How Digital Transformation Is Dramatically Affecting Business Development
Qymatix Expert Interview: Quo Vadis Business Development?
Iris Maaß – Manager for International Business Development & Marketing BU Technology TÜV NORD GROUP
Ms Maaß, please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am married and live in my adopted home Hannover. I started my career in the baking industry. Afterwards, I got a diploma in language, economic and cultural studies in Passau. With this, I worked in various location in international sales in telecommunications before reaching the Testing Inspection Certification (TIC) unit of TÜV NORD.
There I started building the first sales operations back in 2002, accompanied the development of test services in Asia and India. Today I work for the marketing-oriented business development unit of the TÜV NORD CERT Business Unit Technology.
Digital innovation with a human aspect drives us. What drives you in your job?
Oh, big questions right at the beginning! For me, the most critical aspect is the fun of working together with a dedicated and skilled team on a meaningful goal. Egalitarianism, appreciation, and self-organisation make me happy.
As a woman, you always hear that you should play the part to be recognised. I am primarily interested in working together as a team to bring something good for our clients. I am still in contact with some of my customers from my very first job as International Sales Manager because we had a great time together. I always like to remember this.
As a person, I am driven by constant learning and the implementation of new ideas. Organizations can only learn if the individuals working for them improve themselves. I am always learning something new: Chinese, SQL databases, programming with R, new standards and security concepts, new tools in marketing, story-telling, etc. Learning is a paradise for me. I cannot think of a more exciting and fitting field of work in these thrilling times of great innovation than business development.
Privately, my passion is music, especially jazz. There is nothing better than jamming along with other musicians.
International Business Development & Marketing in Technology – What do you do exactly?
The Technology division at TÜV NORD covers product testing, from consumer goods to industrial installations and systems. We are undergoing extreme changes. This trend is mainly due to the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is increasing the safety and security aspects that organisations need to consider in machines and products.
We should expand our testing competencies and offer. My core task is to align the Technology business area with the needs of digitisation. Specifically, this means analysing customer needs and markets, familiarising myself with existing resources and gaps in supply and in-house processes, and then taking all steps to pinpoint these gaps. Of course, I do not do that alone, but in a team.
We now integrate new security requirements into existing test procedures. Above all, I represent the customer’s point of view and take over the first marketing contact in operational sales. With our small team, we take over all measures of events, online, print and PR.
Finally, I also ensure that we can implement the process adjustments and qualification requirements internally with us. This job ranges from the organisation of our webinar tool for internal and external training to roll-out within our Group. I create market analysis and business plans together with the subsidiaries and organise the conditions and necessary networking to bring our services to worldwide markets.
What is your biggest international business development challenge today?
The most significant challenges I would like to mention are:
• Limited IT resources and implementation opportunities due to many projects running in parallel.
• Risk of dissipation due to the many activities in large companies.
• Lack of transparency about new business areas, especially in market niches and customer target groups.
• Too little agility in the organisation.
Which “soft skills” help you to master these challenges?
The primary job is communication. It is essential to talk with everyone, to know the arguments and insights of project partners and customers and to communicate my view adequately, often, and transparently. A high tolerance for uncertainty and constant change also helps. It’s basically like making jazz music.
Shared leadership, cooperation, improvisation, mutual respect, and appreciation are the keys to team success. But without creativity, negotiating skills, analytical thinking and a lot of patience, it does not work either.
Which tools do you employ?
We use SAP CRM and Business Warehouse, competitive tracking tools, Google Analytics, e-tracker, and custom analytics, and of course, our list of wishes for more possibilities is long. The expansion of business intelligence is becoming increasingly crucial for the analysis of structured and unstructured data. Likewise, I focus on the integration of the various systems mentioned above. I would like to establish BI as a self-service so that colleagues in sales, marketing and business development can gain more insight about our customers.
We are currently investing in CRM networking tools with other marketing tools to drive our marketing automation. However, in the coming years, we will also invest in better data analysis tools to leverage unstructured data assets in-house.
How vital is analytical-thinking for your job?
The ability to analyse a problem and develop independent solutions is central to almost every job, I think. Analytical-thinking is accordingly also a prerequisite for my work. On the one hand, the term embraces the ability to analyse and evaluate problem contexts logically, and on the other, it requires a dose of creativity, since not all information is available.
To a certain extent, one must question oneself in the analytic process. There is always the danger of getting lost in thought traps. This challenge makes diversity in the workplace worth gold. Sometimes I also consult friends from entirely different professions to critically review my analysis. Sometimes I even discuss with my religious advisor or a social worker I know on the topic.
Do you think that international business development will change over the next five years? If so, how?
The growing relevance of new technologies will bring new security challenges. Whether it’s the Internet of Things, advances in genetic engineering in food, artificial intelligence, deep learning or advances in robotics, development means more IT, more networking, more complexity. Systems are becoming more vulnerable, and this will open significant business opportunities for TÜV NORD as a security provider for all sectors.
For example, increasing automation on smart self-driving cars will correspond to a rise of flexible work structures in the organisations. In companies, there will be increasingly small units that work independently. Otherwise, you cannot control growing complexity. I expect hierarchies to melt away.
The product safety standards will integrate security requirements, and there will hardly be another area in 5 years that does not have to meet these requirements and provide IT security. That will affect everyone, not just IT companies. The forerunner is the automotive industry, where the process has already made the furthest progress, as well as mechanical and plant engineering.
New opportunities for analytics and metrics acquisition will appear in the company. I mentioned Business Intelligence as a Self-Service, which empowers employees to experiment with existing market and customer data. CRM systems are being modernised and expanded, thus enabling more profound customer knowledge. Another task for the business development will be the individualisation in the customer approach and the offer.
Regarding markets, new priorities may arise. The world is multipolar, and after China, Russia, India and Brazil, other markets might gain in importance. We need to take this new reality into account. German industrial roots, e.g. in traditional German companies, will lose in importance. Our work becomes even more international and multicultural. I see rosy times ahead for Business Development!
In your opinion, what role does digitisation play in sales? Where do you see the human being?
Digital strategies, technologies and tools are leading to massive changes, also in sales. So far, B2C areas have been more in the focus of digital changes, but digitisation is now increasingly affecting the B2B distribution of high-value industrial goods and services.
Customers want to collaborate with companies via platforms, tenders are partially de-personalised and processed via online systems. This trend reduces the influence that sales teams can exert.
Personal communication with the customer will continue to be a crucial part of sales in the future. It will be essential to learn to use the opportunities and chances of digitalisation to improve best practices, become faster and work more efficiently. A digital acquisition process enables targeted and qualified leads to be generated. I also expect that marketing and sales will increasingly work together since lead nurturing in marketing naturally merges with the sales funnel process in sales.
Chat features, automated appointments, webinars, and web conferencing may replace some of the classic field work, but the salesperson will continue to play a crucial role in identifying the critical insights about the customer, identify the right content and arguments, and to provide the best solutions we can.
I see excellent opportunities to realise competitive advantages and to generate more customer value at a lower cost with well thought-out implementation of additional digital distribution channels.
And what role will predictive analytics solutions and artificial intelligence play?
Predictions are only as good as the data they use. Here I would say we still have some way to go. There are a lot of homework to do in the companies I know to predict the future with data.
If successful, Predictive Analytics will unquestionably be extremely helpful in deciding which actions to focus on. Whoever does his homework first, will undoubtedly have competitive advantages.
Today, we calculate which customers may have lower loyalty and may, therefore, churn. We do this through a profile evaluation of the customers and in cooperation with the respective customer service representatives.
Even those companies who do not yet have a sophisticated Churn Prediction Model can use CRM data, and the salespeople experience to predict customer attrition. The role of predictive analytics will increase in importance, as the overall digitalisation of sales processes progresses.
Thanks Ms Maaß for this interesting interview!
About Iris Maaß:
Iris Maaß is an experienced Manager for Business Development executing from competences in international & national sales, product management, marketing and competitive as well as business intelligence. She is currently working as a Manager for International Business Development & Marketing BU Technology TÜV NORD GROUP, based in Germany.
Find her on Linkedin.
Header Image: Gerd Fahrenhorst. Iris Maass Profile Picture: Private.