Interim Management in Sales


Interim Manager – Expert for new sales strategies

Ralf H. KOMOR in an interview with Inés Carrasco, DDIM

“Global, agile, digital” is not only the motto of the DDIM Congress 2018, it also applies in particular to the Interim Managers from the sales department.

The ten expert groups of the holding company Deutsches Interim Management e.V. (DDIM) also include the Sales and Marketing expert group. Ralf Komor, sales expert at Senior Executive/Director level and long-standing Interim Manager in this field, is the head of the group. In times of digital change and changing market structures, he and his professional colleagues have particularly important tasks. “I think in Interim Management we salespeople make up maybe 10 percent. But of course sales is always important, because without sales there is no turnover and without turnover there are no companies. That is quite simple. We are responsible for shovelling orders into companies and how do you get there? By creating structures, developing sales strategies and automating processes.”

Digitalisation and young talent in distribution

Digitalisation is playing an increasingly important role in this context. It is virtually unstoppable in distribution, says Ralf H. KOMOR: “Digitalisation is on everyone’s lips, social media selling is the trend. There are a lot of topics where the market and our customers are undergoing a radical change. Not to forget: a new generation of distributors is coming in. The gender discussion affects all departments, including the sales staff. The question arises: how do you get a young junior employee to be able to use her effectively? The crux of the matter is that the ten-thousand-hour rule actually applies in sales. This means that you must have done sales many times and for a long time in order to do it reasonably well. You have to know all the tricks and problems in order to be effective as an Interim Manager.

The many years of experience of Interim Managers are the basis for rapid situation analyses and quick decisions. “I often get into situations where people have been tinkering with something for a year. We then start on Monday and on Friday the managing director comes and says: “And …, what’s the situation, what are the first suggestions? The funny thing is that within four or five days you already know what it looks like and where you can do something. That’s the experience, and you need that without a doubt.”

Life experience in Sales is essential 

The experience in sales includes not only those from the sales technical area, but also those from life. Those that are not in any manual… “Life experience in this case means you really have to have experienced it,” emphasises Ralf Komor. “You can simulate it in training sessions, you can also record and analyze it, but there are customer situations that are simply not really nice. I, for example, grew up on construction sites. I worked in the field of building services engineering and there is a rougher tone than with start-up guys who sell Blockchain software in Berlin. That hardens you up which helps. At the end of the day, this makes the implementation strength that you bring to the table as an Interim Manager.

The many years of experience of Interim Managers also bring an aspect that proves to be useful for many mandates. “At our age, we sometimes have former colleagues who hold special positions in other companies, which makes some things quicker or easier. The client also buys into this. But more importantly, the Interim Manager must have experience and tools in sales. He should be a good discussion partner for the customers and above all, and this is the most important thing for me, for the employees. For the people you work with on site, because they make the difference.”

More international assignments in Sales 

Despite growing markets, the demand for Interim Managers in Sales has remained the same, says Komor. However, he notes an increasing demand from abroad: “It is becoming more international. There are more inquiries from abroad and the companies are getting smaller. Even the smaller companies are thinking about Interim Management. Those who want to build up new products, new divisions, to push this as quickly as possible and to temporarily gain technical know-how and management experience. I also had companies with only 100 employees. Companies that have very special markets or want to tackle them, but don’t have anyone in house to implement them. In these cases, our commitment makes perfect sense. You build something up, look for customers, trade structures in markets or other countries and together with the client, you look for someone to take over.”

The future of Sales

In the course of the decades the distribution has changed completely. There are studies that show that digital technologies are very important for distribution today. Take online trade, for example. First comes purchasing and then accounting. A survey shows that 70% of the purchasing decision or the purchasing process is actually made before a company is even approached. Selling, in the B2B area, is increasingly being advised to a high quality.

The new generation of purchasers uses smartphones to obtain information on the Internet, white papers and many other digital possibilities. What companies need are problem solvers. “With the speaking product catalogue, you don’t need that anymore, says Ralf Komor. The customer already knows what is in the product catalogue. In the past, you could still inspire the customer by saying: “It’s also available in red, or exceptionally also with green stripes. The customer is no longer interested in all this. The companies must become aware of this. They have to get to the point much faster in sales and work differently. The Internet, for example, eliminates information asymmetry. That’s why you bring in experts from outside. Who can pick up the company on the spot, have experience and can also coach? There is the example of the Swedish company IKEA with its APP. You can use it to virtually assemble the furniture. Order at the click of a mouse and the day after tomorrow the furniture will be delivered. That’s not yet the case with many large corporations, but it will be.”

Text: Inés Carrasco