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In fenestration, no-one’s life has changed more over the past few years than those who work in sales. In the space of a few short weeks in the Spring of 2020, they went from travelling around the country, having dozens of in-person meetings, to spending most if not all of their working day on Zoom. Iain Britton, Technical & Sales Support Representative at Edgetech, tells us how he’s adapted.
Iain, it’s been a strange couple of years for everybody. How has your job changed over that period, and what have the main challenges been?
I think the single biggest difference was not being able to meet people face-to-face.
In my job, physically going to meet customers has always been the bread and butter of what I do – it’s the same in any sales role.
So the key challenge has been finding ways to continue that close relationship with customers – and also build new relationships – in a situation where everything had to be done remotely.
That’s meant, like everyone, I had to very quickly get used to the world of Zoom meetings, and have spent a lot of the last two years in front of the computer as a result.
There’s never going to be any substitute for face-to-face – and I’m very pleased to be getting back to that – but I think Edgetech as a whole has been able to adapt very well to this new way of doing things, and has managed to continue offering great service despite the challenges.
We’ve used this time to develop new digital selling tools for our customers, and made massive progress on our e-commerce platform which has become a key support tool for our customers.
You spend a lot of your time speaking to IGU manufacturers around the country. What’s your sense of how they’ve coped over the pandemic period?
It obviously varies from business to business, but on the whole I think the sector has coped extremely well.
It’s certainly been one of the busiest periods I’ve ever seen in fenestration, and many of the people I talk to in the industry say the same.
We all think back on the summer of 2020 as a period of enormous disruption – and in many ways it was. But what’s remarkable in hindsight is how quickly the IG sector was back up and running after that first lockdown.
Some of my customers actually didn’t stop at all – they had NHS contracts, which meant they were allowed to continue working. But most of those that did shut down temporarily were back up to standard volumes within 6 to 8 weeks – and from there, demand just rocketed.
Where do you think that demand came from? And is it sustainable?
From the people I speak to, the consensus seems to be that it’s mostly been driven by two key factors – both related to the pandemic.
The first is that since millions of people have been forced to stay at home, many of them have seen their outgoings reduce, sometimes quite significantly – they were spending much less on fuel, commuting, leisure and so on.
As a result, that’s seen many people choose to spend that disposable income in their home instead – something which suddenly seemed like a much higher priority when they were spending most of their time inside.
The second factor is similar. A lot of people save up each year for a holiday, but this year, that’s been off the table – so again, many have invested their money in home improvements instead.
As for whether the sort of high demand the sector has seen through the pandemic will continue – it’s hard to say. I think it’s inevitable it will start to slow eventually. But for now, demand still seems extremely healthy. I’m hearing of some manufacturers who are so busy they’re already quoting well into next year.
I think the IG sector is extremely robust. In fact, we’ve even begun working with some companies moving into manufacturing IGUs for the first time in recent months – which is a clear sign of confidence in the sector’s prospects for the year ahead.
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