Interview: André Kellermann, DEISS Sales Manager in North Rhine-Westphalia

2nd August 2021

Working directly with the customer: André Kellermann heads DEISS sales in NRW.

André Kellermann has been part of the sales team in North Rhine-Westphalia since 2009. There he looks after customers from the wholesale trade, from dealers for craftsmen and medical wholesalers to cities and municipalities. The business administration graduate relies on his knowledge of human nature and the SUND Group's ability to react quickly to customer requests. Over the past twelve years, this has resulted not only in long-term customer relationships, but also in partnerships which benefit both sides. 

Mr. Kellermann, how do you sell a garbage bag?

André Kellermann: There's no cookie-cutter approach, but what has become apparent again and again over the past few years is that we're not just a supplier to our customers, but that we often solve problems as well. We have a lot to offer, not only in terms of the depth of our product range, but also in terms of different solutions. For example, we have paper bags, we have polyethylene bags in various qualities, we have bags made of bioplastics and a total of 4,500 different products. None of our competitors has such a wide range. We adapt to our customers' wishes and have been distinguished by our quality for years. We are not always the cheapest supplier, but you can rely on us. The overall service, customer care and product quality: that's the mixture that makes us unique.

How did the customers' requirements differ?

For a customer in the catering wholesale trade perhaps sustainability is very important. For him, it's great that we have the premium bags that are climate-neutral. In the building supplies sector, on the other hand, most simply want a waste bag that is as thick, stable and inexpensive as possible. Sustainability is not a big consideration here, but with sturdy and inexpensive bags, you have the right solution. That means you always have to know who's sitting in front of you, and you have to know what makes the industry tick.

What does your day-to-day work look like?

Looking after existing customers is becoming more and more important because we have grown so much in recent years. Nevertheless, of course, it also involves a fair amount of new customer acquisition. So it's a mixture. We only supply wholesalers, so we don't sell to any end customers or end users. That's extremely interesting, because we have a very heterogeneous customer structure. In the morning I might be with a technical wholesaler, then with someone from the building supplies sector, then in the afternoon with a customer from the medical wholesale sector, maybe another city or municipality, and then in the evening I’m meeting with an office supplies wholesaler. In addition, there are completely different contact persons depending on the customer group. For example, I might talk to a warehouse employee at one customer, then to a managing director of a medical wholesaler, and later to a purchasing manager. So you don't just have to adapt to new customer groups and sectors, but also to contact persons at very different levels, which I think is great.

So it's very varied?

Definitely. Not only have we added many products to our range in recent years, but we also offer holistic solutions for different industries. When I started in 2009, we were only making trash bags and bin liners. But by then we had customers who wanted other products from us. For example, a wholesaler for painters who also wanted to buy tarpaulins, films as well as protective and covering fleece from DEISS. All this has been added over the years and naturally strengthens our market position, as we can supply many things from a single source.
A lot of your business is based on personal customer contact. How did that work out in the lockdown? Are Zoom meetings a suitable substitute for that?
Absolutely not. When you're in a Zoom meeting with several people, you miss a lot of little details. You're always looking at the person who's speaking, no matter how you've configured the meeting. Often, there's a completely different conversational climate. I have noticed this with existing customers that I have been working with for a long time. There is often a lack of direct communication and a lack of social and human interaction. I also don't get to experience a lot of the vibes that I can better assess on site. But of course it's better to use Zoom meetings, because it's even more difficult on the phone.

What characterizes a good salesperson?

You need a good knowledge of human nature, you have to be able to recognize what the mood of the people you're talking to is like, and you need knowledge of the industry. A good salesperson must be able to analyze customers well, especially new customers. Because it always takes the right solution to convince potential customers to buy our trash bags. To do this, you have to address the industry-specific problems that customers have and, of course, present what we do better than the competitor that still supplies the company. Listening and developing alternatives are the most important points. At some point, the customer signals where the shoe pinches, and you should have a lot of tools available to help the customer.