Kampmann's Sales Director Stefan Reisch shares his thoughts with us in an interview
We have arranged to hold the interview in Stefan Reisch’s office. Hanging on the wall is a map of Europe and a map of Germany, divided into the individual sales territories. "I often look at the maps," explains Reisch, "they are a good prompt when you want to see everything at a glance." Otherwise his job is mainly digital - or in person.
Mr Reisch, you are Sales Director of Kampmann. When were you appointed to this position?
Then you have now a little anniversary: 15 years – our congratulations!
Thank you! To be more precise, I was appointed as authorised signatory in 2002. Before that, I worked in field sales and did not work in Lingen for 15 years. Most recently, I worked in Berlin until the offer to become Sales Director brought me back to the Emsland.
If I am correctly informed, your sales talent was “discovered” at a trade fair …
Oh gosh, I don't really know exactly where this story comes from. That was even written years ago in KAMPMANN HEUTE ...
… it must be true because that is how it was reported to us ...
… oh I’m not sure if you can say that...the one thing that is true is that I’ve always enjoyed working at trade fairs. And visiting customers. I still enjoy doing that today. Unlike in companies of a similar size, that fortunately continues to be possible at Kampmann: historically at Kampmann, the Sales Director has still been very close to customers and not just pottering about strategically in the background. That’s anathema to me!
And how did you actually start out in Sales?
That developed quite naturally. I started with Kampmann in 1982 as a trainee office clerk. We were much smaller back then, only around 70 or so employees. As an apprentice, I was also "a jack of all trades" and quickly became familiar with the technology. We were allowed to produce simple quotations even as a trainee. At some point, there was a meeting of field sales personnel at the Friedrich-Ebert-Straße site. Everyone was wearing suits and everyone got a new company car – that’s when I thought "Great, you could also do that."
"I’m successful with Kampmann - and vice versa."
Your path was predetermined.
Yes. I switched to Sales in 1987 and was immediately encouraged and taken in hand. Then came positions in Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and then Berlin. And after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I helped to set up our branch in Gräfenhainichen. I have always taken on these challenges with enthusiasm. I have never said "no".
Would you take on a new challenge today if it involved relocating?
Yes of course! I mean, this is a little more difficult today with my family than it was back then when I was still a bachelor. But my family has always supported me. I was married when I went to Berlin and that worked out really well. I would always take on a challenge. There is nothing better than if you are given the opportunity to build something new! The idea still appeals to me today.
Drawing on an analogy with football: rather like Lionel Messi at Barcelona, you have spent your entire "professional career" with Kampmann. Have you ever thought about moving?
I know nothing about football, but yes I suppose I have. I think it was when I was in Berlin that I received a very attractive offer – but I never seriously considered it. The total package simply works for me at Kampmann. This is how I see it: I am successful with Kampmann and vice versa. I contribute to the success of the company – that’s true. But when I sell something to my customer, then everything else has to be right too. The product as such, the technical implementation, the service. If that doesn't work, then I needn’t pitch up to my customer again. That’s often forgotten by sales personnel – they relate success too much to themselves and not to the product and the company’s total package.
You know Kampmann like your own mother. And, in particular, its sales processes. What is so unique about Kampmann’s market environment?
Its different sales systems and working with so many different contacts. From tradesmen, contractors, retailers, investors and architects. It is a conservative industry, its own small world – you always meet the same people time and time again – no one leaves. And Kampmann has found its own niche with its products in this world. We are also regarded as problem-solvers. People come to us when they have run out of options. It is said time again and again that Kampmann makes ventilation for heating engineers, because it’s first and foremost not their expertise. We think more simply than central ventilation equipment manufacturers.
Or trench heating units in conservatories – people more usually think in terms of radiators. However, with our support, we take away any concerns on the part of tradesmen towards other systems.
You’re talking on a much smaller scale ...
But you simply cannot underestimate this. Our 30 or so field sales employees are out on the road to pick up precisely these “small” orders.
And yet Kampmann is to be found in many prestigious large buildings. You are currently supplying trench heating units to China – an order worth €1.6 million.
Yes, we do that too. These projects generally come from consulting engineers, architects and general contractors. We try to get included in specifications through individual solutions and support through our Research & Development Centre with proven outputs. All contacts need to be professionally advised and we need to highlight the benefits with each one. We discuss the look and functionality with architects, the solution and guaranteed functionality with consulting engineers, installation and project management with tradespersons or contractors.
Retails chains and hotels are a further segment of our business. Nowadays we are strongly supported by Key Account Managers in different networks. You might think that Key Account Managers were always on the road to persuade market operators about our products. In fact, that was not the case. That was also handled by our trade partners. And as they got on so well with our products in supermarkets, we were then also accepted by the retail chains. Today, we develop customised concepts with advanced solutions. Of course today we also speak directly to the decision-makers.
So are skilled tradespeople the key points of contact for Kampmann's field sales team?
I always say that as a "brand" we need to, as it were, ‘play the whole piano’. First and foremost, the consulting engineer’s office needs to be informed about the technical possibilities the product offers to ensure that we are taken into account in tenders and projects. Then the heating engineer or contractor needs to be appropriately assisted and supported. This is also done very often in conjunction with the wholesale trade, which plays a key role in maintaining contact and handling orders. And yet each and every single part is relevant in different ways and indispensable for our field sales team. Large projects are usually still managed cross-regionally from Lingen, although often consulting engineers with whom we have direct contact from Lingen are behind these projects. This might be through our Key Account Managers or internal or external sales project managers.
How important are these major projects for Kampmann?
Of course they are also very important. But it is more important to me that our 30 field sales personnel have a constant basic turnover. Nevertheless we are very happy that we have secured three of four current major construction projects. Apart from China, we are also currently working on the Abu Dhabi Plaza in Astana, Kazakhstan. That is the tallest building in Central Asia.
So, the small conservatory in the village of Sprockhövel is just as important as the highest building in Central Asia ...
Yes, basically. We have also a wide range of products and solutions. And even more so now that we are working with NOVA. We are capable of installing one of our projects wherever there is building work. You simply can’t drive past it!
"It’s really directly on the market that I understand what’s going on, where we’re heading and the path we need to take. It is extremely important to look in on our company from the outside.”
Europe-wide, sometimes worldwide: from conservatories to major projects, thousands of current quotations – how do you manage that as Sales Director?
Well, I'm not alone. I have Oliver Kolthoff as Key Account Manager, Jan Matthes as Sales Manager Germany/Austria and Dr. Maciej Danielak as Export Manager with whom I coordinate things very closely. In practice I get sent figures every day. I know exactly what we need as average daily order intake. And I know that I need to take a closer look if the figures are down three days in a row.
And what do you do?
Our CRM system helps enormously. For instance, we have a code that tells me how likely it is that an order will be placed for a particular quotation. I can also see whether the field sales employee is on the case or not. Having said that, I would stress that our field sales team are not just judged in terms of sales. Project support is just as crucial – as are visit reports. Is the field sales person up to date and close enough to the project? – We assess things as a whole.
As you mentioned earlier, you also enjoy being out on the road selling. What proportion of your time do you spend with your head “in figures” and what proportion “out on the road”?
I generally try to spend Mondays and Fridays in Lingen, arrange meetings, deal with office work and so on. Then from Tuesday to Thursday I’m out on the road. I go out with the sales managers and sales representatives and might sit in on association or annual meetings with major customers. But most of all I enjoy negotiating orders for projects, primarily in Germany, from a language point of view. In terms of our foreign language export area, apart from a powerful export department, we also have our own companies and great staff in these countries, so that I can confidently delegate matters to them.
You prefer personal contact, I understand from what you’ve just said ...
Clearly, because I can only get information in one-to-one conversations. Directly on the market I learn what’s going on, where we’re heading and the path we need to take. It is extremely important to look in on our company from the outside.
You have already mentioned your CRM. How relevant are IT-supported processes in Sales at Kampmann?
Enormously relevant! This is one of our particular strengths. And the following has been true since I have been at Kampmann; "Sales personnel’s knowledge belongs to the company.” In the past that meant writing reports on paper as much as possible. Today it means feeding the CRM system. We have perfected this culture of data collection about customers and particularly about projects over the years and there is not a single member of staff that does not go along with it. Or, in other words: If you're not prepared to document your work, don’t even think about joining us. That is an element of our corporate culture that we truly embody.
As you are working more closely with NOVA on the market – do you have a common CRM system/
Unfortunately, not yet. But we are working on it. And the goal must be to ensure that NOVA takes over the process from us. However, this is still a long way to go as our colleagues in Donaueschingen have much more product and technology-related sales than we have, which tends to be more customer-related work. The first step is the introduction of a common CRM system. Then NOVA needs to quickly learn what we have built up over the years.
In the 35 years that you have been what Kampmann, what has been the most decisive change? Digitalisation?
I worked in field sales in the days of telephone boxes and paper maps. Digitalisation offers huge opportunities in our industry. For instance, we now have the first three-stage online shop for our products. Product configurators and design programs online are a given for us. And we were always at the forefront of new systems. So we actually cope well with change. However I regard the lack of skilled personnel in future as a major change. That is something we will need to deal with. We are already struggling to install what we are producing and are already supporting our partners with our own installation and assembly service. A further change will be the concentration of our specialist wholesale partners and their in-house brand strategy. Suddenly our best customer and friend will become our competitor. How should we position ourselves as a brand? And, last but not least, the change in our products towards more ventilation and cooling, involving completely new customers and technical challenges. How do you communicate the necessary knowledge to employees or support them in the sales process?
When it comes to ventilation, you significantly expanded your product range and expertise some six years ago with your collaboration with NOVA. A brief conclusion in this respect?
Absolutely positive! NOVA has been great for us. Our products complement each other perfectly. This can easily be seen with the Hybrid ECO system where we use our units for decentralised hearing and cooling and a NOVA air handling unit for centralised ventilation. The Hybrid ECO system is the most obvious result of our cooperation – and is a unique selling proposition. No one else can offer this configuration of a highly efficient system. But the collaboration has also borne fruit on other levels. There has been a mutual transfer of knowledge, which has advanced both companies. As positive as that sounds technically, we need to pull together more closely from a sales point of view – we’re working on that now.
Photo credits: Elbe Philharmonic Hall @ Maxim Schulz