“It is up to us what we make of them”

OSRAM is making its sales fit for the digital future. What does this mean for the employees? An interview with Christine Hufnagel, Global Sales Management.

PRISM How is digitalization changing the demands on sales staff?

HUFNAGEL Demands on our sales people are constantly going up: the lighting market will become more transparent and therefore more comparable. This also has an impact on price and the pressure from competition. Our sales staff needs to be better informed and respond quicker to customers – but also recognize market trends early, ideally even before the customer. That’s where the new CRM system can be of big help.

PRISM What are the benefits of the CRM tool for each individual sales employee?

HUFNAGEL Faster and easier access to relevant data – about their customers as well as specific information that simplifies interaction with the customer. They should then be able to display this 360-degree knowledge about their customers using visualization tools and dashboards and compare it with their sales targets.

PRISM Are we soon only going to be busy maintaining and evaluating data?

HUFNAGEL No, definitely not! However, we will have to take a first big step to increase our data quality and consistency and to make better use of relevant data. We can benefit from that in many places – not only in sales, but also in marketing, customer service, the supply chain and other customer-related support functions. We need to change our way of thinking from individual knowledge to team knowledge. Once that is achieved , it will be easier in many places.

“We need to change our way of thinking from individual knowledge to team knowledge.” Christine Hufnagel, Global Sales Management at OSRAM

PRISM Do our common sales virtues still have a place in a digital world?

HUFNAGEL Absolutely! They will remain very important. Personal contact with customers will continue to be the basis of our success. We will build on the experience and good customer relations of our sales staff and will provide them with better tools. The aim is to relieve staff of time-consuming routine tasks so they can focus on supporting customers.

PRISM Standardization and technologization – that sounds like staff reductions ...

HUFNAGEL Certainly not. While we would like to make some topics and processes more efficient, we want to use freed-up capacities for more sophisticated and other activities, both internally and in sales. Also, we need to cope with the increasing workload and time pressure by increasing standardization. Customers can then be supported even better and new customers acquired more easily. This is also in line with the experience of other companies which are already a step ahead here.

PRISM Why is OSRAM taking this digital step only now? Are we behind?

HUFNAGEL There are certainly companies that are significantly better positioned. Especially when it comes to private consumers, digital sales is firmly established. Here Amazon is the measure of all things. But in B2B business, we are in good company as far as the time frame is concerned – and we are not starting from scratch. About three-quarters of our turnover already comes from online orders. And in some parts of the company, we are already actively working with a CRM system. But of course we have to do our homework to not lose touch. This particularly includes creating a uniform basis. So far we have been working with different definitions and master data in the business units. Here it is important to overcome system boundaries and create interfaces – as far as possible.

PRISM How do you ensure that all the employees can work effectively with the new systems?

HUFNAGEL We are planning to offer training programs for various functions and levels – both for the CRM system and for the new OSRAMXchange online platform. In the end there’s also a lot of learning by doing. The functionality of the tools will be further developed and expanded over time, and we can help influence this in an agile development process in line with user requirements – this will give us all the options. It is up to us what we make of them.