How does a Dutch guy from 15 metres below sea level get to the Allgäu at 838 metres above sea level?
One of my former bosses once said about me, jokingly: "Mr. Bos had a breakdown with his caravan on the A7 near Kempten". In actual fact, love led me to the Allgäu. In 1999, I was on a vacation in the Dominican Republic and met my current wife, who comes from the Allgäu, on the first day, while playing beach volleyball. Now we could turn it into a romance novel or a two-parter à la Rosamunde Pilcher... but in this blog post, it's all about my job ;-).
How would you characterise your job as a Key Account Manager?
My two daughters were asked in their elementary school: "What does your Dad actually do for a living?" They answered: "Computers and phone calls."
According to my job description, I take care of:
- Acquiring new, strategic customers
- Supporting existing customers
- Transitioning existing customers into key accounts
- Preparing quotations, including calculations
- Negotiating prices
- Executing framework agreements
- Actively implementing our solution-oriented sales and consulting approach for clients, based on kothes' entire service portfolio, and in particular, the parceling and sale of service packages
... but how should you explain services that require an explanation?
After all, we don't have products that customers can test and touch... and even if the challenges or problems with different customers may be similar in their approach, they still depend on standards, guidelines, target audiences, industries, sales channels, process and system landscapes. Solutions for specific customers can vary greatly... and reference-based solutions from other customers may not (and will not) be shared, based on existing non-disclosure agreements.
What does a typical day look like as a Key Account Manager?
One day in January 2019:
Today, it's already 7:00 a.m. (and after breakfast) in Switzerland. A new customer meeting in the Basel area, regarding the introduction of a Content Management System and a tecom after-work event in Zurich are on the agenda.
Immediately after leaving the village, I cross the border into Austria and drive through the Bregenzerwald (Bregenz Forest) towards Switzerland. Shortly before the border crossing is still the Border Control... on the face of the customs officer I can already see that he's not in a great mood. Window down, and the sunglasses come off:
- "Are you carrying any goods?" - No.
- "Do you have anything to declare?" - No.
- "What's your purpose here in Switzerland?" - Customer meeting in the Basel area.
- "Is this a company car?" - Yes.
- "Your Passport and Driver's License, please! Please pull over, turn off the engine and wait!"
After two minutes, the customs officer came back, wished me a nice day as part of his job-related "friendliness", and the trip to Basel continued.
In just over two hours, I arrived at the customer site in Zurich's North Ring with no traffic jam, and I set up shop with a Caffè Lungo and mineral water in the meeting room.
After a brief introduction to the company, the customer explains his specific challenge: An old editorial system is to be replaced with a new "state of the art" XML-based Content Management System. The old editorial system is too expensive in terms of maintenance, prone to error during translations, the stylesheet is complicated, and the overall performance is poor. The new system is to be implemented by kothes. Prior to the rollout, the future manual structure, the metadata and modularisation concept, as well as the migration plan have to be worked out and defined together. After the initial system installation, training is to be provided and the Technical Editors (located in Denmark, Switzerland, and Portugal) are to be accompanied on the job as part of a consulting offering. And last but not least: the whole thing shouldn't cost more than the current maintenance costs for the existing system – and in addition, after the migration of the data, no new high translation costs should be incurred for the target languages that were already available. Whoah!
Together with the customer, the next steps are determined (i.e. offer and timeline), and then back on the A1, in the direction of the kothes office in Wallisellen.
Back at the office, I'd like to check my e-mails and make a few calls. After a good 60 minutes in the office, I greet our Technical Editors and the Office Manager, then get a cup of coffee from the vending machine. Unfortunately, I didn't get to do any work because I was immediately "stolen away" by the Technical Editors. We discussed offers, projects, results and the planned next steps for various customers across Switzerland.
At 5:00 p.m. I set off from Wallisellen to downtown Zurich. Even though it's just 8.5 km, I didn't expect rush hour traffic here. It takes me a full 50 minutes to arrive on time at 6:00 p.m. for tecom's after-work talk.
Today, it's about the new DIN EN 82079-1:2019 and its conflicting priorities with the new DIN EN ISO 20607:2019. What demands does the standard pose for Technical Editors? And to what extent do the two standards complement each other? The lively lecture was followed by an Apéro, with an opportunity to network. Here, I had the time and chance to talk and exchange with both my customers and contacts in a relaxed atmosphere.
At 9:30 p.m. it continues on the highway... the last 145 km home to the Allgäu. Arrived at 11:30 p.m., and I can't go to sleep right after concentrating on such a long drive. I first have to have a "sit down" on the sofa with a cup of tea, made with love by my wife. Good night!
Are there recurring meetings or tasks that have to happen every week or every month?
Yes, there are. Every Monday afternoon we have an online meeting between Sales, Department Heads and Project Managers, during which we discuss forecasts, projects, capacity utilisation, etc.
In addition, Sales, Internal Sales and Marketing meet once per month in an online meeting, during which, we deal with current topics such as "unusual" projects, sales figures, marketing campaigns, and trade shows. Three-to-four times per year, we meet in-person at our Headquarters in Kempen for a one to one-and-a-half day-long sales meeting.
What's the best thing about your job?
What appeals to me about my job is that I get to work with highly motivated colleagues, and I'm able to help customers achieve their objectives with my communication skills and ability to find solutions. My job gives me plenty of room to manoeuvre, and I play a role in the renewal and evolution of a family-friendly company.
I can imagine that you need to find a balance after such a busy work day. How do you find balance in your job?
Yeah, that's right. Although I work mentally and not physically, I either sit in the office, in the car, or at a customer site. That's why it's important for me to maintain a healthy balance. For me, this is found with sport. During the Summer I go mountain biking (riding approximately 2500 km) and do Nordic walking (walking between 70 and 110 km per week). In Winter I go snowshoeing, and as a trainer, every Tuesday evening I lead an indoor cycling class with 12 people.
When I do sports, I clear my head after 10 minutes and sometimes great ideas and concepts result; I then write them down on a slip of paper after the activity, so that I don't forget them for the next day...
But now I'm done with blog-writing and will sit down with my three girls on the sofa and let the day draw to a close.