Frank van Dijk on being a Customer Sales Director and a multi-team player

Frank van Dijk
Frank van Dijk
Feb 21, 2024 · 7 min read
Frank van Dijk 3

For this edition, we sat down with Frank van Dijk, Customer Sales Director at Schuberg Philis. His job lets him get the best from, and give the best to, multiple teams within the company and on the customer side. He lives in Amerongen with his wife, their two children, and the family’s two classic cars.

Working life

What’s your role as a Customer Sales Director like?

I work as the commercial brain of the customer team. That’s what I love about this job: I am part of a customer team in the first place and also part of a sales team. In previous companies, I was only part of a sales team, so we had the group of salespeople together in one room not being truly connected with the colleagues who actually delivered the services to our customers. Here at Schuberg Philis, we primarily work with the customer team, so together we deliver our customer a good night’s rest. To me, it truly feels like I’m also part of that group, whereas in previous jobs, I was commercially responsible for something but not part of the group that has contact with the customer all the time. So from the Sales team, I learn sales techniques, commercial models that have worked out for our customers, and approaches. From being part of a customer team, I get to know my customer way better, and the number one thing within Schuberg Philis is 100% customer satisfaction.

How do you learn from your fellow Customer Sales Directors or, for short, Sales?

There are about 20 of us, and each and every Sales has their own specialty and things that they're simply good at. We know: this is what you go to him for; or for that question, you go to her. For instance, one Sales has been with us for 20 years; he has seen it all, so whenever I'm in a strong negotiation with the customer, I reach out to say, “Can you help me prep this?” And then he does. Another is very good at marketing and another at working out workshops. I myself was involved in building a cost model training last year. Since I've been working with that tool for six years now and I’ve done several contract renewals with it, I know how it can work for me and like to share that with colleagues. So we know how to find each other and to bring in peers for reflection and to discuss new approaches. What we learn we try to also bring back in the regular meetings. That includes meetings with Sales from within our Greater Customer Team (GCT) – that’s the specific industry-focused category each customer team is organized under – and one with all the Sales of Schuberg Philis. At the All-Sales meeting, there’s not always enough time after a customer case or strategy presentation to really deep-dive for another half-hour, so afterwards you go to the presenting colleague and say: “I was really intrigued about the way you did that part of your solution. Can we have a chat?” That’s also what I really like within Schuberg Philis: everybody's willing to help out. It’s almost a sport in who will be the first to help each other.

What is a typical day is like?

Most of the time, the ingredients that are always present are current customer business development, current customer run, and focus on new customers. Customer business development entails talking with the customer about where they are going as a company and what kind of IT techniques they need to be able to get there. I really like to work in workshops because they offer a consultative approach to selling. You often see salespeople have this thing that they want to sell, so they describe all these features and then ask a customer: “Now do you want to buy it or not?” What I much rather do is find out if the customer has a problem. For example, if we need to do a contract extension, I do not just want to say: “Hey, let’s add another four years.” End of the discussion. Instead, we would do this workshop with all the people involved. Then we would look at the past contract, what they totally liked and what they wished to have seen more of. This way we do not need to discuss every single part of a service; instead, we get compliments for what we have done well and discuss what they would like to change. From there, we make a business-IT roadmap by plotting must-have and nice-to-haves sticky notes on the wall. Then comes the value creation part, where we think about new solutions to be added. This way of working assures the customer that I’m not a typical sales guy who says: “You need to buy ABC because of XYZ.” Instead, we decide and together write down what we think we need. We dive into discussions from the get-go, exploring how we will move on. We build trust. The current customer run phase includes all the changes that happen while we simply deliver our services – it’s ongoing. There are always other projects coming up because applications, regulations, and/or customer needs keep changing. And then there is the focus on new customers. Apart from visiting the companies in my network, I also like to work on events for meeting new customers. We get all the prospective customers together in a room to focus on a particular subject and then build relationships from there. Maybe we plan it around a dinner provided by our restaurant and also line up some good speakers.

It can take weeks, months, and even years to reach agreements with customers. How do you find daily fulfillment?

The work we deliver for the customers that I've been involved with within Schuberg Philis has always been for the investment management industry. My customer’s people are working with the pension money of over two million people in the Netherlands. They are working with 180 billion euros in assets under management. The way they do their work in the end has a huge impact on the pension life of the Dutch population. So whenever I hear stuff about that in the news – mostly what you hear going wrong in that sector is IT-related projects – I feel fulfillment. I think: we are truly doing it differently at Schuberg Philis; it’s better, higher quality. And on a daily basis, I also get fulfillment from colleagues: bright, intelligent people, often with a great sense of humor. As serious as we can be, we can also have so much fun. We can just have chats about other things in life that are going on. When the heat is not on, there’s always also room for that.

Company culture

What kind of personality traits do you think make for an effective Customer Sales Director?

I’ve been involved in recruitment a lot for Sales in the past, and it’s very hard because with each and every applicant you interview, you’ll get different answers, different personalities. Yet, that diversity is also what really works for Schuberg Philis. Then again, there are some qualities that are consistent; of course, one example is the social side of people. But it’s also the willingness to really deep-dive into a technology. If you work here, you really have to know what you’re selling. You have to be able to draft a solution on a whiteboard for your customer. You have to be able to challenge engineers. Now I know my customers, and I often know what kind of questions they will be asking, so I try to always ask those questions in advance to the engineers. It’s a skill to be able to challenge a solution by engineers. Ninety-nine out of 100 times they have the best solution – they’re freaking experts. But every once in a while, the fact that I do not have that much technical knowledge but speak out my opinions makes them rethink what they have come up with. And then they come to a different solution if something I bring to the table makes sense. In other words, it helps to not be the technical brain, but to be a person who knows how to speak up to a team of technical experts and challenge them in the right way.

Schuberg Philis values establishing intimacy with customers. What’s your experience of that?

I also like to spend time at the customer, so I try to be onsite every week. Our relationship is so good that I have one of those access badges for my customer; I’m trusted as an employee there. So if you look at a day in my life, it could also involve starting at home and then driving to my customer, where we have a meeting at 10:00 o’clock. I then spend some time drinking coffees, speaking with people, and having lunch there. That way we really get to know each other. What I see in general is that the relationship is not just about work; it’s about true interest from both sides about your home situation, your interests, the kids, your sports and hobbies.

Passion project

What are your interests outside the office?

Well, the predictable but most true answer, of course, is the family. I have two young kids: ages three and four. My wife and I really like to spend a lot of our time with them. The more unique answer is that I have a couple motorbikes and two classic cars: a 1988 Jeep Wrangler Sahara and a 1968 Ford Mustang. I have a shed that is a bit too small, so I’m in the process of making the shed larger to be able to park the classic cars inside.

Do you ride the classic cars with your family?

Well, actually, I bought the Mustang only a half-year ago, and I had a bit of a discussion at home about it because I was looking into a couple of cars. The other one was a classic Corvette, and my wife said: “Explain to me the difference.” I said: “One is a sports car, a two-seater, and the other is more a family car, a four-seater.” She was very strict and said: “Then we have the answer already because if you’re going to buy another classic car, I want to be able to drive along with the kids.” Last summer, we spent our holiday in Germany, not just sitting in the Jeep but traveling through the woods and finding the greatest spots to take a break, sit down, and have a sandwich. We really like to explore, and the Jeep is the best car to do that.

As a sales director, negotiating car deals must come naturally.

I am good at knowing what I buy, let’s say that; I won’t buy trash. My father used to have a car company, so that helps, and that maybe also injected some of the DNA into me and the love for old cars. But it definitely helps that I’m in a sales role because, especially in cars, there’s a lot of people trying to pass off simply bad cars as if they are magnificent things. I think I’m rather good at spotting the great cars.

Curious to know more about how more colleagues spend their days? See the whole series here.