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Thursday, 23 March 2017 08:03
Published in Experts at work

Sales automation in practice

Written by
... “If you take a high-level view, then the issues are very similar”

Training new staff becomes easy

"For a supplier of underfloor heating systems, it was necessary for college educated employees to receive two months of internal training in order to be able to create quotations. For this internal training, they had a space furnished with a display of all their products. Now that we have implemented Sofon, every new employee can be trained solely by the sales system." Geert van der Weide is a Senior Consultant at Sofon, and is proud of the possibilities to use Sofon for sales training: "A new salesperson only needs a tour of the products; our system guides them through the commercial and technical processes. You set Sofon up as a ‘white box’, not as a 'black box', so you can see what’s happening and what’s being calculated. And that functions as your training."

Understanding the business of the customer

Geert continues: "Originally, I was a construction engineer, and even had my own construction company, so our customers in the construction industry are often assigned to me. But I also do projects with other companies and if you take a high-level view, the issues are very similar. But companies like it when you know their jargon. A concrete supplier who talks about 'overlays' and 'cores' appreciates it when you know what he’s talking about." So, your construction experience comes in handy? "Definitely. I also know the commercial process in the construction industry. Suppliers issue the same quotation to multiple contractors, based on the same specifications, because it regards the same project. You don't come across that in the mechanical engineering industry. And when there are design changes, all the contractors also want to receive an updated quotation based on the agreed-upon discounts."

Focus on the goals of the customer

"I'm a Senior Consultant, which means that I support the implementation when the customer has purchased our software. But we cannot do that implementation on our own; we also need the customer to contribute. In consultation with the customer, I draw up the project plan. I pay attention to the objective they want to achieve and how they envision it themselves. The view of the optimal process grows during implementation and the result is usually much better than the customer expected."

"I'm also involved with prospects who want an explanation or a demo of a mapping between their problems and the Sofon solution. This lets them see whether their problems can be automated with our software and what is needed to do so. If it can't be done, we're honest about it; we can't do everything and we are clear about that. For instance, if they ask for an ERP system, we can't deliver that; there are already plenty of those. But within the commercial/technical domain we have done almost everything that's possible, except maybe web shops: with our system, that would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut."

The flexibility of our system

"Depending on what the customer wants, we can start with a coaching or a hands-on project, but it can also be a combination of both, and this can even change during the project. There are customers who immediately have us carry out the practical work, and there are those who want it to be performed by their own staff so that they can then stay on top of desired changes and expansions. The great thing about our system is that it's very flexible: If you can explain to me the logic in all the situations that can occur, then it can also be modeled in Sofon. During implementation, we often manage to train the customer so that they are able to expand and adapt the system during the operational use of the software."

Looking behind the scenes

"What we at Sofon actually do is automate the activities that knowledge workers carry out in businesses. This allows a larger group of people to independently and flawlessly perform the work that was previously done by a group of specialists. So we make specialist knowledge available to everyone within the organization. Sofon is both a product configurator and a sales configurator. Based on easy-to-answer questions, we can calculate all the possible solutions and determine the most appropriate solution for the customer's situation."
"To be able to do our work, we must take a thorough look behind the scenes of the customer's business, and we need to have access to the necessary technical and functional information to be able to model the process which determines the appropriate solution. If you've been working with a customer for six months, you often know as much or more than the people who work there. And that's great because you're gaining lots of experience and getting to know people. The issues are often the same, but the details are different every time. And that keeps it interesting for me."

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Geert van der Weide

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