Experts Tobias König, Global CEO Rhenus Air & Ocean, Felix Krede, International Sales and Marketing Director at Rhenus Warehousing Solutions, and Carsten Hölzer, Managing Director Rhenus Freight Road Sales & Management and Key Account Manager Road Freight, talk about the challenges of bringing together the knowledge and structure for global key account management within the decentrally organised Rhenus Group. Together, they dive into examples of approaches that already work for various customers as well as future plans to optimise tailor-made solutions. They also highlight the importance of vertical approaches, e.g. for specialised industries such as the sectors of pharma and healthcare, automotive, e-commerce and fashion.
Listeners will learn what approaches have worked at Rhenus for various industries and what the logistics service provider has planned for the future. They will also learn about how facing some of the current challenges of the logistics sector, e.g. port congestion, supply chain disruptions and reduced capacities, have fuelled the search for more versatile and flexible solutions and even the creation of new products such as transport-related warehousing.
Rhenus sales experts Tobias König, Felix Krede and Carsten Hölzer explain how the logistics service provider is moving towards global logistics solution selling and why verticals such as pharma and healthcare or e-commerce are vital for the future.
Andrea Goretzki: Hello, and welcome to our new English episode of Logistics People Talk. The official Rhenus podcast for everyone who wants to stay up to date on logistics. We're your hosts--
Gwen Dünner: Gwen Dünner.
Andrea Goretzki: And Andrea Goretzki. Our topic today is solution selling. For this, we've invited three experts from different units within the Rhenus Group. But why don't you introduce yourselves. Tobias, would you like to start?
Tobias König: Thank you very much for the introduction, Andrea. My name is Tobias König. I've been with Rhenus now for 14 years, starting in 2008, within the port logistics division, and then took over the sales for project logistics in 2010 and had the pleasure for the upcoming 10 years to 2020 to develop the company, Rhenus Project Logistics together with Carsten Schröter and changed from Project Logistics to Air & Ocean in the year 2020. Within Air & Ocean, I took over the role as the global CCO. So I was responsible for all sales and marketing-related topics within Air & Ocean till I changed my position again within Air & Ocean and took over the role as a co-CEO for Air & Ocean together with Jan Harnisch since the beginning of this year. But this will change again and, up from next year, I will take over the new position as the Global Group CCO. Which means that I will be responsible for all sales, marketing and PR-related topics within the Rhenus Group. That's briefly about me. And I hope this is enough to know who I am.
Andrea Goretzki: Thank you. Felix, what about you?
Felix Krede: Thank you. My name is Felix Krede. Six years now within Rhenus. I'm currently responsible for sales and marketing within our warehousing business unit. We come over with Tobias into a global role for enlarging our global key account management for the whole Rhenus Group. I'm happy to be here. Thanks for the welcome.
Gwen Dünner: Thank you.
Andrea Goretzki: Perfect. Thank you. And to complete our round, Carsten.
Carsten Hölzer: Of course. Thank you very much. My name is Carsten Hölzer. I'm 53 years old and I have 26 years history in the Rhenus Group. I'm heading the European key account management inside our road freight organisation together with the European Freight Tender Management. This is my direct reporting team based on a European level. So we're practically working as an extended sales unit for all country organisations.
Andrea Goretzki: Great. Thank you all for being here.
Gwen Dünner: Yes, thank you. As our listeners can already hear, these are some high level positions within the sales world of the Rhenus Group. And that also already brings us to our topic today, which is solution selling. Now, this term may be familiar to sales colleagues, but as a customer, it's perhaps a little foreign. In short, we're talking about solutions for a complete supply chain. So involving the services of different units within a logistics service provider. So, Tobias, how would you define this term?
Tobias König: Solution selling for me means, at first, that we understand our customers like no other. That we really know what the logistical needs, the demands and also the daily issues are for our customers and how we can maximise our value add we can bring to the customer. I think we're in a very, very unique position in the global market of freight forwarding and logistics as Rhenus because the product portfolio we have within Rhenus is really outstanding and I do not know any other global forwarder having such a diversity in the product landscape like we have, right? So that's why I think that, when we talk about solution selling, then we as Rhenus are really in a very good position. The only thing we need to do, we need to grab it and tell the customer about it, you know. And how do I define also solution selling, I would like to try to use an example from the fashion industry, right? So we all buy our fashion, our clothes, online? Most of us do this and we do not only buy a pair of shoes or a pair of trousers because the moment we do this and we put the shoes into our let's say trolley, the system asks us if we want to buy something more because there are also nice pullovers, nice shirts, nice whatever things that do fit with those shoes. Right, so and this is I think also how we need to understand our product portfolio. If the customer asks us or if we do meet a customer because of a specific product we're representing within the Rhenus Group, don't forget to ask the right questions, where we could also serve the customer and where also other products of our company could fit the customer needs. This would be my brief definition of solution selling.
Andrea Goretzki: Tobias, what you mentioned is kind of tailor-made solutions?
Tobias König: Exactly.
Andrea Goretzki: Felix, of course this is the best way for the customer, but it also means basically starting from zero every time. Now we all know that this is not realistic, so some standards must exist, right? How do you balance standardised processes and tailor-made solutions at Rhenus?
Felix Krede: In general, we always focus really on the solution the customer needs. I think this is one of our USPs that we serve in the market. We really focus first on what is the customer need, what could be our USP, our dedicated solution. And I think, as Tobias already mentioned, that's what differs us really from the competitor. In the end, we really try to see where we can standardise our processes for the customers, where we have existing solutions and also best practice examples that we can use for the individual solution for the customer. And this is mainly in the area of warehousing solutions. We have solutions in the name of the business unit anyway, but also in all our other business units. Just to give you one example, we currently discussed one new warehousing plot in Germany, which is close to a port where our colleagues from Rhenus port in Contango serve solutions for the container inbound out of Netherlands or Belgium. Then we intend to have some cross-docking hubs for freight and home delivery there so that we really build one common solution out of the Rhenus portfolio for the customer. And this is really the idea we have in mind. To have our unique selling point and dedicated solution that supports our customer within his growth.
Gwen Dünner: Thank you. And so we've heard a lot of examples about warehousing and different transport options, but, of course, the main one is freight logistics, or let's say trucking, especially. Carsten, what does solution selling look like within freight logistics? Does it involve similar requirements and challenges, or how do your complete solutions including freight logistics, differ?
Carsten Hölzer: Well, it's like how my colleagues already have been saying. so we're meeting quite a high complexity on the end of our customers because they're no longer looking just for a single solution in terms of transport from A to B, but in most of the cases, even somehow to find solutions for the critical supply chain matters they do have inside their companies. This is combined with a rather high complexity inside our company because Rhenus is totally decentralised organised. Having said this, it's really challenging to find ways to bring people together to overcome hurdles in terms of having bad feelings to sell maybe another product where I'm not having that much good standing in terms of my knowledge. And Rhenus really managed it in the last years to bring the people together and to overcome those hurdles. So when it comes to our products, especially here, talking about road freight transports, we are always looking to ask the right questions, as Tobias said, for example, and to see where can we combine it also with warehousing solutions or with Air & Ocean or whatever so far. We do have certain examples such as, we are, e.g. for a discounter chain, providing a solution for road freight transports from Belgium to Ireland, moving there the goods to six different hubs of the customer. Those goods have been prior to these stored in a German warehouse from warehousing solutions. Or the other way round, talking about Air & Ocean in combination with road freight, we have been managing together a project from a Chinese customer, who wanted to get a wholesale concept for the Air & Ocean shipping, on the one hand, and for the hinterland transport inside Europe, on the other hand. This has been created by us and also accepted by the customer. That's the interesting topic. So just really looking over the borders of your own plate and going beyond.
Gwen Dünner: So, basically, road freight is kind of connecting all the different other solutions or the other services basically?
Carsten Hölzer: I wouldn't even say that road freight is more important than one of the others or is a more elementary part. It's exactly having the same significance as the others. Of course, looking to the globalisation of the industry and the world, I would even say connecting with each other is really the key.
Andrea Goretzki: So let's have a deeper dive into the internal requirements for cross-selling activities. Tobias, what does this entail and how does Rhenus enable the sales colleagues to offer all these different services to the customer?
Tobias König: This is for sure a challenge which we need to manage in future and within the next years because I also agree to what Carsten said. We're coming from a very decentralised organisation, right? And the focus has always been on the decentralised entities without having the motivation or the broader look on the overall product portfolio. But this is something that we definitely need to change and how can we change this? You know, I think we did make already a very, very good way ahead in the last couple of years because I also remember sometimes like 10, 12 years ago, where this was more an isolated way of working. I think today, also what Carsten and Felix said already, we see more and more examples where we definitely work together, where we bring a lot of our products to the customer, and really build up solutions. However, what is definitely needed, as I said before, we need to give our sales force the possibility to know what we have, right? When I travel around the world, I pretty often talk to people and realise things I do expect them to know they do not know. But why don't they know it? Because they're not willing to inform themselves? Or didn't we provide the right tools for them? So that they have all the information available in an easy way, right? So that's something we really need to make sure to tell our people and show our people what Rhenus is capable of. Next thing is, we need to build up proper trainings and I think in several business units and also on group level, we did build up trainings already in the last couple of years and we need to continue this. The next thing is, what I also said is, we need to provide to salespeople the right methodology how to talk to the customer. Because there are always more things to get to know from the customer than only to ask, let's say, if they're interested in Air & Ocean business, right? So if there's Air & Ocean, I'm pretty sure there's also some warehousing somewhere. Do they do it themselves? Did they outsource already or do they want to outsource this in future? Can we take it over completely or only partly? There is a first-mile delivery, a last-mile delivery where we can bring in our road colleagues? Do they have digitalisation demands to know where we could bring our office systems? I don't know. But, I mean, we could raise 100 questions and I think maybe five out of those 100 questions are interesting or definitely a value add for the customers. This is the next thing to enable our sales force to sell it. The next thing is we need to create a kind of umbrella structure, in my opinion, to bring the business units together. I mean, we will remain a decentralised company because we still believe in the local market and the closeness to the local market and to the local products, right? So, however, we need to create this umbrella to really have a kind of organisation taking care of the overall Rhenus portfolio. The next thing is, for sure, if we talk to bigger accounts, global key accounts, selling the entire portfolio. We also need to have people behind working on the requests, working on the tenders. That means we also need to have a team in place. Then working on those cross business unit tenders to bring all business units on board. To support the business units and working on those tenders and then providing the final Rhenus Group offer to the customer. However, providing all this to the Rhenus Group will help us. No doubt about it. But what is definitely needed, we need to have the support of the business units. And as I said, we are much more ahead than we have been like 10 years ago, but it's still, like, today that, let's say, if there are global cross business unit tenders on the table, some business units might say, 'Hmm, there's nothing in it for my business unit. Yes, I can do this, but the benefit for my business unit is rather low or is maybe zero.' Yes, that might be the truth and that's not nice for the business unit, but we need to start having the group picture in place. And if there is a benefit for the customer and the benefit for the entire Rhenus Group going into this, we also need to accept that this can happen and that not all involved business units will have the same benefit in it, right? So this is also a change of mindset we need to go through. So what we will definitely work on to improve in the future. However, we're in a good way there, but I think it would be wrong to say that there's no room for improvement anymore.
Gwen Dünner: Perfect. So to kind of summarise that, creating sales all around us for logistics rather than having single products as a focus.
Tobias König: Absolutely.
Gwen Dünner: Cool. Well, thank you. We've already heard quite a lot of examples, I have to say, but let's get down to the specifics. Now we know that certain industries require very specialised services and solutions. What role do verticals play when it comes to solution selling? So different markets that have special requirements. Felix, if you would like to start, maybe you could give us some examples of verticals and markets.
Felix Krede: I think, obviously, one of the most growing verticals are our markets. However, in the industry, it's still the e-commerce sector, which is very important for us from a growing perspective and also very important for us from a personal perspective as an end customer. In this market really we see several challenges, but also still a huge potential to grow and to build these customer solutions. And I mean from a strategic perspective, we intend to create more and more automised solutions within the warehousing. So really preparing ourselves more and more for these peaks and the situation in the market regarding staff in the warehouses and so on. But also what's really very important, and Carsten mentioned that already in his points regarding freight, again is to create this solution to have the whole customer demand in mind from that perspective. So, for example, we have one customer where we serve a nearly 200,000 square metres of warehousing space in several countries and supported by the colleagues from port, Air & Ocean and also freight, we take care of some risks they have in their supply chain, which directly affect the end customer. Because if the goods do not arrive at the warehouse, you cannot fulfil the order in the end. So, in this example, we created with the colleagues from Rhenus road freight a kind of a milk run from the ports to the warehouses and with this milk run system, we are able to save several days. So the goods are several days earlier in the warehouse and we are able to fulfil these orders earlier, which makes our customer happy and their end customer happy. This is what I see really as a dedicated solution in the e-commerce market, which is for us as a group really globally in focus.
Gwen Dünner: And, Carsten, do you have another example for these verticals?
Carsten Hölzer: Yes, definitely. Automotive, I mean verticals in general, are something where we have by case collected with several really big customers in the past a certain kind of expertise, a special knowledge with these industries and automotive is one of them. The way biggest, I would say, beside the chemical industry, where we have one of the most experiences made in the last years. Talking about road freight, for example, where we're providing last-mile spare part logistics. We have even also created a product for full-vehicle logistics in the UK, where our colleagues in the UK are, for example, doing transports of entire luxury cars. Two different countries which are very interesting. We're providing a whole lot of services inside the warehousing solutions for OEMs but also for tier one suppliers, and also in Air & Ocean, we do have a certain kind of automotive suppliers, on the one hand, and OEMs, on the other hand, where we're providing transports over the ocean, where we're providing airfreight transports such as, for example, from Mexico to Germany, last-mile transports for automotive and so on. And last but not least, even in the port logistics division, so it's really spread over the entire company, where we're doing the shipping of new cars, of newly produced cars from Germany to the UK over Cuxhaven, Cuxport.
Gwen Dünner: Nice. My favourite example. We had Florian Karcher from automotive in one of our earlier episodes and he was also telling us about this. Nice, and finally, Tobias, do you have another example?
Tobias König: Yes, I have. But before I go into another example, I just want to answer your question here. What role do verticals play in the topic of solution selling? In my opinion, verticals will be one of the keys of the future because the customer, like Carsten said, is not asking for an individual service anymore. They want to have solutions, as long as we talk about the mid-sized and bigger customers. And they want to work with forwarders who have a specific industry knowledge. Having a knowledge about the industry the customer is living in every day and they want us to understand the product. They want us to know what it is about to ship, to store, to pre-assemble or whatever to do with their goods, right? And that's why the focus on verticals within the business units, but also especially on group level, will be one of the keys in future to really set up a vertical structure where we as the Rhenus Group can concentrate on. It does not mean that we do not do any business aside from those verticals, right? So the business we're doing today will for sure continue, but we will define certain verticals where we have a special focus on and where we will also have special teams for providing a higher value add to the customers because of a special industry knowledge. One of the verticals which we also started already in different business units is the vertical life science and healthcare. I think this is also a perfect example to see how and where the Rhenus Group could work together. Because, in the life science and healthcare sector, we have customers who are very, very much focused on quality and compliance, and where the hurdle to step in is pretty high because you need to have special certifications like GDP certification or CIV certification, which takes a while and is also costly to get them. Which brings already a kind of hurdle to this business where not all competitors could or want to step in. That's the first thing. On the other hand, we've been dealing with our customers for many years now. For example, in the road freight, we have big pharmaceuticals and life science customers in Europe already, but also in the warehousing business unit, we've been serving those customers for many years when it comes to temperature-controlled warehousing. We also have those customers now in the Air & Ocean division. And what I wanted to say is none of those customers is really asking for Air & Ocean only or for warehousing only. We now have a new customer on board where we did open a new temperature-controlled facility in London, close to Heathrow Airport, in the last weeks already, where we will do the storing and preconditioning of cooling containers because their healthcare products pretty often need to be stored and shipped in temperature-controlled and different temperature zones. There are companies in the market providing those containers where the products are shipped in. We have a very big customer on board now who signed the contract with us, to store those containers and to also pre-condition those containers in the right temperature zone. But this is a business where we as Air & Ocean do the international shipping via airfreight, where our colleagues from warehousing solutions and also home delivery will do the temperature-controlled storage. And we will also do the first and final-mile delivery with our colleagues. This is also a perfect example that if we concentrate on verticals and go into the topic of solution selling with those, let's say, focus industries, it will be very, very easy to combine the services of many business units for one customer.
Andrea Goretzki: Thank you, Tobias. So now we've talked a lot about solutions and examples of some successful projects. This is all well and good, but just like most other logistic service providers, we have been facing capacity problems and disrupted supply chains. Are these indeed still our current problems or are we facing new ones? And how do we deal with these challenges?
Felix Krede: We noticed these problems with our customers in the whole supply chain and, in the end, also for sure in the market. Yes, these are supply chain risks for the customer and they still remain, at least from my perspective. When we talk to some of our big accounts, from their perspective, at least the next 12, 15 months, these problems will still be in the market. And from our perspective, we really tried to create solutions for them. So we create overflow warehouses for them to keep the stock that is on top now in the market due to the supply chain risk and the delays in the harbours and on the ships and so on. We also created some really individual solutions with our port colleagues where we do bring containers out of the ports where they're very important and do a repacking of these containers in one of our Rhenus facilities to at least bring the costs a bit down. So these are some reactions. And from a warehousing perspective, I can really say we still believe in the markets and we still grow in the market. So we currently build several new huge and sustainable warehouses globally in the UK, in Germany, for example, and also in India and in Spain. And this is really, so we are there. We try to bring space to the market and we keep on bringing solutions to the market. But still it's challenging also for our internal teams, but I'm totally positive to the future development from that perspective.
Tobias Koenig: Maybe also from my side here. Yes, you're totally right. The last couple of months and years have been very challenging not only for us but also for the customers because, let's talk, and especially within the Air & Ocean industry, their capacities have been extremely tight, right? So during Corona, there have been no flights up in the air. The belly capacity which is normally done via the passenger planes was not there anymore. And this is still a very high portion of the international airfreight business. And also the shipping lines have not been able to operate because of closed ports, port congestion or any other, let's say, artificial problems, constraints which have been in this shipping industry. That led not only to very, very tight capacities, but also it did push the market rates to record heights. That means our customers did face not only higher prices, but they did also face lower quality of services because capacity was not there, services have been low and the customers had to accept a lot of delays and also uncertainties. How is it today? Yes, for sure we are still facing those issues, but the market of international shipping is easing down at the moment. So the rates are going down and also the capacities are opening up again. And a lot of people are talking about at the moment that this is the first sign for a global recession. Maybe this is the point. That the business and the global economy will go down in the next couple of months. However, I see this always as a chance for us because what we should not forget about is that we as Rhenus are still a small logistics provider. That means the market of logistics is still pretty wide open for us and there is still a lot of untapped areas we did not look in so far. So that's why I think even in a decreasing economy, which we might face in the next couple of months, we talked about that we need to enable our sales force to put all those tools and services together to provide solutions to our customers. And if we do this right, I'm pretty sure that we will have the biggest chance now in the situation of opening markets to get a lot more new customers on board, but also to develop the business with our existing customers again and ongoing.
Carsten Hölzer: Last but not least, I would like to commend that as well, of course. It's been a period of ups and downs in the last year. It's really been challenging and especially looking to the road freight organisation, we were facing, I would even say for a few years now, 2017/2018, it was the very first time where we did have a tight situation on the market in terms of the driver shortage we are facing in Europe and many customers are coming along. I mean we're an asset-light-driven company and so we don't operate our own truck fleet. Many customers were asking us why the heck are we not going to invest in an old truck fleet or why are we not providing solutions with our own trucks. I mean, we do have our own trucks, but just a handful. Well, the reason is rather simple because we've been able to act pretty flexible in the market with the hauliers we have in place. And the freight purchasing team which we have, which is centralised, acting for the entire group. That is one key element in all this because we are creating that way not only stability, flexibility, also for our customers, but we're doing this as well for the hauliers. So creating an environment where also the hauliers are feeling we're taking care of them since when we feel with them, we know what their problems and their issues are. I mean just to give you an example, with the war scenario in the Ukraine, that we did have beginning of this year from February on, outstanding in Poland. There were 135,000 drivers from the Ukraine, who suddenly returned to their country in order to take care of their families or to take care of their country. This is fully understandable, but this has been increasing the issue we did have on the market in order to find sufficient equipment, enough trucks with drivers, with which we can serve our customers. I think the major topic was always to communicate in a very open way, to show high transparency in cost development, in the market development and also towards our customers, to enable our people, that was a critical thing that Tobias said before, to enable our salespeople really to explain that situation also to the customers and not to leave them somewhere with half knowledge, which might bring them into a critical situation when they're discussing with a customer.
Carsten Hölzer: Yes, we did have higher prices and lower services somewhere, but indeed, and that's something that I totally agree with Tobias, the market is still extremely fragmented and I see quite a big chance for us. Also in future, if we're continuing that way, that we can provide stable solutions for our customers. And, by the way, there's an additional topic that I just had in mind. We also used that kind of changes in the market to create new products. For example, TRW, transport-related warehousing, is closing a gap between what we did have in the past in terms of requests from customers, where we're using our physical hubs in Europe inside the road rail network, in order to provide warehousing solutions also for smaller quantities, which might not be interesting for really specific sourcing solutions from customers, where they're looking for when we're talking about thousands of pallet places. But where we're maybe talking about smaller quantities and where we can use our infrastructure which is in place to provide them a closer distance to their customers to be a little bit more decentralised instead of having just one big central warehouse inside Europe and so on. So this is one of the topics where we feel we're close to the market and we have quite a good set-up.
Gwen Dünner: Thank you, all of you. Well, that truly sounds like you three will have your hands full the next couple of months or years. Now, before we say goodbye, we have a little surprise. We wanted to ask each of you, how would you summarise solution selling in three words? I know that's a challenge. I'll give you a couple of minutes to think. Who wants to start?
Tobias König: That's a tough question for sales guys to sum something up in three words only.
Gwen Dünner: Yes, Tobias, three words.
Tobias König: Okay. Maybe I'll start and I do apologise right away, I will not make it in three words. No way. However, I will try to limit the words as much as possible.
Gwen Dünner: You will be downgraded, you know that.
Tobias König: I know, I know, but I accept the downgrading. I think, what I said in the beginning, one sentence could make it clear what solution selling is. It's about dressing up the customer and not providing the shoes only.
Gwen Dünner: Nice. OK, that's good. Coming back to the fashion example as well, I like it, OK. Felix, how about you?
Felix Krede: I can fully agree to Tobias. So maybe not only three words, but also thank you from my side. It was wonderful to be here. So for me, really, it's three topics, so not three words but three topics. Use the whole Rhenus portfolio. I think that is very important. Create values for the customer and dedicated solution. And future-wise, also looking forward to our group key account management, really understand the future solution demand of our customers to create value and additional solutions.
Gwen Dünner: So three tips really?
Felix Krede: Yes.
Gwen Dünner: That's also good.
Tobias König: But I think Felix should get a much higher decrease in ranking now because he used many more words than I did.
Gwen Dünner: We will deliberate in the meantime. Carsten, how about you?
Carsten Hölzer: As my colleagues didn't make a try to narrow it down to three words, I'm going to make this trial. But first of all, thank you very much for having invited me. I'm pretty thankful, having been able to join this round in this interview. I believe we're working in one of the best companies really. To say it in three words, I think our slogan says it in three words, Together with Passion. It's really all about this.
Gwen Dünner: Coming back. So good.
Carsten Hölzer: It's really all about this. Communicating with each other to communicating with the customer and really standing for what we're selling.
Gwen Dünner: Nice. If you could see Tobias' face.
Tobias König: Okay, Carsten, this point is on you.
Carsten Hölzer: Thank you.
Gwen Dünner: That's good. Great. I think this was the best segment we've had so far. The best answers. Thank you all for these closing words. Also, thank you for joining us. It was a pleasure, for giving this insight into this very complex topic.
Tobias König : Thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you.
Andrea Goretzki: Thank you also to our listeners. Please like and share our posts about this episode on LinkedIn and in your network. Also, if you haven't already, you can subscribe to Logistics People Talk on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Stay safe out there and tune in next time. We're your hosts:
Gwen Dünner: Gwen Dünner.
Andrea Goretzki: And Andrea Goretzki.
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