Text Sepi Roshan
Photos Tero Takalo-Eskola

Unprecedented growth and regulatory change has put added pressure on Sammet’s sales team to meet targets and fulfil customer needs. The sales team shares how they deal with the intensity of their work, adjusting to new ways of working and guaranteeing customer satisfaction.

From left: Mr Mikko Ahonen, Mr Pekka Junkkarinen, Mr Pertti Mehto and Mr Joona Kakkonen.

The low hum of voices at Sammet’s new headquarters in Jyväskylä, Central Finland has an excited tone to it. Customer demand for Sammet’s state of the art industrial dampers has led to unprecedented growth for the 35 year old company. In 2019, Sammet will deliver approximately 400 projects – double that of last year and an all-time high. Significant growth requires rapid adjustment and the sales team is busy discussing production capacity at different sites to meet delivery targets. The opening of Sammet’s newest production plant in Shanghai, China, has helped with scaling operations and is a perfect complement to Sammet’s European manufacturing base.

“As Finns we prefer all communication to be straightforward and honest so we can take whatever action is required, immediately” – Mr Mikko Ahonen

It is vital for the sales team to know which production plant will speed up delivery times and reduce freight costs for customers. “Information sharing amongst the Sammet team is integral for helping solve our customers’ problems. You have to ask the right questions and listen to understand what they want and what they really need”, says Sales Manager, Mr Pertti Mehto. As head of the sales teams, Mr Mehto focuses on customer relationship management, including overseeing the sales process and contract negotiations. With so many new hires at Sammet, Mr Mehto’s priority is ensuring his team learns how to work and communicate effectively with each other. Luckily, the partnership culture at Sammet means experienced employees are keen to share their detailed knowledge with newcomers.

Changing circumstances require constant communication

Mr Mikko Ahonen, Key Account Manager started with Sammet at the beginning of May. “My first month was focused on getting to know all the people and their roles, as well as the details about Sammet’s products”, says Mr Ahonen. Sammet sales members are expected to have a good understanding of every aspect of the supply chain, in-depth product knowledge and awareness of market developments. After his induction period, Mr Ahonen took responsibility for process industry and power plant customers. “My role focuses on responding to quotation requests, contacting customers and working with our subcontractors”, he explains.

Providing quotations requires an excellent working relationship with the Sales Engineer, Mr Joona Kakkonen. The Sales Engineer provides the detailed calculations and pricing for products. “Circumstances can change quickly so clear, concise and constant communication between us is key”, stresses Mr Ahonen. Mr Kakkonen nods in agreement. “Co-operation and open communication build trust, which results in projects being delivered more efficiently”, declares Mr Mehto.

Palaverikuva 2

Regulatory changes have complicated matters for customers. On 1 January, 2020 tighter emission controls and limits on fuel sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide content introduced by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (known as MARPOL, short for maritime pollution) come into effect. The changes are significant. For example, fuel sulphur content must not exceed 0.5%, down from the current level of 3.5%. These regulations introduce mandatory technical and operational obligations for shipping companies who must either convert to clean fuel or equip their ships with exhaust gas cleaning systems, known as scrubbers. Clean fuel is markedly more expensive and many shipping companies are opting for regulation compliant scrubbers. Stringent requirements mean customers are seeking products that can withstand any scrutiny. Sammet has successfully provided the necessary technical expertise, quality products and continuing support to help customers meet their regulatory obligations and control costs. The ability to understand and respond to customer needs explains much of Sammet’s tremendous growth trajectory and its position as the market leader in marine dampers.

“It is not just about selling, but really caring about customers and how their needs can be
met.” – Mr Mikko Ahonen

As the 2020 deadline approaches, every new shipping project requires a shorter lead time. Sammet’s continuous investment in product development and innovation have been helpful in increasing production efficiency. From the sales process perspective, minimising processing time has relied on effective communication. Despite the frantic pace of activity, all tender documents and technical specifications must be precise and accurate which means gathering information from various sources. “We answer queries as soon as possible, but the pricing of unique products is not always straightforward and there are countless variables to consider”, states Mr Pekka Junkkarinen, Group Product Manager. The implication is that there are many partners to speak with and a lot of information to exchange. Mr Kakkonen nods in agreement again, adding, “I am responsible for placing and handling customer orders on time and correctly into our systems. We must always be accurate in everything we do, from quotation requests, tender documentation to final shipment, no matter what pressures we have”. If any customer specifications are not met, there is a risk of severe penalties and reputational damage for everyone concerned. The stakes are high and Mr Rami Tammisto, Key Account Manager for the marine industry is working hard attending to his customers’ needs. Mr Tammisto will appear in the next issue of Sammet Review.

Mr Ahonen explains Sammet’s sales approach like this: “It is not just about selling, but really caring about customers and how their needs can be met”. Every team member thrives on building long term relationships with customers and solving problems as partners. “The ability to directly influence a company’s outcomes really motivates me to keep working hard”, reveals Mr Kakkonen. During the early stages of each relationship personal contact with customers and partners is non-negotiable. Once an understanding of how each person works is established, the sales team maintains its connection with Sammet’s expanding customer base through email, skype and other telecommunications. With less need for face-to-face interaction, travel time has reduced drastically allowing greater focus on project delivery. Honest communication also helps with servicing customers efficiently and effectively. “As Finns we prefer all communication to be straightforward and honest so we can take whatever action is required, immediately”, explains Mr Ahonen.

To keep performing in such an intense environment, there must be scope for some down time to re-energise. The solution is typically Finnish. Sauna is a must in Finland – it cleanses the body and clears the mind. “Sauna is a way of life for every Finn”, confirms Mr Ahonen. Everyone’s eyes light up at the thought of sauna but it will have to wait for now – it is time to get back to work.