We are pleased to have a luminary in sales in our interview, Dr. Fischer from ALE Germany. Marcus Klapprodt, Head of Operations, interviews Dr. Fischer who looks back on 23 years at the company and has an impressive CV: He started as an engineer, studied nautical science, and finally earned his doctorate in artificial intelligence. He is also a highly committed Certified Business Coach, a sports enthusiast, and a skilled craftsman.
Dr. Jörg Fischer
Head of Sales Excellence, ALE Deutschland GmbH
Alcatel Lucent, the world's leading provider of network, communications, and cloud solutions, provides services to around 800,000 to 900,000 customers worldwide. Altogether – with all the acquisitions – we're talking about 100 years of innovation in the company.
Marcus Klapprodt: What is the situation currently at Alcatel Lucent – now in the times of Covid-19? How did you structure sales before Corona and how do you structure sales in the current situation?
Dr. Jörg Fischer: It's a challenge for everyone. We have an indirect sales model, which means we work exclusively with partners. We also have a key account organization that looks after important customers directly. Before the Coronavirus, this was very personal through meetings with direct contact. Then a virus came around the corner and cut off all personal contact. We all switched to virtual collaboration instantly, something that wasn't thought possible a year ago. They said you can't support customers via modern media and keep in touch. Now it works. Of course, it was a challenge because it's something different and you certainly have to plan a lot. But the modern means of communication make it possible. It was particularly challenging with our sales support organization, which also uses software from snapADDY. We had to switch the entire team of around 50 people from office to remote working overnight. That was really a challenge!
Klapprodt: What do your customers think about getting only online support now?
Dr. Fischer: Since there is no other way, customer acceptance is very high. Therefore, I personally have to say that the way of video communication is very efficient. It also saves a lot of travel time on both sides. Now I can take half an hour for a nice conversation, as we are doing here now. Otherwise, I would have spent a day on the road. This is now the modern way of customer service.
"Data quality is essential"
Klapprodt: You have a huge team around the globe. In your opinion, what are the critical success factors in sales, or rather, how do you have to organize sales to make it work?
Dr. Fischer: If I knew that, I probably wouldn't be sitting here [laughs]. But I think there are fundamental things in sales, and those are trust and a good feeling. Of course, that can only develop if there's a relationship between me and them. You know the old adage "Relationships only hurt the one who doesn't have them." To develop relationships and be able to maintain them, I naturally need the correct information in my CRM system. Otherwise, it doesn't work.
Klapprodt: That means data quality is also very important to you for making sales effective?
Dr. Fischer: Yes, data quality is of course essential! But it is also one of the most challenging and time-consuming things. If no one has handled a data record for a year, then it is actually outdated. Keeping data up to date and correct is a constant process. It is necessary to be constantly behind and update on a permanent basis. It's not just about maintaining it once, it's a daily doing.
Klapprodt: It sounds like we've rehearsed it because that's exactly the keyword: supporting digital sales. Where do you use snapADDY in your sales process?
Dr. Fischer: We have a back-office support organization with about 50 people around the world. We also support nine different languages and they do exactly what it says – back-office and sales support. In other words, the team takes care of the administrative work e.g., data entry and data maintenance. Beyond administrative work, they also support sales because they also arrange customer appointments, for example. We need our salespeople on the road and not in front of the PC, which is why the organization in the background is extremely important for us. This team works with snapADDY DataQuality precisely because it is super-efficient for keeping the data up-to-date.
Klapprodt: You told me in the preliminary meeting that you also worked a lot with Fabian Streicher and Jack Middlemiss on the customization and individualization of snapADDY products. Which implementation or which special features were you able to implement with snapADDY?
Dr. Fischer: That was one of the points why we finally decided to use snapADDY. It is a standard product with standard features that simply supports all standard applications such as Salesforce and Outlook. But with an extremely high degree of flexibility. After all, I think every company has its specialties in how they maintain the data in their CRM system. Whether it's industry information, decision-making roles, or decision-making people in business processes. This kind of information is individual, and it was quite easy to work with your developers – especially Fabian – to get it right.
Klapprodt: I'm glad to hear that! What was the implementation phase like for you from the beginning until it finally worked?
Dr. Fischer: Let me put it this way: it's more than just implementation because you also have to make sure that it's rolled out. And in the end, making sure that people know how to use it. Our support organization is spread all over the world, so it's not like you can get them all together quickly. That's why it's brilliant that the entire snapADDY organization is web-based – both the administration and the tool itself. More or less, everything is done with a mouse click, which of course makes the whole roll-out much easier. We did two web training on how to use it and then it was already working. It was relatively easy. It only took us two to three weeks from launch to everyone fully using it.
Klapprodt: What do the users say? Sometimes the workforce reacts skeptically and negatively to new software? Now that you have implemented snapADDY, where do you see the added value in practice?
Dr. Fischer: The 50 colleagues use it every day. This year alone, they have used snapADDY to enter 6,300 new companies and almost 13,800 contacts, as well as maintaining 15,000 contacts. To enter this amount of data manually would hardly have been possible. The tool is highly efficient and effective: You basically fill in all the information in the server – including our specially required fields – directly in snapADDY, and it's then transferred directly to the CRM.
Klapprodt: Was there any resistance during the introduction? Or how did you manage to ensure that your colleagues would have to use a new tool from now on?
Dr. Fischer: That was quite easy because snapADDY is so easy to use. It is user-friendly and user safe. In this respect, acceptance has been very high and it still is. We also have regular changes in our 50-strong support organization. When a new colleague arrives, the familiarization process is very quick.
The future of sales
Klapprodt: What will happen now with snapADDY – with or without Covid-19 – in your sales department? What do you think will be the most important topics in sales in the future, in other words, in what direction will sales develop in the future?
Dr. Fischer: If I knew that, I wouldn't be sitting here anymore [laughs]. There is almost nothing that is as dynamic as sales. In my 23 years of experience, I've seen so many sales changes. I think in the end, when you talk about sales these days, you just need Flexibility, Creativity, and Trust. That means you have to be ready to face new challenges with a high degree of adaptability. I believe that snapADDY does and must do this as well. We always have new topics, new requirements, and new thoughts coming. From there, you face the same challenge as we do.
Klapprodt: If you would risk another look into the crystal ball. What do you think are probably the three most important topics in sales that will come our way in the future?
Dr. Fischer: The future has less to do with artificial intelligence because I think the only intelligence that really exists in our brain. What it's all about is transparency, in other words, insight, and knowledge about the processes. I mean, who am I dealing with, what makes these people tick, how decisive are they, what are the main thoughts of the people I am talking to. I think nowadays the topics trickiness and cleverness, and also topics like social competence and emotional intelligence are more and more important. This is because people have less time and want to be addressed more directly than they might have been a few years ago.
We would like to thank Dr. Jörg Fischer for his time and for sharing with us his sales expertise at ALE Germany and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.
The interview was recorded on 10/07/2020 and is available here.