2022 is turning out to be a very different year. The fenestration sector finds itself in a very different set of economic circumstances, and winning sales up and down the supply chain actually requires effort once again.

We knew that the boom from 2020 and 2021 would end at some point. So why were sales staff sacked? Why create such a rod for one’s own back?

Sales staff fundamental

What we witnessed in 2020 and 2021 was rather bizarre. No one could genuinely have seen what was coming. So much business was being done since the lifting of the first lockdown that the reality was no one really had to try. Everyone became order takers.

That is obviously not our normal environment. Couple that with ongoing Government support such as bounce-back loans and furlough, the industry was bringing in a lot of money. So you could be forgiven for thinking why some companies thought it was a logical decision to cut back on some, or even all, their sales staff. Money was flowing in with minimal effort, and many people were still working from home. The need for a regular roll call of sales staff wasn’t there.

To have that mindset towards sales staff during that period was very short-sighted. Everyone knew that the upswing in business would not last forever. As with all cycles, when something goes up, it always comes down. Usually, the bigger the upswing, the larger the downward fall, as we are seeing now.

We’re now in a very different place as a sector compared to just 12 months ago. Supplier emails are back in full swing touting for new business. Remember when suppliers were actually rejecting any new business? Fabricators and manufacturers are now actively looking for new work again, and guess what you need to be able to do that: sales staff.

Whether you’re a fan of them or not, sales staff are always a fundamental part of any business. Whether it’s in installation, fabrication, at systems companies and all others in the supply chain. They are the ones that make the calls, send the emails, drive the hard miles and most of the time get rejected. They do a lot of work to achieve a small conversion rate. But without that work, no new business gets done at all. Yes they have a high wage bill, probably a company car and some have an expense account, but they’re worth the investment. Especially the good ones who bring in good business on a regular basis.

Starting from behind

2022 now poses a rather challenging outlook for those who cut back on their sales staff. I would wager most of the sector is now moving back into a phase of trying to find new work to maintain the growth that many have experienced over the last two years. Guess who is going to be on the front foot in that race? The ones who kept their sales department!

Those who cut back on their sales staff are now going to be firmly on the back foot compared to their competition who chose to keep investing in their sales staff. There will be some companies out there who will now need to recruit new staff to be able to get new sales funnels up and running. The problem is that takes time. It can take 6 months to advertise a position, find the right candidate or candidates, train them, and learn the product suite proficiently before they can begin to make an impact. By which time, the opposition in the market may well have made significant enough gains at your expense.

Tough times are coming, indeed, they are already here. We are now seeing an increasing number of industry casualties, both large and small. We did not see that during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Rampant price inflation is making profit margins hard to maintain, and there is general inflation and a cost of living crisis which is causing large portions of the public to cut back on spending.

The very messengers a company needs in this environment, the sales team, are one of the most important assets right now. To think that so many have been shelved in the last two years because business was good at that one moment in time is a critical error in my mind. The companies who maintained their staffing levels throughout the last two years stand to perform the best during this next economic period and could well find themselves swallowing up more market share very quickly.

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