by Evelyn Morrison
Today’s Emergency Services world is increasingly complex. Changes brought on by climate, migration and other factors have led to increased strain on departments who face increasing threats from fire, disaster and everyday emergencies. More countries are in need of more gear and equipment, as cities across the Global South grow in size, population and economic activity. At the same time, products are increasingly sophisticated and technologically advanced as global best practices evolve.
This combination of increased need and complexity has led to pressure on the old ways of doing business – which in many ways seem inadequate to the challenges of today. The good news is that the adoption of new practices points the way to a future of sales and service in our sector, one that will put manufacturers and expert consultants more closely in touch with more departments in need of service.
Traditionally, the Emergency Services sector has been a close-knit community focused on larger, better-resourced countries. Sales, training and the sharing of best practice have been, to a meaningful extent, based around a series of in-person events: large global or regional conferences in the US and Europe, training through international academies and sales done face-to-face with sales representatives.
Reaching the fast-growing nations of the Global South largely through face-to-face channels, however, is expensive and has always been a struggle. It’s the classic chicken-and-egg problem – companies selling mostly in wealthier nations know those markets well. They focus on those markets. They design for those markets. And when you count the cost of travel to Africa or Latin America as two examples, the barriers add up, meaning that many markets – including some very promising middle-income countries like Kenya – go underserved.
Nowadays, simply outsourcing these markets to local sales agents is often inadequate. Agents need to be able to keep up with product lines, putting new products in the context of a department or country’s broader Emergency Services needs. They need to be dynamic – quite challenging if your responsibilities cover multiple nations and thousands of kilometres. And word from the field is that typical sales agents aren’t getting the job done often enough. ‘We want to make smart purchases that will safeguard our team and the civilians we are charged to protect,’ said GESA Advisory Council Member Fire Chief Itote Waruhiu of Kenya Airports Authority. ‘We need truly knowledgeable salespeople who can articulate info about their product set and work with us to make those key decisions.’
However, there is good news for reaching underserved countries at scale, and two GESA Board Member companies are leading the way.
To address the needs of the firefighting community, apparel and training leader LION created the LION Fire Academy, an online training and information resource designed to teach practitioners and fire students about PPE and best practices for gear use. Both sales representatives and departments can participate in training courses, raising the knowledge of everyone in the sales ecosystem and increasing trust between departments, sales reps and manufacturers.
Boot manufacturer HAIX has leveraged the power of videoconferencing in global sales and has developed a system of virtual meetings combined with shipped samples to help them to reach additional countries and complete more remote sales from start to finish, including in countries where they haven’t worked extensively in the past. ‘With this method, we can reach more buyers around the world, quickly, without sacrificing their need to handle the product before purchase,’ said GESA Board Member Elfriede Elfinger, Vice President of HAIX North America. ‘Although in-person product presentation is an effective way to introduce and sell gear, it is not always possible or easy to travel to the customer site, especially those in emerging markets. Remote sales help solve that challenge and are the future for turnout gear.’
Without question, the whole landscape for sales in Emergency Services is evolving. In-person learning and a personal connection to sales will always be a part of the sector, of course, but the COVID crisis has shown us that we can do more – virtually – to create connection between manufacturers and new markets. Platforms like Zoom, Teams and Google Meet can help agents stay informed and serve their markets better. And virtually, global leader companies can create new, low-cost ways for emerging markets to ‘get on the sales map’, shortening the sales cycle. The old way of doing business is changing. The Global South is ready. It’s time to leverage all the tools so our sector can serve more people in need.
GESA (Global Emergency Services Action)
GESA is an international non-profit founded in 2020 by leader companies in the Emergency Services sector. GESA is a coalition of companies, consultants and practitioners working together to change the future of the global Emergency Services marketplace. We are currently developing our flagship platform – the GESA Equipment Exchange – a web-based tool that will connect Global South departments with manufacturers, consultants, trainers and suppliers to tie donations to a sustainable, longer-term pipeline of sales and service. For information, membership inquiries and more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.