contract to go live. These days, a brand new customer can be up and running in just a few weeks, with far less disruption to the business. One of the most frequent bits of feedback we’ve had is about how easy the system is to use. That was a huge priority for us when we designed it. We even brought in an expert games designer to overhaul the user interface to make it more engaging, target based and simple to use. We are delighted with the feedback we’re getting and can’t wait for more of the market to have a chance to test it out – it’s tremendously exciting.

The future

There’s no doubt that digital is on the rise for merchants, with more and more adding eCommerce or click and collect features, and investing heavily in upgrading websites and digital operations. Ecommerce is providing very popular with merchants and customers alike. But it’s important to make sure the back end of the business can keep up. A system like UT400, which can integrate with leading sector- specific eCommerce platforms like eCommonsense, helps pave the way for that digital journey. Even if digital isn’t on the agenda, merchants are still investing in themselves and seeing the huge benefits of a system like UT400. The time savings on admin alone are phenomenal, and it’s really driving new efficiencies for our customers. We’re delighted with the response it’s getting, and we’re continuing to improve it and add new features all the time. BMJ


THE COVID-19 CRISIS has taken a heavy toll on sales teams across the construction industry, with those fortunate enough to have returned to the workplace post lockdown now facing an entirely new trading environment, one that requires a fresh approach to the art of the sale. Here are five key ways construction product sales teams can adapt to tackle the challenges of a new era…

The existing customer is king

One of the greatest lessons many building product manufacturers and distributors will have learned from the crisis so far is just how important loyal customers are to their business survival. For many players at the smaller end of the scale, without the regular repeat business of a handful of longstanding customers they simply wouldn’t be able to continue trading. Having had their revenue streams disrupted or entirely cut off for months, product manufacturers and distributors, are looking for any advantage they can to protect and ringfence valuable revenue from existing customers as a priority, particularly with fears of a race to the bottom on price emerging in multiple product areas.

A role reversal? In the pre-Covid world, the average field sales executive spent as much as 60% of their time on the road between appointments. Typically, their role might extend no further than preparing for a meeting, travelling to it, securing an order then moving onto the next customer. With little sign of a return to traditional face to face meetings on the horizon,

November 2020

CONSTRUCTION SALES? Joseph Cox, construction industry specialist at sales enablement software provider, sales-i.

this means sales professionals are having to work harder than ever to justify their worth. We expect to see the typical sales role diversify significantly, with more and more individuals expected to assume new administrative responsibilities, develop new tech skills and capabilities and make better use of customer relationship management systems.

Tech upskilling Just as proved the case in the aftermath of the great depression in 2008, we are already seeing sales teams in the sector being pared back to the minimum post lockdown, with those staff that remain typically forced to diversify and do much more with fewer resources. As such, increased tech adoption to help lighten the load seems inevitable. There is particular scope for some of the biggest productivity and efficiency gains among smaller players, many of whom simply haven’t had the motivation or resources to make any sense of the huge amounts of customer data they hold - let alone proactively interpret it to drive better sales. Given the cashflow imperative right across the sector, sales enablement software will be a particularly compelling proposition for many given its ease of adoption and ability to deliver actionable customer sales insights from day one. So many commercial

relationships in the construction space have historically been

conducted face to face over a cup of tea but for many operators, this is simply no longer an option. Managing customer relationships from afar will indeed be a huge change for many, but ultimately an inevitability until a working Covid-19 vaccine becomes available. That means finding new ways to engage with customers on their own terms and thinking creatively to keep customers close and away from the advances of circling competitors.

Embracing change The Covid-19 crisis is reshaping vast swathes of UK commercial life and there will sadly be further pain for construction sector businesses ahead. But as with any crisis, there will be opportunities too. Earlier this summer, the Chancellor announced he would be drawing up plans for a new infrastructure bank to provide significant funding for capital projects up and down the country.

Furthermore, construction is a sector that already has a strong capability to adapt to changing circumstances - latest figures from the RICS show 66% of firms in the sector have successfully implemented business innovations due to impact of COVID-19. This flexibility and

pragmatism will stand the most forward-thinking players in the market in good stead as they look to take advantage of opportunities. Change is inevitable in the post-lockdown world and those businesses that can adapt their operations to changing market demands and dynamics will always be best placed to thrive over the longer term. BMJ


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