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Shaping the future together: The Nagel-Group pursues equal partnerships with its customers

Understanding customers

In times when markets are changing rapidly, companies need one thing above all: strong partners. Common challenges are best overcome together. Because the need for strategic alliances is growing, the Nagel-Group offers its customers genuine partnerships. This approach is part of a sales restructuring which is consistently orientated to the requirements of the customer.

Without drivers, there is no transport, and without warehouse assistants or dispatchers, the supply chain immediately grinds to a halt. The role of sales staff within the supply chain is just as important, as they are the crucial link to the customer. It is the sales staff who create the win-win situation for both customers and the Nagel-Group.

They are the ones in food logistics who understand customers. They speak the customer’s language and know exactly what concerns them. They constantly keep an eye on the market environment, and know every trend. This is then all taken into account when they put together a logistics package for the customer. They look after the whole business relationship, and are the specialists in “their” customers. At the same time, they always keep the requirements of the Nagel-Group in mind. They know precisely what is logistically possible, and what pre-conditions have to be met to achieve targets jointly. They are experts when it comes to finding the best solution for everyone concerned.

The Nagel-Group has always stood for strong customer orientation, and the food logistics company is systematically following this path. “We have restructured our customer relations, and raised their quality to a new level,” explains Gerd Neuenstein, the Nagel-Group’s Chief Sales Officer (CSO).

Cooperation as the model for success

The Nagel-Group is focused on developing customer relations on an individual basis. The aim is to intensify the relationship to the extent that the traditional service-provider/customer divide is overcome and a joint basis for success is created. Then the benefit to a single individual is no longer paramount, but rather joint success and joint growth, creating a partnership of equals.

Successful partnerships are usually based on intensive business relationships and trust. Trusting relationships often arise from success. This trust makes it possible to create ever closer ties between the companies - leading to greater joint success. One example of this is the partnership between the Nagel-Group and Franz Wiltmann GmbH & Co. KG in Versmold. This cooperation goes right back to when the Nagel-Group was founded. In the post-war years, the companies benefited jointly from the growth in demand for meat and sausage products. Side-by-side they conquered new markets, and became leading suppliers in the industry.

Such relationships of trust in business also depend very much on the people involved. Sales staff play a vital role: they develop relationships with customers, and breathe life into the partnership on a daily basis. And in a situation where misunderstandings can easily develop, these can only be resolved with basic mutual trust.

Overcoming challenges together

Sales and distribution staff play a large part in customer relations which demand a high level of intensity. They are the ones who foster relationships and offer customers the appropriate service at every level. This enables business relationships to develop which then grow into partnerships.

Successful cooperation agreements do not necessarily have to emerge from business relationships going back decades. It can sometimes happen quite quickly. This has been the experience of the Nagel-Group with true fruits GmbH, for instance. The smoothie specialist was still a start-up when it entrusted its whole supply chain to the food logistics firm. With the Nagel-Group as its logistics partner, the company grew to become the leading supplier of smoothies in Germany. The ­Nagel-Group now transports around 55,000 pallets of smoothies, creamies and smoothie bowls every year.

Closely linked: in a partnership, companies face future challenges together.

Achieving cost benefits for customers

Because standing still means going backwards, successful partnerships have to continue developing. The Nagel-Group therefore gives customers the opportunity to expand existing cooperation agreements into a strategic partnership. One important part of this model is the intensive consultancy aspect. The Nagel-Group at this stage is not “only” a service-provider, but sales staff also provide strategic advice to customers. “We proactively seek dialogue with the customer, and are always looking to find optimisation potential,” says Neuenstein. As the sales team always have an overview of the whole supply chain, staff are very well placed to assess where processes can be made more efficient, and what opportunities are offered by new sales markets.

Topics such as cost trends or added value services are some of the areas where sales staff can advise and support the customer. “At this level, we make all our know-how in the industry available to the customer, ”says Neuenstein. With customers at the core of our business, we look at the whole supply chain to achieve cost benefits everywhere for our customers.”

To further improve its expertise in the industry, the Nagel-Group is currently making systematic efforts to enhance its sales teams’ know-how in specific customer segments. Visits to trade fairs and conferences are essential, as is active participation in important trade associations. Industry trends are detected as early as possible. "It is important to look at companies within the context of their specific sector,” explains Neuenstein. “This is the only way we can think 100% from the perspective of their value added chain, and offer them bespoke solutions.”

As CSO of the Nagel-Group, Gerd Neuenstein is focused on maximum closeness to customers and integrated supply chain solutions.

Always the right contact

But not every customer relationship is suited to becoming a partnership or strategic alliance. As this type of close cooperation ties up a lot of resources, they are often only meaningful if both companies have similar structures.

The new structure of the Nagel-Group sales area is not aimed exclusively at developing special business relationships into partnerships. Every customer relationship is developed individually by the responsible member of the sales team. With this in mind, the Nagel-Group has created a model with clearly defined responsibilities and maximum transparency. Ensuring that every customer is put in touch with exactly the right contact person.

This is how it works in practice: an internationally-based food company has the ideal trusted contact in their Corporate Key Account Manager (CKAM). They will know the complex interconnections of the European food market in detail, and will know that long-term success at this level is dependent on many different factors. Corporate Key Account Managers also reflect the increasing Europeanisation of the food market.

One contact, a thousand experts

Whereas a Corporate Key Account Manager is responsible for the customer at European level, the Key Account Manager (NKAM) looks after the relationship with the customer at national level. This is the case if, for instance, several branches within the Nagel-Group are involved in the business relationship. A Field Manager completes this model at regional level. He is the right contact if the customer handles his transport volume primarily via a single branch. “In this way, every customer always gets the right contact person,” explains Neuenstein.

At all levels, sales and marketing staff work together, as they are the key contacts for the customer in all matters which concern him. This enables a customer to access all the services offered by the Nagel-Group throughout the whole group whilst needing only a single contact person. Regardless of whether the customer is interested in the close-meshed groupage network (LTL), the European FTL service “Nagel Direct”, contract logistics or the possible options around air freight, sea freight, the transport of liquids or pallet repairs. Members of the sales staff will look at all such matters and, if they are not experts themselves, will contact the appropriate specialist within the Nagel-Group.

The Nagel-Group orientates its sales structure consistently to customer requirements. “Being close to our customers, and understanding their needs, have always been significant factors in the company’s success story over more than 80 years,” stresses Neuenstein. “So it’s only logical for us to further refine this profile in sales.”

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