An extensive company history can be an asset for brand awareness, competitiveness and reputation. However, these same marketplace advantages can become a challenge when trying to change or create a new company culture.
Since its founding in Italy 65 years ago, Bonfiglioli has built a reputation for delivering quality gearmotors, drive systems and inverters for a variety of industry sectors.
Martin Broglia, managing director of Bonfiglioli Australia and New Zealand, has always been a firm believer in creating a cohesive company culture with the customer as its core focus.
Broglia joined the company in 2019, after working in the power transmission industry for 21 years. This wealth of experience has made him acutely aware of the challenges Bonfiglioli ANZ was facing and the limitations of their customer service approach.
Broglia groups the challenges into three core areas: technical service (people) stock levels, and customer support (culture).
Culture at Bonfiglioli ANZ was inextricably linked to customer experience, and improving customer experience was a huge priority for the leadership team.
74 per cent of respondents to the 2020 Salesforce State of Industrial Sales and Marketing survey identified improving the customer experience as a key requirement to achieve sales success.
Broglia spent 12-months improving Bonfiglioli ANZ’s customer experience and stock levels as part of his mission to sort out internal issues which were holding the company back from being able to deliver to the standards which customers expect.
“Customer quotes were turned around within 24-hours and our local stockholding was increased to ensure quick turnarounds on jobs – however, unlike stock levels, improvements to company culture are harder to quantify,” he said.
While improvements had been made to many customers pain points, some customers were not receptive to business development approaches – particularly during lockdowns. At the same time the transition to a work-from-home model with no face-to-face meetings resulted in reduced confidence amongst the sales team to reach out and effectively engage with customers. These factors were contributing to reduced sales revenue.
Developing people leads to increased company success
Innovate Learn, a Melbourne-based training company was engaged to provide a training solution that would strengthen and develop the sales force and address culture change.
“Research shows that there is a strong connection between an organisation’s ability to grow sales revenue and the strength of its overall company culture. To reach its sales revenue targets Bonfiglioli needed to gain new business and increase the revenue from its existing top 20 customers,” Hazel Stewart, managing director of Innovate learn said.
“To help them meet their growth targets we focused on building new skills and behaviours to enhance existing capabilities. We created a consistent approach for all customer facing roles.”
Building trust through credibility, empathy and an enhanced customer experience
More than half of the sales team were recent hires, a factor that Broglia saw as a unique opportunity.
“I wanted the new Bonfiglioli employees to fully understand and embrace the culture I was trying to create – a culture that was underpinned by credibility and empathy and a desire to provide value to the customer at every touch point. Ultimately our aim was to enhance the customer experience and build solid, long-term relationships,” he said.
Innovate Learn developed solutions for the Internal Sales, Engineers and External Sales teams. Solutions varied in application depending on the three different roles but all included a problem-solving approach that built consultative, long-term relationships with customers.
The new employees were untainted by previous negative customer experiences in their approach and because they were going in with “a clean slate,” they found it easier to approach customers and prospects. In their case it was a matter of developing confidence and the sales language required to ensure the culture of the company was foremost in their mind.
A series of 90-minute training sessions were conducted over Zoom to accommodate Bonfiglioli’s remote-working model. While the objective of this initiative was to provide personal and professional development it had the added advantage of helping to maintain connections between team members who could no longer interact in an office environment.
Solutions over price
The training helped create confidence and enhanced self-management skills. The team developed skills to quickly build trust and credibility which led to more open customer conversations and consequently a better understanding of the problems the customer needed to solve and what was important to the customer. Rather than focusing on closing the sale, they learned how to work on solutions side-by-side with the customer and get their agreement at every step.
“This means that there are no surprises that can result in dissatisfaction. If a customer knows that you will deliver on what you’ve promised, trust is built and the relationship is strengthened,” Broglia said.
In the case of existing customers who had been unhappy with the previous level of customer service, the Bonfiglioli ANZ sales team gained the tools needed to initiate conversations about past dissatisfaction and explain the changes that have been implemented.
“These conversations helped to rebuild trust and win these customers back,” Broglia said.
The Bonfiglioli ANZ engineers were included in the training as they are often client-facing. The response to the sessions from the engineers was perhaps the most interesting because they have never thought of themselves as salespeople but everyone who is customer-facing is selling the company.
Engineers uncovered additional sales opportunities when working with the customer on technical issues. They learned how to gather additional information whilst working on a project that could be passed to the sales team and ultimately result in additional sales revenue.
The impact on the overall company culture is clear.
“The training gave our sales and engineers teams the tools to maximise every customer-facing opportunity. They are now more confident when engaging with customers as they are living the true Bonfiglioli values,” Broglia said.
“While the primary goal was overhauling our company culture to align to the core Bonfiglioli values, we have also observed more revenue, and we are seeing an uptick in our day-to-day sales even in these difficult economic times.”