Why did you choose this profession and how long have you been working in this field?
Since 20 years I am working in the packaging industry, experiencing different fields: chemicals, pharmaceutical products, food stuffs. I particulary enjoy the fact that in the dairy industry, packaging is directly in link with the products itself in terms of quality, but involve the whole business chain, from marketing to production making each project global and different. It is always a new challenge, that we are fully living with the customer team.
I choose sales after technical studies, because I could not decide what I wanted to do inside a company, accounting, marketing, logistics, engineering, production, management, and ….. sales for sure ! I have the opportunity to get all the steps of the entrepreneur process in one function, inside Erca and with my customers, this makes my job really unique.
How do the appointments with customers abroad come about?
Networking is today the first contact provider, especially in export in difficult areas like Africa, but also the image and the reputation of the brand you are working for is helpful getting first contact. We have made several greenfield projects that we are really proud of. Exhibitions are also a good way to find new contacts.
How many countries have you already served and which was your favourite?
I have travelled in 33 countries in Africa, and I stopped counting after. We have machine installations in 20 countries there. During these trips, I have discovered a lot of different cultures, making also the job really interesting. North Africa, west, south, east, it is each time new habits, new tastes, new marketing, new distribution channels and new people. But they are all very friendly and open minded. If I have to choose one country, I will not say my favourite, but the first I am thinking about is Algeria. The reason why? It’s the kindness of the people you meet there, followed by the fantastic countryside I have seen during thousands of kilometers visiting customers all over the country, and the quality of the business we have done there. But again, I could say that for all he other countries, but Algeria is the one I have spent most of my travelling time.
Are there country-specific differences in terms of the machine requirements?
Yes, for sure! Market is driving producers needs. As a result, we have to adapt our offer to the market demands, but also to the technical knowledge available on site, the distribution network etc… We have to get in hands a full portfolio of solutions ready to answer to customer needs. But also we have to elaborate each time how to make the project happen, there is no typical argumentation, you have to think for and with the customer.
Which business trip has been particularly memorable for you?
We had the chance to do a fantastic exhibition in Teheran with the IMA Group. It was a very good time with nice colleagues from all IMA divisions. There we have a very good agent, and visiting Teheran was impressive and definitely different to what we can think while sitting here in Europe !
Iranian people are so ingenious, so resiliant, and so hard in negociation ! Definitely a life experience you can not forget when you have the chance to sell there, and we did !
To what extent does the pandemic limit your work? What solutions have been worked out?
In my job, you need to get in touch with the market, not only the customers. You need to see their distribution channels, see what is already existing, have a look on the market prices, promotions and marketing aspects. You always need to stay up to date and propose innovation or R&D projects or sometimes new recipes to help customers to increase their sales. During the pandemic this was not possible. We have tried the to stay in close contact to our agents, our partners, our local friends, to keep an eye and an ear open, ready for the next step, and the next challenges, especially new eco friendly materials.
Will video conferences or online meetings replace the trip to the customer in the future?
Definitely not! Human relations must stay real, they cannot be replaced by virtual meetings. But may be there is a way to be more efficient, and more ecological to have more meetings on web or on the phone. But I am excited and restless to meet my customers, my friends and my agents again, check myself that they are in good health and share good times together, and for sure set up new projects !