What does your role as a Customer Sales Director mean for you?
At Schuberg Philis we only have one goal, and it’s the same from my commercial perspective: 100% customer satisfaction. That sounds a bit vague, but it really is like that. It means that I work for my current customer, and together with our internal team, we try to keep our customer as happy as possible. In that sense, the role of Customer Sales Director is to do what’s good for the company while ensuring that we have a 100% happy team, which makes for a 100% happy customer. My current customer responsibilities standardly take up two days per week and the other three days my focus is to target new customers, mostly within the energy transition field. I’ve a very strong business background, and if you take a look at Schuberg Philis, we are close to 400 people. But I think 320, maybe 360, are technically much more knowledgeable than I am. My power is on the business side, so when I talk to a new customer, I try to understand exactly what the problem is that the customer has or doesn’t yet know they have. Then I go find out if there is a team that would like to solve the problem. It's really as black as white as that.
What is a typical day like?
I plan my agenda only up to two weeks at a time and sometimes I have meetings scheduled up to four weeks in advance. That’s my personal preference; I like to work on an almost daily basis. So when I wake up, I think: what’s my goal for today? Of course, there are my weekly customer meetings, some meetings with my coach, some new business meetings internally. The other hours are spent thinking about and responding to issues impacting our current and prospective customers’ business. For example, there have been some issues in the Netherlands with high-voltage grid capacity. With everyone in the Netherlands getting solar panels, there are many technical issues and cybersecurity risks, which could lead to households not getting enough electricity or, say, not being able to charge their electric cars. When I see that, I think: OK, how can I convince the grid operator we partner with to raise awareness within their organization and showcase our best practices for resilience? Having that mindset is not only during my working hours – it’s 24/7. Also, when you’re at a birthday party or the beach, wherever, you’re always networking, hearing what’s going on in the world. So anticipating what will impact people’s everyday lives and strategizing solutions for possible problems is a lot of my job. That mentality is what makes all the difference at Schuberg Philis.
When you began at Schuberg Philis, you had plenty of prior sales experience. How is working here different than elsewhere?
The fun part is that before this, I worked at a global company operating in 60 countries. There we could offer everything, and we had the best references because it was a large, well-networked organization. You could sort of copy-paste what had been done before by people you never met and are never going to meet because it happened, for example, in Singapore. By contrast, at Schuberg Philis, 90% of the company has more technical knowledge than you, and you have to think about and try to pick up this base knowledge. So that means that when I have a business opportunity, it’s not handed over to me, with some boss saying: “Here is the opportunity, please solve it.” As a Customer Sales Director at Schuberg Philis, I have to be the ambassador of the topic underpinning that opportunity as well. So part of the day in my life is trying to pick up the pace on technical knowledge. I do this with the full support of my team. In fact, it’s the technical expertise of the whole customer team that allows me to offer the right solution to our customer. But since high-quality mission-critical solutions that raise the industry bar are what our company does, along the way I raise my own bar for technical knowledge as well.
What in the hiring process convinced you to leave your last job and join Schuberg Philis?
The headhunter told me: “We are seeking an entrepreneur.” That was the thing that caught my attention. My former employer is a great company, and it was especially during COVID; even though it employs hundreds of thousands of people, it still gives its employees personal attention. However, it's not easy to be an entrepreneur at such a big company because everything has been done already. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I’m an entrepreneur and big parts of my family are entrepreneurs as well, so I like to seek opportunities and move forward. I don’t like to work on things that have already been done. At Schuberg Philis, we don’t have traditional bosses telling you what to do; you need to be self-steering. Here I can be like Pippi Longstocking. “I've never done it before, so I think I can definitely do it” – that’s one of her famous sayings. I like to be the salesperson targeting a customer without a prior warm relationship to build on, but rather by proactively trying to solve one of the problems they have.
You began here just last year. Is there something about the onboarding process that stands out?
During the onboarding process, my first conversation was with one of the Managing Directors, but it was very personal. I liked that a lot because, as mentioned, it’s impossible to be on such personal level when you’re at an organization as big as my prior employer. The meeting after was with one of the other MDs and one of my direct colleagues right now. And we started to debate about how I did my business at the time, so doing what I was doing in my prior job. I liked the sort of arrogant mindset: like, we are going to explain to you how you should have done it. And I agreed with 80% of what they said. So I thought: well, that’s cool; you can discuss with all your colleagues, including the directors, how you should have done your business better. They also liked that I didn’t agree 100%. Over the 20% disagreement we had, it was fine to argue.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Padel. That’s my favorite hobby – my passion next to family and job. I play often with three of my good friends. I played tennis for 25 years, but we all switched at the same time to padel. I like how it’s always doubles, and you have to combine the technical part with mostly strategy. We are all very competitive, but we also push to our level limits, so that’s quite cool to see. Plus, I like doubles over singles because it’s physically easier and there’s the fun of doing it together.
Do you ever apply some of padel’s strategic thinking on the job?
Actually, yes. I hadn’t thought about it like that, but when you are playing doubles, nine times out of 10, the person on the right side is playing more defense and the left side is more offense. And everyone that starts padel – and the same goes for me – would like to attack, because hitting the ball as hard as you can is the nicest feeling. However, after doing it for five years, it turns out that I’m a better defense player than an attacker. And I think that’s the same for doing business. You cannot always be about the bold moves, showing what you can all do as a company, and going for it. Sometimes you have to be more in defense. So say: “OK, we can help you; please let us know when the time is right.” Without being pushy, just say: “You have my number.” I think that is the same for sports; don’t always go in attacking. Of course, when you’re playing too much in defense mode and you’re smashed out of the court, which can happen, then you have to switch your strategy to say: “We’ve got nothing to lose right now because we are way behind. Let’s go for the attack!”
Curious to know more about how more colleagues spend their days? See the whole series here.