COVID-19 Crisis: VARs Adjust Sales Approach During Pandemic

by Jim Roddy, VP of Sales & Marketing at the RSPA 

To help retail IT VARs effectively deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the RSPA reached out to several reseller members requesting insights on sales best practices related to this crisis. Specifically, we asked: What sales activities are you engaged in during the COVID-19 pandemic? How have you changed your approach to engaging with merchant customers and prospects?

Our community responded generously (and quickly!) with several executives sharing helpful information. For some of these responses, I’ve redacted company names to protect the anonymity of the writer, and I lightly edited comments for length and clarity. I also included the company headquarters in parentheses because of the various state-by-state restrictions currently placed on businesses.

Scott McClannahan, Simple POS Solutions (Erie, CO): We are working with some specific initiatives provided by our processor, Shift4, to help restaurants through this challenging time. We have a team of “cold-callers” just focusing on getting the credit card processing and online ordering business for now. Also, we added Facebook and Google Advertising to try to “reel in” those that are looking for solutions.

Rick Feuling, RITE Enterprises (Sartell, MN): We’ve been laying the groundwork for integrating buy-online, pickup-in-store in our app for a long time. It’s never been a top priority for us because it wasn’t top-of-mind for the majority of our users. It is now. Three weeks ago, we made a decision to redeploy all of our resources to getting this done. We’re a couple weeks out from having it ready.

Andrew Faulkner, Staley Technologies (Little Rock, AK): We’ve been focusing on wireless tech with our hospitality clients along with tablets to help them speed up the drive thru and curbside pickup orders. We’ve also been doing some online ordering sales. Nothing beyond that. I’ve instructed there to be no sales calls to them at this point. Just reach out to see how we can help. Let the conversation take you to the wireless, online ordering, etc.

Anonymous VAR Executive: Staff is working on closing our existing pipeline of businesses that are under construction, places still intending to open when the pandemic clears. We offered our services at a discount to close by the end of the month and are evaluating extending that into April. We are offering online ordering and electronic gift card to all customers that do not have those services installed – services at no charge and the applications at no charge for 90 days. Our approach at this time is solely, “How can we help?” If there is interest from someone that wants to discuss ways we can help, we are offering a way to implement a partial system with the necessary items (like OLO and gift) to get them through this time with a COVID-19 functional system. The idea is that we will revisit the rest of the POS when things open back up. The focus on this type of transaction is to help customers limit their touch points with their customers – payment online so they are not handling the credit card and there’s no signing a receipt or tablet at pick up.

Tim Shein, King Business Services (Richmond, BC): We are actively reaching out to our customers to reassure them that we are there for them at every turn. “We have you covered!” We discuss and present the e-commerce/online store solution for curbside pickup and delivery, and we are also providing a solution for thermal-reading cameras. We are outlining the need to possibly increase mobile, lane busters, or portable lanes for grocery and farm markets. We are messaging out that we are there for them to let technology take off the burden of some tasks. Whatever form that takes, we can help. We are challenged reaching out to new prospects given everyone is narrowly focused on staffing levels, reduced volume due to minimum amount of people allowed in store, and reduced supply chain fulfillment (at this point). Limited in reaching new targets and segments, for the time being. Still will be communicating to them our capability, even if they cannot act now. “Keep us in mind.” No in-person calls or visits, just if augmenting any support calls.

Paul Leduc, Globe POS (Brampton, ON): We converted a lot of our sales to cashier’s shields and online ordering platforms. That keeps our sales busy, but we also service essential services like convenience stores and grocery, so our sales of equipment is very concentrated in that environment now. We also contacted closed retail locations to let them know now is the best time for an installation as no one is there. This does not apply to the restaurants (because they are not engaging in any spending) but more like hospital gift shops, government operations, and factory stores. We concentrated on them and received some limited sales success.

Anonymous VAR Executive: Mostly remote sales through Go To Meeting, phone, and email. Some sales calls have been made with locations that are closed to the public.

Brady Nash, BNG Team (Fargo, ND): A big part of our business is tech/MSP-type companies and we are seeing an influx of new customers as they all now need to be able to take e-check and credit cards. The few that were holding off, now it’s a requirement if they want to keep cash flow coming in. So, our focus has been helping as many merchants as possible and helping them with new invoicing and bill-pay tools. Our hospitality customers are getting crushed as everyone in that space is. We are doing everything we can to enroll customers that didn’t already have online ordering set up. We are waiving fees related to this. We are deferring our support contracts in certain situations or reducing the fees. We have bought the whole company lunch now twice and delivered the meals to the homes and bought them all $50 gift cards to support whatever local business they want to support. We also started the ND Smart campaign to support local businesses in North Dakota (

Travis Hare, DCR Systems (Nashville, TN): Our sales activities have been obviously slowed because of the pandemic, but we are using this opportunity to increase engagement between the sales team and their existing client base. Our sales team has called each one of our clients just to see if there is anything we can do to help. We are great at making sales, and great at solving problems, but not great at following up. Hopefully this is something we can change for the better going forward. We are also utilizing this time to kick around new ideas for how to blast out of the gates whenever our restaurant clients can reopen. Now is the opportunity to push for contingency sales, or sales based on what a platform can do versus what it cannot. We are going to be able to ask questions about how their current system was able to ease their burden of having to close their doors and show how our partners were able to keep more businesses running. It’s like watching a fuse slowly burn.

Anonymous VAR Executive: We are cautiously approaching any leads that were in the funnel prior to the stay-at-home order for fear of coming off offensive. We are taking a “number one top priority” approach to customers that have increased sales such as grocery markets and meat markets that must focus on taking payments as quickly as possible. We are also focusing on mobile solutions that minimize contact between customers and staff. We are minimizing customer contact to an as-needed basis. We were blessed enough to have a new sales lead come in and this will be a face-to-face demo.

Brad Lucas, Lucas Systems (Greenville, SC): Our team is focused on having honest conversations with our clients around how we can help them during this difficult time. Our integrated delivery option is highly sought after and we are assisting customers with add-ons such as tablets for those operating drive-thru restaurants. Our team is working closely with our finance partners to bring options for our customers to bring in the technology they need now offering things such as deferred payments and no penalty for early pay-off. All options are on the table. This is the time for creativity in all things we do to take flight.

Andrea Medina, Business Cents (San Anselmo, CA): We are currently working diligently with our partners to provide support resources in digital platform models that will help enable small businesses to better forecast and model in these uncertain times. One example is the LivePlan/Quickbooks program integration. In conjunction, we have been offering webinar content to better illustrate the many tools within these digital resources, guiding businesses toward better financial/operational planning.

Cory Sosnovske, Star Business Machines (Stevens Point, WI): We have continued to sell new systems during the COVID crisis, however rather than our usual bars and restaurants, we have had more interest from retail and grocery. I have had demos for restaurants postpone and one restaurant I offered to start the SaaS billing 60 days after go-live to keep the sale moving forward. I have also had some prospects for online ordering which are a direct result of the pandemic.

Jeremy Julian, CBS NorthStar (Irvine, CA): We are mostly connecting with clients and seeing what we can do to help their business. Sometimes that means they will purchase some labor, implement new portions of their system previously not turned on, get mobile payments, etc. At times, it’s just being human and commiserating with the clients. Less sales-driven, but we have always been consultative salespeople.

Ben Williams, TouchMate (Austin, TX): Virtually 100% of businesses in our primary market (theaters) are closed. There is concern that the smaller, independent operators will not be coming back. We are using this “pause” to plan and enable expansion into additional markets that are shoulder markets to our previous targets as well as other retail and some unrelated markets (health care, education, etc.). We have been thinking of this for a couple of years but have never been able to devote the resources to acting on that goal. This work includes a new business plan, marketing entry tactics, updating product collateral, and refreshing our web site. We aren’t forgetting our customers or prospects. We have a program of direct contact and discussing their plans for once we are through this pandemic and business can reopen. I thought that would be a futile effort, but I was wrong. We got an order last week for a customer’s new location that will open in September. Business is still alive.

Steve Silberman, MPI Point of Sale (Millville, DE): During the current health crisis, MPI has taken a multi-pronged approach. We are continuing our normal sales activities, offering mobile point of sale, payment processing, and payroll services. Secondly, we are focusing on helping our new and existing customers find solutions to keep orders and payments flowing into their businesses. We are leveraging our ISV partners’ online ordering and e-commerce solutions to solve that issue. Lastly, we are re-engaging with our non-processing customers to work with them to save on their processing fees during this difficult economic time. Of course, we are using traditional phone sales and e-mail marketing strategies more frequently than before. Using programs such as Zoom, we are also engaging in video calls as face-to-face interactions are extremely limited.

Danny Hernandez, Global Business Technologies (Mission, TX): We had several clients call us wanting to move forward with proposals we had submitted pre-pandemic. We are not pursuing new deals because our county and adjacent counties are on lock down.

Gord Doerksen, Ideal POS (Winnipeg, MB): Our sales strategy is merely to reach out to existing customers and help them through the tough times. We are attempting to help them with contactless payments, online ordering solutions, and upgrading any POS components that require them to be down (so this is the perfect time).

Arthur Rosenbaum, NHCR (New Haven, CT): All our restaurants are closed except for take-out. We are focused on just responding to the few calls we get every day, and also selling a tablet for curbside orders and OLO integration. Nothing else is happening.

Dale Seefeldt, Anthem Business Solutions (Tulsa, OK): With 70% of our business coming from restaurants, we have next to no sales activity. We are reaching out, however most customers are focused on staying in business and not buying.

Bob Foster, Infinity POS (Traverse City, MI): There is very little “sales” activity going on here in Michigan. Most of the calls I’m fielding are customers who want to turn off subscriptions or are going out of business totally.

Jacob Bilton, Value Systems (Myrtle Beach, SC): In the midst of the “Corona Crazy Time” I am trying to do several things to keep growing and progressing in the right direction.

Deals that are in motion: We had just begun picking up the pace, and things were starting to grow as we expect for this time of the year. I’ve tried my very best to be a promoter of keeping a positive train of thought with our customers. The glass is more than half full. We’ve kept some deals and others are coasting and waiting to see just how long this thing is going to last.

Online ordering: We want to create sales where we can; however, we want to be sure we are not perceived as putting profit in front of concern for our customers. We’re not quitters, and our customers should not be either. As a trusted advisor you have to carefully help customers help themselves sometimes, even when they are afraid to take off the training wheels. Online ordering can work well in most cases with optimistic owners that want to keep the wheels turning and who are also thinking into the future. In the current situation, owners can train their customers to use the one-way street into getting their goods. Once business gets back to normal, this will be an additional source for creating revenue without involving someone on the phone to take an order. We have some customers taking advantage of this, but not as many as I would expect.

Candidates for the future: There are towns close by with restaurants in the middle of construction, and those owners will need a point of sale once we get back to normal. I find these opportunities via the web and the food sections of websites for that area. Charleston, S.C. is a good example. You have limited ways of contacting owners, but most of these owners have a Facebook page, and through that you can message them. Hopefully this will encourage them to look further. You also never know when an owner may pass your information on to someone else in the business, so no effort is in vain.

Polishing up: As a salesperson I need to know the products we offer. The better I know them the more I bring to the table. I want to bring polished silverware to the big meal. In this slower time, I am looking over products we currently offer to sharpen my skills.

For additional VAR/ISV insights and best practices related to the coronavirus pandemic, visit the RSPA COVID-19 Resource Center here.

Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Marketing for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. For more information, contact