In sales, having a personal connection is paramount. From a customer’s point of view, it ensures their success to know the right contact person at their supplier and to know what solutions are available to them. Bühler is 10 times bigger than Haas; thus, our fusion means 10 times more contact people, and 10 times more available products – to put it briefly, it’s all very complex. Consequently, the sales teams at Haas and Bühler have restructured their organization together. Global Key Accounts are a huge organizational project that was successfully implemented over the past few months thanks to extraordinary commitment by all involved. Jamie Douglas, Head of Global Key Account at Haas, emphasizes: “This new collaboration goes both ways: sometimes we have better connections to a customer, sometimes Bühler does. We’ve established a great relationship with each other and are working together as partners.”
The first step was throwing former organizational structures overboard. Before, the Key Account Manager would talk to one contact person in the customer’s organization. They served as spearheads for Haas, and business units, technical support and project management rallied behind them. The new sales organization turns this around, inspired by the renowned Management School St. Gallen’s Key Account System. The Global Key Account Manager acts in the background and takes responsibility for the overall strategy. They decide on the strategic direction in agreement and in collaboration with a key decision-maker from the customer side, the so-called sponsor. Next in line: all relevant business units, represented by their respective Key Account Manager, who communicate directly with the person in charge of that business area on the customer side. The advantage of proceeding in this way: more information, direct exchange, shorter chains of command.
A prime example for the new sales organization is the Key Account Ferrero. “This team was supposed to be a template for the whole organization, and we wanted to create rules that are applicable to everyone; we call this a ‘Role Model Template’”, says Jamie Douglas. “Now we’ve got a standard procedure down that shows what Key Account Management is supposed to look like.”
Eight Key Accounts have been identified at Haas – that’s Ferrero as well as Mondelēz and Nestlé, to name but a few. This selection will be questioned regularly, because the effort that goes into setting them up is considerable, and the outcome needs to reflect the investment, Douglas explains: “It is one of the biggest, but also one of the most beautiful challenges to meet all our new colleagues and to really become a team.” This does take a couple of months per group at least. Additionally, each Key Account’s portfolio goes through a screening process to find out whether any other products might fit the customer’s line up. This gives rise to new strategies, such as the presentation of the biscuit sector to the customer. It’s just as important to pay attention to the feedback and the scoring by the customer; where do they see their strengths, and what do they believe to be weaknesses that have to be worked on internally?
Putting organizational theory into practice: what does a normal day for Teresa Gomez, Key Account Manager for Ferrero working from Bühler’s offices in Madrid, look like? “Working globally means communicating a lot, because our success depends on every single person in our team.” All tasks depend on the customer’s needs: from tenders and contract negotiations to product management, organizing events and debugging software, the tasks are different each day. Gomez gets the big picture at a strategic meeting at one of Ferrero’s headquarters in Italy or Germany each month and then talks over her ideas with the Key Account Managers. Vice versa, they also take their ideas to her, because they’re now working very closely with the customer in their respective business units.
Right now, Gomez is focusing on establishing Haas’ image as a flexible partner for Ferrero, someone who understands their needs and who works proactively on suggesting innovative solutions such as the ECO waffle oven. “Sometimes we see things differently, and then we discuss our visions of the best solution for the customer. Working as a team, it’s much easier to assess actions and reactions”, Gomez continues, and her enthusiasm for her work is obvious.
Claudio Tremonti, Key Account Manager for Haas in Gomez‘ team, confirms: „We’re all very passionate about what we do. That made it easy for us to grow together as a team. We all feel like our customer’s ambassador in our company.” Thus, workshops to standardize machines according to the needs of customers like Ferrero are being planned. This is the only way for tenders to hold their own and to guarantee quick delivery times.
When the new way of organizing Key Accounts was presented to Ferrero, their reaction was extremely positive, says Tremonti: “Ferrero is enthusiastic about their dedicated contact people and, going forward, want us to work together using this system.” They appreciate that Haas and Bühler have taken this big step, adds Gomez: “When a customer is able to source everything from one single place, it makes life easier for them. The reason for Key Account Management being this successful is setting a customer up with the right contact person and the right solution.” Big food companies want to reduce their number of suppliers after all. Since the fusion of Haas and Bühler, they can buy their production lines from one single provider, from the milling of grains and nuts to the processing of chocolate as well as machines for baking and cutting.
The success rates of this joint approach are measurable already: the Ferrero team has been able to land orders that are much larger than what was expected.
Another advantage is bundling communications, which is very helpful when negotiating with international customers for example. They compare offers to other countries and other continents, of course – with the new organizational structure, an internal agreement is guaranteed before the offer leaves the company. It will also be easier to react to problems immediately, says Claudio Tremonti, and this, once again, shows how committed to their work everyone is: “Our customers can now talk directly to the Key Account Manager of the responsible business unit. If it’s really urgent, I’ll even call Teresa on the weekend, and we’ll both be happy to find a solution as quickly as possible.” By reacting quickly and directly, the escalation of often minuscule complaints can be avoided.
The present is just as exciting as the future: digitalization is becoming more and more important, and Haas and Bühler are trying to score with new technologies such as IoT (the Internet of Things). To deal with these demands, we need a global team that works together on ideas as to how to best support customers. To give just one example, sensors that allow machines to communicate with each other are being developed; that way, the moisture content of flour could be compared with the recipe, and if it’s too high, less water could be added to optimize the baking process in real time, explains Gomez, who knows where this road is leading: “That’s the future, and we want to help our customers become leaders of their industry.”