Lightning-fast digitization in the electrical industry - Digital Forum of Industry 2020 (Part 3)

A look back at our Digital[IN] - Digital Industry Forum 2020. The hour of the electrical industry.
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Digitalize successfully? The electrical industry in Germany is one step ahead of some people. For example, more and more companies are relying on system solutions, which not only ensure that companies have a unique selling point, but also strengthen customer loyalty. The year 2020 brought with it a number of challenges, especially when it came to lead generation. Which sales approaches and alternatives to analog sales discussions are now in demand and what strengths digitalization has were the topics at Digital [IN].

1. Sell system solutions digitally and globally – data-driven. Successful. Scalable.

“B2b sales is broken,” is the bold thesis of Carsten Dolch, the CTO of FoxBase. In his keynote “Sell system solutions digitally and globally – data-driven. Successful. Scalable.” With his thesis, he alludes to traditional sales in the analogue business. Previous business models are difficult to implement today. Carsten Dolch explains why this is the case using a simple example: A few years ago it was enough to use product advantages and differentiations from other companies as a sales argument to mark your own competitive advantage. And today? Today, potential customers can obtain information across national borders and compare products with one another. What follows from this is that B2B sales are having major problems increasing their sales, especially in the current times, because the reasons for buying from before no longer apply. Significantly higher market competition and the increase in sales channels, which are no longer limited to analogue door-to-door sales, make it extremely difficult for sales to convince potential customers of their product. In addition, the system landscape has become significantly more complex. Without their own IT department, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to keep up. So new and digital sales approaches are needed. Using system solutions as an example, Carsten Dolch outlines how companies can use digitalization to leave their competitors behind.

Strengthen customer loyalty through system solutions

One path that many, but still few, companies in the electrical industry have chosen is the path to system solutions. As a unique selling point, they no longer just sell products, but rather systems. The goal: value creation and better customer loyalty. Not only is a product being sold once, which can possibly be purchased with similar quality from another provider, but also the company's own service. One positive effect that companies achieve from this is strengthening customer loyalty. In other words: Your own hardware is equipped with your own software. This means you can avoid being copied by others, gain more flexibility in pricing, strengthen customer relationships and receive valuable data in order to continually develop your own product. An all-round smart affair. But what does it take for such a smart product to be sold successfully?

Successful sales approach when introducing system solutions

After the development and introduction of the new system solution, a sensible sales approach and marketing are needed, which explain that systems are no longer being sold, but rather systems. For a successful rollout, it is important that sales are supported. On the one hand, it is a challenge for the sales employee to familiarize himself with the new system and, on the other hand, the customer needs more support in putting together the right system, especially at the beginning. A self-service portal is a solution that makes sense for both sides. A solution based on data. Modern sales approaches can no longer avoid working without data, or it would be a major disadvantage compared to the competition. The usable information does not necessarily have to be personal data. No, just the opposite. It is much more interesting for companies to be able to identify trends early on using the stored, non-personalized information. “Data,” says Carsten Dolch, “should be viewed as the blood of digitalization. If the system is low on blood, it cannot work efficiently.”

Best practice using the example of ifm

To illustrate this, he shows the ifm selector for the appropriate all-round protection for fans, i.e. system solutions. Although ifm has a very good supply chain, they were able to identify problems in sales and customer service. System solutions like those from ifm require a lot of explanation, which poses numerous challenges for sales. ifm chose the Digital Product Selector from FoxBase, a software solution for the digitalization of sales. The goal: A web interface for customers and sales employees to quickly and easily find the right system solution. The whole thing was ultimately implemented as a cloud service. The Digital Product Selector uses a needs analysis to calculate a suitable recommendation, which is then sent to the shop. The software solution is used by both customers and sales, because the website is also an important source of information for your own employees. The ifm selector is now active in various languages.

The role of data in digitalization

In the end, everything always works in cycles. For example, an informative website not only supports the customer, but also your own employees and is therefore an important part of a good sales approach. With the software solution from FoxBase Not only are sales employees and customers supported, but ifm also receives exciting insights about market trends and customer behavior, which makes further optimization possible in order to react quickly to changes in the market. In order to sell system solutions successfully and worldwide, it is helpful to understand customer requirements, collect data, understand purchasing behavior and use the full potential in the sense of transparency. The quantitative feedback makes it possible to optimize product development in order to be on the market more quickly. The end result of digitization ultimately leads to a high quality of the request. Digitalization can be a very long process. Solutions like the Digital Product Selector can be implemented quickly, but do not cover all company processes. The topic of the following panel discussion was how B2B companies deal with marketing and sales these days and which sales approaches will be in demand in 2020.

2. Marketing and Sales are currently blowing fuses? How companies compensate for the loss of trade fairs and which sales approaches are now in demand.

In 2020, B2B companies face major challenges. The analog sales conversation no longer takes place and lead qualification is becoming increasingly difficult. We asked in our panel discussion: “Marketing and sales are currently blowing fuses? How companies compensate for the loss of trade fairs and which sales approaches are now in demand.” Robert Jänisch from IOX discussed the challenges (or perhaps opportunities?) of digitalization in 2020 together with Thomas Güld from SMARTS Engineering, Thomas Hollwedel from aconno and Martin Veitleder from Zeppelin Systems.

Corona as an accelerant in digitalization?

“What has changed most for you? Is Corona an accelerant?” are the central questions of the discussion. Yes and no, these are the answers. The advantages are obvious: Digitalization simplifies sales by making business trips unnecessary, and sales apps make it possible to quickly have all relevant information about the product portfolio and customers at hand. Nevertheless, the loss of trade fairs is noticeable because lead acquisition has decreased significantly. A good pipeline and lead database from the past year is now worth its weight in gold, especially for smaller companies. In addition, sales approaches have to be rethought, because analogue customer conversations hardly take place anymore. The alternative of being able to hold meetings via web conferences is a great option, but it also has its limits because conveying your company's competencies via video is more difficult than at trade fairs. So it requires more convincing. On the other hand, conversations take place much more quickly on a first-name basis, because after all, people talk more often in the home office and thus share personal insights into their private homes.

Online content and networking are more important than ever

But how can companies compensate for the loss of trade fairs? The panel discussion participants agree on one thing: Sales is oriented more towards marketing. Everything is taking place online this year. What helps is primarily online content and an informative and attractive website. Potential customers are increasingly looking for solutions online, which is also reflected in the increase in inquiries via the company's own website. But networking is also taking on a whole new meaning and importance – not only for customers, but also for industry partners. There is more focus on customer loyalty, because today you no longer want to sell your product, but you also want to have your “product 2.0” sold directly. A “good partnership,” as Thomas Güld describes it, ultimately brings both people forward.

Which sales approaches in the electrical industry are future-oriented

The current situation brings joy and sorrow to the electrical industry at the same time. On the one hand, customers withdraw orders and on the other hand, more money flows. Never before has it been so urgent to be able to capture data digitally. Digital solutions are creating added value right now because they help you work faster, more focused and more customer-specific - even from your home office. The discussion once again made it clear that traditional sales approaches need to be reconsidered. At the end of the panel discussion, Robert Jänisch asks the question: “Sales in the future means to me…?”

Thomas Hollwedel: “…more digital, but also more personal communication and more targeted offers.”

Martin Veitleder: "... for me as a field worker, the customer's wastepaper basket is spared, he gets what he wants, tailored to his needs, proper reports and proper documents and there is no data garbage in his mailbox."

Thomas Güld: “… completely paperless and a shorter sales cycle from the inquiry to the offer and project execution.”

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