Like many businesses in the United States, members of the Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) international trade consortium found itself deeply challenged when the global pandemic disrupted business in early 2020. HTSA’s Board of Directors and leadership developed a strategic plan of action to help the entire HTSA membership get through the challenging impact of COVID-19 from a health and business perspective.
Keeping Members Focused on Evolving Business Opportunities
There was a bit of a fear factor in the early days of COVID, as everyone struggled to understand the coronavirus, its nature, its impact, how to adjust operations in the face of the ever-changing recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and a plethora of state and local health officials. So early on, HTSA leadership sought to address these concerns and keep members focused on their businesses.
“In the early meetings, we helped members move beyond the risk of being frozen by fear and helped them see that in any time of change, there is opportunity,” said Executive Director HTSA, Jon Robbins. “HTSA consists of member companies who are all the best-in-class tech dealers and integrators in their markets. We suggested they seize the day by looking at this event not just as a new set of challenges, but also as a unique opportunity – for example – to step up talent acquisition.”
The Incredible Power of Dynamically Responsive, Real-Time Content Creation
Over the last few years, HTSA leadership has expanded their management roster to include expert heavyweights Tom Doherty, HTSA’s director of new technology initiatives and Keith Esterly, HTSA’s chief learning architect. The presence of these full-time expert resources gave HTSA’s leadership the ability to create new tools to better serve members.
Accordingly, both Esterly and Doherty, were continually creating new, original content and materials that were regularly updated and distributed in real time, as the circumstances in the field were dynamically changing.
Key Initiatives by HTSA Leadership to Help Members Excel in a COVID Environment
HTSA created several initiatives to assist its members in achieving greater success in a COVID-19 impacted economy. These initiatives included:
Talent Acquisition Initiatives – In the early stages of the pandemic, HTSA leadership recognized the opportunity presented to address one of the biggest challenges faced by all tech industry dealers and integrators – a severe labor shortage. The organization’s Keith Esterly developed a powerful set of tactics based on his relationship science course to help members optimize recruitment practices to reach out to the many newly available top candidates furloughed by other less fortunate operations.
As a result of this talent acquisition initiative, most HTSA members have experienced a net increase in manpower since the beginning of the pandemic.
Outbound Sales Program – A custom sales training program was assembled by both Doherty and Esterly, creating all-new sales strategies for members whose showrooms had been ordered closed by their local governments during the initial phase of the pandemic. In online video meetings, Tom Doherty showed members’ sales teams “how to get your house in order” by reviewing past client and project data to mine for new opportunities for service, system and technology updates, and new add-ons.
Esterly shared new tactics for outbound sales calls. Based again on his popular relationship science course, Esterly helped members’ sales teams understand the difference between outbound sales calls and cold calls or telemarketing. With a useful and digestible series of actionable steps and ideas, salespeople became comfortable with reaching out to their past client base to re-engage those relationships, offer support, and generate new sales.
This program was extremely successful, as HTSA sales teams discovered that most clients, now living with their systems full-time, were genuinely interested in updating technology, beefing up over-worked networks, or adding new entertainment or home office capabilities.
The ‘Vault’ Centralized Resource and Training Center – HTSA has created a centralized resource for all group-created and vendor-created training and educational resources. The Vault makes one easily accessed resource where members can find all materials from all sources, including videos, e-learnings, webinars, and sales videos. Members no longer need to chase vendors looking for needed training materials. They now simply go to the Vault, and it is all there on demand. The Vault also includes a simplified and consistent graphical user interface, tracks users’ progress, and provides HTSA with data on program completion and accomplishment levels.
Business-level projections for HTSA Vendors – HTSA’s Doherty spearheaded an initiative to regularly collect business-level projections from a large group of members that were then shared with HTSA vendors on a monthly basis. The data was detailed, presented on a rolling three-month basis, and updated each month compared to the previous month’s projection.
The group even broke the data down on a regional basis and held nothing back. This allowed vendors to coordinate their supply plans in accordance with HTSA member-projected needs, as well as to allocate their incoming inventory based on regionally specific requirements.
“The best part of this initiative is that, in addition to gathering the hard numbers data, we also collected their anecdotal comments to add more context and color to the data,” Doherty said.
HTSA’s proactive approach to this dramatically different and constantly changing operating environment challenged management as never before. Thanks to its in-house expert team, a dramatically increased level of two-way communication with the membership, and an outreach to vendors with detailed market data – the entire HTSA universe was able to rise to the challenge and optimize its decisions and actions for the maximum benefit of all.