When Würth sales rep Dieter Laier chats with his customers, they talk about products, orders, vacations, and children’s birthdays, but almost never about unit prices or discounts. How does he manage that? In order to find out, we followed him around for a day on his rounds.
7:36 a.m. Dieter Laier arrives at his office in the heart of Ladenburg, roughly 20 kilometers north of Heidelberg. He has been working for Würth as a sales rep for more than 28 years. We met up with this trained fitter in a relaxed atmosphere. “Mr. Laier? Let’s get one thing straight before we start: We’re not as formal on the construction site. Call me Dieter.” First, we make some coffee. “It’s like my elixir of life,” says Dieter. Next, he turns on his computer and checks his inbox. Then, the first call comes in on his smartphone. The customer calls directly from the construction site. He urgently needs some special screws. Dieter thinks for a second and then offers him two products offhand. The screws would arrive at the construction site that very same day.
7:53 a.m. Dieter packs his bag for the customer visits. He has put together a folder for each customer. In addition to brochures, offers and orders, these folders also contain handwritten notes: “likes fishing,” “daughter’s birthday on 12 April” or “huge Eintracht Frankfurt soccer fan.” When asked why he still carries everything around with him in folders, he replies: “I prefer to spend my time with the customers dealing with their concerns, questions and challenges. And of course their orders. A computer puts distance between us.
8:22 a.m. Departure. In his car there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. Brochures, information sheets, product samples. Dieter knows exactly where everything is. First destination: Mannheim. During the drive, he talks about his birthday party last Sunday. He also mentions that three of his customers partook in the celebration. How did that happen? “Why not?” he asks. “They’re my friends after all.”