The pandemic and the surge in digitalization have accelerated the development of new selling techniques
For decades, the Steinbeis Network has stood for excellence in technological expertise, management competence, and training services. Striking the right balance between the community offered by a headquarter organization and value creation at a local level results in highly specialized transfer solutions and services. But how do such offerings find their way to potential customers, and in what ways have the underlying conditions changed for selling these services? Also, what role do transfer solutions, scientific research, and teaching play in selling, as both an area of consulting and a core business function? The answers to these questions are the focal topic for the Steinbeis Network and this issue of TRANSFER magazine.
For many years, Steinbeis transfer in the traditional sense – as a spin-off activity of academic and scientific institutions – has kept going by itself, without a dedicated “sales function.” Existing contacts generated through (scientific) projects with industry and the continual stream of new contacts forged at conferences, symposia, trade shows, etc. also paved the way for projects involving the sharing of know-how with business. Even before the pandemic and the upheaval it caused, this modus operandi was coming under pressure. It is becoming increasingly important to be present in digital channels and for transfer services to be findable, it is more and more important to present services professionally. Last but not least, customers are also changing. An increasing number of technological developments and value creation processes require engagement in business ecosystems, to which access is sometimes only gained incidentally.
Selling is not something you can bank on
Many transfer entrepreneurs realized some time ago that more thought will need to be put into selling their services. The developments brought about by the pandemic and the surge in digitalization have intensified this process, especially given that for a long time, there was only limited access to many of the established sales channels, and in some cases they disappeared entirely. More and more websites are being set up or expanding, with new ventures into social media and advantage being taken of the wide reach of multimedia formats. There is also a push to embark on more extensive sales activities, sales strategies are being developed, selling partnerships are being entered into, and companies are bringing in professional sales support.
This trend is highlighting many obstacles. Previous synergy effects, especially during project initiation, are disappearing, and generating new synergies is time-consuming. There is often a lack of understanding of – or no access to – certain sales methods or corresponding expertise and tools. Often, people are unwilling to even think about this issue, making it all the more important to continually sensitize people to this topic, to share examples of good practice, to discuss tools and methods, and to allow sales experts to express themselves.
Kick-off of the Steinbeis Consulting Forum
This important topic got off to an encouraging start at the end of March during an internal forum for consultants on the Steinbeis Campus in Stuttgart-Hohenheim. Winfried Küppers, entrepreneur at the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Sales Analytics, gave a thought-provoking speech on how changes in the economy affect the selling of consulting and transfer solutions, also offering recommended courses of action for Steinbeis Enterprises. He also highlighted the benefits of the Steinbeis brand, how to actively leverage headquarters media and communication channels, its social media presence, the reach of the Steinbeis Network, the foundation and backbone of scientific knowledge it offers, sales partnerships, and the power of the Steinbeis Network. He also pointed to the rich supply of “on-board equipment,” which not only requires little effort, but also – in the right combination – can be used to great effect.
In a talk on the success of triangular relationships, Professor Dr. Rainer Elste (Sales and Marketing Institute (VMI), a Steinbeis Consulting Center) introduced a second aspect of this topic to the Consulting Forum by examining the influence of transfer solutions and scientific research on sales consulting, also offering an introduction to the Marketing & Sales Digital Transformation Index. An example of a consulting project worked on by Elste showed how collaboration between his Steinbeis Enterprise, the auditing and consulting firm KPMG, and Esslingen University of Applied Sciences resulted in the development of a tool for determining the degree of digitalization within company selling processes. Developed on the basis of research results, the tool is now available to all companies and consultants. Experience has shown that time and again, scientific insights and methods provide important inspiration for ongoing developments to the sales approaches used by companies.
Customers also increasingly expect consulting methods to be underpinned by scientific understanding, and this aspect influences purchasing decisions, a potential factor in bolstering the competitiveness of transfer-based consulting.
A number of completely new structures and approaches are also now entering the picture. One is the Steinbeis Expert Network X.0 (E X.0), in which Steinbeis technology experts come together with management and strategy consultants from the Steinbeis Network, medium-sized companies, and scientists, not only with the aim of developing new collaborative services, but also in order to sell and market services jointly as part of a growing business ecosystem. In addition, the Steinbeis Consulting Group for Marketing & Sales has been formed, pulling together as an association of Steinbeis Enterprises offering collaborative sales consulting services from within a network, also acting as a partner to the Steinbeis Network in order to make itself available to other Steinbeis Enterprises.
In the articles that follow, experienced Steinbeis experts offer insights into their methods, and the challenges of transfer-based selling and of selling transfer solutions. Our aim is to stimulate broad-based dialog on experiences within the Steinbeis Network and beyond, and we look forward to hearing different views and opinions.
Dr. Michael Ortiz (author)
Steinbeis Beratungszentren GmbH (Stuttgart)