Virtual reunion for the focus group

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Online-Session “Selling Digital Solutions”, October 6, 2020 

If product-oriented companies focus on how digital solutions can be integrated into the existing portfolio, a familiar and constant field will become more dynamic. In the context of digitization, companies must look for the “sweet spot” between the possibilities of new digital technologies and the needs of their customers. Against this background, the Data Mining and Value Creation project team has initiated a focus group on “Selling Digital Solutions”. Representatives from eight manufacturing companies thus exchange views with the project team on current issues relating to the opportunities and challenges of selling digital solutions. 


Participants come from the fields of medical technology, heating and cooling technology, hydraulic and electric motors, the manufacture of commercial vehicles and system components, tool and mould making and construction machinery. They work in the fields of sales and services, product management for digital transformation and development leadership, and management of industry 4.0 applications. A virtual meeting in May preceded the most recent exchange of experiences on October 6, 2020. This first meeting served to get to know each other on a personal level and to present digital lighthouse projects and corresponding activities in the companies. More details can be found here.

The second meeting saw a deepening discussion – the focus was on methods for analyzing and evaluating customer benefits and suitable tools for sales. The value-stack-approach* was applied. The project members and participants discussed how, in the context of Industry 4.0, specific digital solutions contribute to different levels and elements of customer value. The levels discussed were product, product life cycle, key business activities, and risks.

*A value stack (or value levels, e. g. of a single service or the entire portfolio) helps to think process-oriented and to take the customer perspective: What are the essential activities that customers perform for the core business – and how do you facilitate them? In answering these questions, the participants develop a common picture that can be used, for example, by the sales team, corporate communications, and in strategy meetings.

A subsequent discussion focused on the extent to which the benefits of digital solutions can be evaluated in monetary terms from the customer's perspective. The consensus was that a monetary evaluation of customer benefits cannot be made in a generalized manner, but always individually – a current challenge for companies. There are two reasons for this. On the one hand, legal questions lead to uncertainty among companies: how can the benefits of digital solutions be contractually anchored and what happens if the calculated value of the benefit is not met? On the other hand, companies must increase and expand personnel competencies in order to provide an optimized consulting service to the customer. Here, it is important to be able to better assess and design digital use cases (benefits from the user's perspective) and business cases (benefits from the provider's perspective) in monetary terms.

Finally, the focus of the discussion was on tools and formats used and planned for the sales business. The participants exchanged views on the suitability of various communication channels (e. g. brochures, trade fairs, specialist articles, customer stories as references). This was accompanied by the question of how to provide a stage for the digital pioneers in sales within the company. The goal here is to build an internal network of like-minded people who give each other feedback and develop and improve the entire sales organization. A mentor as an interface between digital solution development and sales was brought into play as an idea in order to conduct the first customer discussions on the digital solutions in the best possible way.

Further dates to deepen the thematic focus – such as solution selling and the selection of suitable revenue models for digital offerings – will follow.

This is what the participants say:

“Time well spent!”

“I am grateful for the open way of exchange, which is so new for me.”

“Germany as a business location must stick together.”

“In the field of digital solutions, we’re all trying our best, and exchange does enormously good here.”

“See you next time!”

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