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Déjà vu? COVID Impact Part II Podcast and Transcript


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Marketing Insights Podcast

January 17, 2022


Shane Hunt (00:01):

Hello everyone, and welcome to this edition of the Marketing Insights podcast. I'm Shane Hunt, Dean of the College of Business and Michael C. Ruettgers Professor of Marketing here at Idaho State University. And I'm thrilled to welcome my friend and colleague from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Dr. John Hansen. John, welcome the show.

John Hansen (00:19):

Great. Thank you. Thanks for having me again, Shane. I'm glad to be here.

Shane Hunt (00:22):

Well, John, as we start this year, I wanted to kind of do a 2022 kickoff as we get ready. Obviously, COVID continues to be a driving force in the business decisions that we make with the new variance and the rapid spread. As we start 2022, John, I kind of want to go back and look at a few things. One thing that I'm hearing a lot from marketing professionals, especially in sales, is how they've had to make these adaptations to virtual selling. John, you do an amazing job teaching sales at UAB. Can you talk a little bit about some of the things that you're seeing as far as virtual selling and the changes in that area?

John Hansen (01:06):

Sure. Well, obviously virtual selling has really risen in prominence over the last year as salespeople and buyers quite simply have not been in the same physical locations. They've been interacting with each other virtually, and as such, its critically important not only salespeople, but also buyers become adept at managing meetings and ensuring effectiveness even as they meet virtually.

John Hansen (01:29):

I think one of the challenges you do see, and I think it's an area we're going to see a lot of focus on moving forward, is how do you maintain true interpersonal connections as you interact with folks virtually as opposed to face-to-face. Now, I don't know that I necessarily have an answer for that question today, but I do think it's something that's going to become increasingly important as we continue to move forward. I think it's going to be increasingly important because what we are seeing in terms of virtual selling and what we are seeing in terms of the changes in sales are not going away.

John Hansen (02:01):

I've talked to so many practitioners, so many managers, and what I've heard from all of them is that this is the new normal. We're not going back. We understand that we have gained tremendous efficiencies through our ability to meet virtually. We understand that hypothetically, we have a salesperson working in Los Angeles. We don't have to fly them New York for a meeting. They can meet virtually and we're able to save money when we do that. That's not going to go away.

John Hansen (02:33):

The other thing I'm hearing from these folks is that many buyers out there actually prefer this. Buyers also feel as though they can be more efficient through virtual meetings. So it's not only important now that companies and salespeople and buyers be adept at doing this, but it's going to become increasingly important as we move forward.

John Hansen (02:53):

The other thing I'll say is this, and I'm going to veer off topic just a little bit, but I do think the changes we're seeing that have been caused in part by COVID, continue to change sales. I think everyone's aware of the fact that sales has changed so dramatically over the last 10, 15, 20 years in terms of what it takes in order to be successful in sales. The days of the traditional salesperson showing up and just pitching his or her product are gone.

John Hansen (03:23):

I think that's even become more prominent as we've dealt with COVID. These salespeople are dealing with customers now who most certainly need the product, but more than anything they're facing problems they haven't faced before. And what they need from their salespeople is a problem solving approach. It's not about selling products. It's about solving problems, understanding that these products are a part of the overall solution.

John Hansen (03:48):

So I think salespeople, as has been the case over the last 10, 15, 20 years, are just continually transitioning away from that traditional approach where you walk in and talk about a product, whether that product be a physical product or intangible service. And instead, they're having to do a deep dive into the customer business, understanding the problems being confronted by that business, and then utilizing a consultative approach to solve, or at least help solve those problems. That's not going to change either. That's that's here to say.

Shane Hunt (04:19):

No. I sometimes get asked that question, "When do you think things will go back to the way they were?" And I said, "Never." I don't think that they will. And I think we'll do, John, a future podcast episode on something that you mentioned there, which is when I talk to sales executives, marketing executives, the thing that they are most worried about, they love so many parts of virtual selling and some of the new tools we have, but the two things they're most worried about are connection and culture. How do you build a connection with your customers and your clients, and how do you develop that culture within your own marketing organization? I think that's going to be a critical thing as we go forward.

Shane Hunt (04:57):

I also want to ask you, John, you and I both spent a lot of time talking about supply chain management logistics. I joke with professors, I say, "This has been the greatest time in the history of marketing to be able to talk about supply chain, because we're all seeing the importance globally of that." So as we kind of enter 2022, do you have some thoughts about what we're seeing in the supply chain? Some parts have gotten better. Some parts are struggling more than ever. Any thoughts that you have on that?

John Hansen (05:30):

Well, obviously supply chain management and logistics is an area of extreme disruption right now. I think many would say that in business, the most significant effects that related to COVID have been felt when it comes to supply chain management and logistics. And just to take a step back, we all remember that when COVID was first upon us, we saw a lot of panic buying. People were unsure, and I think anytime people face uncertainty and what they perceive to be risk, they are going to buy in that fashion where they go out and they purchase more than they typically do. That certainly disrupted the supply chain and it disrupted the ability to meet demand.

John Hansen (06:10):

We then really transitioned into what I would call a short era of supply and demand incongruence. Basically what you saw there was the way the public was consuming differed dramatically from how producers were typically getting products to market. A good example is, consuming food in the house. We consume a great deal of food out at restaurants. If you have kids, they're consuming food at school. All that stopped. Well, you can't just stop channels of distribution that how are designed to supply food to restaurants and schools in a wholesale fashion, and redirect that to grocery stores overnight. So we saw some real challenges there.

John Hansen (06:57):

We then saw challenges related to, or perhaps seen challenges related to employee welfare, in the sense that you had employees who worked for producers and firms in the supply chain and for supply chain companies who themselves may have been afflicted with COVID or known others afflicted with COVID, or just had concerns about working in their job. And I think we now see some long-term changes that I don't see going away.

John Hansen (07:21):

First and foremost, you see policy change at the governmental level, in a lot of cases. We have countries out there where it's just simply harder to get goods in and out of right now. And has most certainly been the case here in the States, we see labor shortages. I think one of the real significant challenges we find right now is that so many of these firms, many of them being in the supply chain context, they're having a tremendously difficult time finding employees. I saw a stat not too long ago, just as it relates to the trucking industry here in the United States. I think they're short 80,000 truckers. So that's not going to go away.

John Hansen (07:58):

I personally think when you talk about where we are and where we're going from here, that it just highlights the need for communication within the supply chain. When we talk of supply chain management, communication across firms is one of the critical components to it. You just cannot over emphasize the importance of it, trying to relay demand signals as quickly as you can, trying to work with these other companies you're partnering with to ensure they know exactly where that demand is a, trying to forecast. Forecasting has become so difficult in recent months, but it really is the backbone of channels of distribution and supply chain management, and the ability to forecast and get products where they need to be in a timely fashion.

John Hansen (08:39):

So I think we're just going to see more and more emphasis being placed on that. Going back to a previous response, I think there's a problem solving element in there. So these companies and supply chains as a whole, that are best equipped and best capable of solving these problems, are going to be the ones that are ultimately most successful and most capable of meeting their final consumer's needs.

Shane Hunt (09:01):

No, I totally agree, John. And I think your point about communication throughout the supply chain is going to be one of the most important topics and focus areas in 2022.

Shane Hunt (09:11):

John, we're just about out of time. Let me ask you one more question. We talked a little bit about sales and we've talked about supply chain management and a merging of those two, I think, that I see a lot of marketing executives and practitioners struggling with is managing customer expectations. Like you said, there's so many unknowns right now. Do you have any thoughts or tips on that or an idea of where we're going when it comes to managing customer expectations?

John Hansen (09:36):

Well, I think it, as well, is something that's increasingly important, especially in an era when you're talking to situations to where, as a company, you're just not able to fulfill your customer's needs for whatever reason. Perhaps it's an issue with within the supply chain. You have to be open upfront and honest with them. We talk about being candid in communications and that being a real cornerstone of trust development. That's what you have to be.

John Hansen (10:03):

It's interesting, Shane, I have generally found that as demanding as customers can be, if you're honest with them, most consumers are understanding of it. As long as they know what the future holds and you level-set expectations with them, they're okay. When we look at customer satisfaction and customer delight and things of that sort, typically what we find is that consumers, they arrive at these assessments of satisfaction based in part on what they expected going into the transaction.

John Hansen (10:40):

And oftentimes, unfortunately, particularly in the past, what you would find is that companies set expectations too highly or through their communications or whatever it may be. Well, I think what you're seeing now is this realization that we have to be honest with our customers, whether they be final consumers or business customers, about exactly what we're going to be able to do, given the challenges we currently face, thereby level-setting expectation for customers and helping them better understand what they can expect, if they decide to partner with us and purchase from us.

John Hansen (11:12):

I think that's becoming more important than ever, particularly in an era where we have this uncertainty. Again, going back to something we talked about a bit ago, I don't think this is going away anytime soon. It's not as though in a couple of months, we're going to wake up and all this uncertainty is gone. This is the normal we're going to be dealing with for quite some time. So I think it's only going to remain important and become increasingly important that firms are very open and candid in their communications with customers about what they can expect when they interact with the company.

Shane Hunt (11:45):

No, John, I think that's awesome advice. And I thank you so much for being here today on the show. I think all of our listeners and on behalf of John and I, and all of us at the Marketing Insights podcast, we want to wish you a happy new year and we're excited for a great 2022 ahead. John, thank you for being here today, my friend.

John Hansen (12:07):

All right. Thanks, Shane. Glad to be here.

Shane Hunt (12:08):

Thanks everybody. See you next time on the Marketing Insights podcast.


About the Author

Dr. Shane Hunt received his Ph.D. in Marketing from Oklahoma State University where he was a AMA Sheth Foundation and National Conference in Sales Management Doctoral Fellow. Shane's research has appeared in the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, The Journal of Business Logistics and he has been invited to present to numerous organizations including the American Marketing Association and the National Conference in Sales Management. After completing his MBA at the University of Oklahoma, Shane went to work for a Fortune 500 company in Tulsa, OK and spent eight years working as a pricing analyst, product manager, and business development manager overseeing numerous Mergers and Acquisitions initiatives. Shane is now the Dean of the College of Business and Professor of Marketing at Arkansas State University. He is also the co-author of the McGraw-Hill Education text, Marketing, 2e.

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