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The Human Element Series: A new set of skills is needed in Sales

The Human Element: is a series of interviews that feature the people behind Hewlett Packard Enterprise and our Element.

In this interview, you’ll get to know Bastian Gehring, Business Development for Industrial IoT and learn how Sales roles have evolved and, in Bastian's case, are helping to innovate against some of our most pressing challenges, including how to feed a growing population.

Can you share a bit about your journey?

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I first joined Hewlett Packard in 2013 as part of the German Dual Study Program (DSP). Basically, you are employed, earning a salary and still able to go to university! It is a really unique experience in three-month cycles: three months in the office and three months of study, then back again.

The DSP gave me different opportunities across many different sectors as well as working locally and overseas. I learned a lot working in hardcore program management with an international bank, being responsible for change management, talking to experienced consultants. Later on, I was in sales, both direct and indirect. My first overseas assignment was in communications media solutions, based in Houston (Texas, US), focusing on developing and supporting a partner program for network function virtualization. I then pursued a master’s degree, specializing in digital pioneering with a focus on digital business model innovation.

What is a typical day, week like in global sales? Who do you engage with and why?
There is no such thing as a typical day in sales. One day might include working on requests from our account organizations, then teaming up with account managers to present our POV on IoT to customers. To prepare for these meetings, a lot of research is done up front on the customers’ needs to determine the right solution to offer them. I also get to attend worldwide trade fairs (HPE Discover, Gitex Dubai and ITS Singapore) which might seem to some to be the golden nuggets of the job. To some extent they are… you work very long days and get to meet many people, which is intense but fun, then you get to explore cities at night!

How is sales in the automotive/IoT area different than in other industries and other sections of sales?
In general, IoT in the manufacturing space is much broader than one organization, therefore it isn’t focused on a single technology. Our task is to connect the dots across the entire HPE portfolio and also components of the partner eco-system, which is then taken as a foundational discussion with the customer.

There is a whole new skillset and knowledge required that is specific to industrial sales versus technical sales. HPE Pointnext Services is well placed in this skill area with many experts. We also partner with highly specialized service providers too.

You were a keynote speaker at BITKOM’s Digital Farming Conference, presenting about IoT solutions for digital farming. Can you share a bit about your experience?
I was very proud to be invited, The event was attended by more than 400 participants. Considering the high-level speakers on their agenda, I felt privileged to present HPE’s thought leadership in hybrid IT, ranging from edge computing to high-performance computation, including wireless technologies. With our close collaboration with Purdue University we are at the heart of what the industry attempts to achieve to accelerate digital adoption in farming: creating high-performance testbeds, by leveraging practice-proven and the most cost-effective technologies.

Following the current international political and ecological proceedings, digital farming is probably one of the most impactful areas of digitalization in the future.

Average world statistics:

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1930

Today

2050

1 farmer supplies 10 people

1 farmer supplies 155 people

If the population continues its growth at its current rate, 1 farmer will have to provide for 250 people

 

What do you see as the greatest challenge to digital farming?
Today, it is connectivity -- maybe not in mainland Europe but in other parts of the world, such as the outback or those with hectars and hectars of farmland in the countryside where the Wi-Fi and 4G connection can disappear. There is a lot of innovation taking place in this area.

One example is 5G connectivity or connection through satellites, which requires a basic infrastructure where you can add antennas to improve knowledge and health of a farm’s yield. By increasing the transparency of the harvest with sensors you can measure with more detail than you can with a normal field, which ultimately means more data to qualify, pre-qualify, and insights about how to react in certain circumstances, like controlling large greenhouses.

How do you think IoT will impact changes in agriculture?
As IoT is overly used and still not a clearly differentiated term, allow me to give my personal point of view on the IoT impact: As we cannot increase the available land areas to grow food, we therefore need to leverage the existing land and increase its nutrition and productivity. IoT can stimulate the improvement of the productivity, when we know how and when things like effects of the weather change crops.

Sensors placed on fields can provide data to inform us when a field can quickly recover from planting. Also, when it comes to the IoT, there are many different stakeholders in farming. For instance, the tractor manufacturers don’t have extensive knowledge about weather forecasting models, and the weather forecasting agencies do not have extensive capabilities understanding the rationale behind plant growing.

However, efficiently converging those two worlds will significantly improve the understanding of growing cycles and environmental impact on plants, which will provide farmers with well-grounded insights and help them to take appropriate actions before destructive effects on the field take hold. In essence, IoT sensors and connectivity will only add precious value when the available data points are turned into meaningful insights.

However, the story does not end there… often the analytics story ends when a nice dashboard flashes green, yellow or red, but this does not help the farmer in the end. The last – and most important - question is: How do we get the insights in the right format and manner back to the farmer, who is not interested in all these IT hype technologies, such as AI, Big Data and Blockchain? This means that IoT always requires technologists to have a high level of empathy for the users of the insights. We, as technologists, need to stick as close as possible to the existing technologies, processes and routines of the farmers.

We are at the beginning of this journey to precisely forecast impacts of quickly changing weather conditions, on nutritional value of the acres and the growing behavior of plants.


What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The initiative I am most proud of was the work I was involved in for HPE’s automated quality audit solution. This was deployed in our own manufacturing facilities and went on to become a core industry solution for HPE in the manufacturing space. There was one occasion with a CEO of a start-up company where we partnered to build a joint solution. On asking about the status of delivery on the project, he introduced me to his colleague and told him that the only reason why we are in this factory now and have this opportunity with HPE was because of Bastian! It was a nice compliment.

Any advice to those who are seeking a career in sales?
The role of sales has changed a lot. It is no longer the traditional role of meeting and connecting people. Today, sales requires a deeper understanding of the technology, asking the right questions and understanding the problem to then determine the relevant solution bundle. It becomes more of a joint partnership discussion with the customer to explore the root cause and what they are trying to solve. Combing extensive knowledge in manufacturing and IoT when converged can bring very fruitful results.

So, be open, learn to ask questions, listen, and try to understand the customer in depth, not just the IT requirements but also the procedural and business process requirements. Then try to understand how technology can optimally support this process.


Bastian Gehring, Business Development for Industrial IoT, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bastian-gehring-676977100/


Featured articles:

 

Margaret N
HPE Community Manager
Any personal opinions expressed are mine, and not official statements on behalf of Hewlett Packard Enterprise

 

MargaretN
HPE Community Manager
Any personal opinions expressed are mine, and not official statements on behalf of Hewlett Packard Enterprise


About the Author

MargaretN

Passionate marketer and social advocate.