15. November 2018
In the past, the mechanical and plant engineering sector sold (for the most part) tangible products such as machines and spare parts. Now, this portfolio contains a new “product”: digital services – in particular smart services. Because of this development, sales staff and product managers are facing new challenges they need to overcome. This is a situation that the Center Smart Services has addressed in the past and is again addressing with its latest project. Together with seven renowned companies from various different industries, the project titled “Sales of Smart Services” addresses the efficient sale of databased services, building on a regulatory framework defined previously in the project. Over the course of the last couple weeks, the first step of the project was to identify the project partner`s status quo regarding smart service sale strategies. Additional companies were surveyed as well in order to map their experiences in the sale of digital services and to gain a detailed, cross-industry insight into the topic. Many times, the members of the consortium are well ahead of the overall market average when it comes to the development of smart services. However, the introduction of smart services often still presents them with great challenges. In an international business segment with cross-media customer journeys, diverse customer contact points and diverse sales channels, it is essential to be able to market smart services successfully. Companies from all different kinds of industry segments have confirmed that they are facing this challenge, which is why this project aims to create a solution.

So far, many sale representatives have relied on existing structures and revenue models familiar to them when selling machines and spare parts. Well-known products are developed further and adapted to customer requirements when needed. Smart services, in contrast to this, are something entirely different and new, because they are not physically tangible and apply to other areas than the existing pricing model. Existing revenue models are no longer effective for smart services either.

Apart from this, there is also the challenge of having to implement the new digital product into the existing sales organisation of a company. The sales employees affected by this are often concerned because the new business model may threaten their position. Smart services require new knowledge, which is available mostly in the development area but not necessarily in the sales department. To make the new situation even more difficult, conflicts of interest can arise, because the current bonus systems of sales employees often focus on the actual sale of machines and spare parts. If machines work better and run longer because of a new smart service this gets in the way of the bonus contract.
As part of the consortium project, a recommendation for action will be developed. The aim is to make it useable for all industry areas and make it address all relevant topics regarding the sale of smart services. As a result, different sale approaches will be available at the end of the project to meet different sale-related challenges. In the area of internal communication, for example, this would mean making it clear to employees that personal contact, empathy and trust will always remain strategically indispensable in the sales of smart services. This would also include explaining that the new digital services are a challenge but also an opportunity for the company and its employees, which can only be met together – with joint forces. At the end of the project, each company involved will receive a playbook, with the help of which new databased services can be distributed efficiently and in a revenue-oriented manner via the appropriate sales channels.