Meet Gijs Vlaander, our Head of Sales & Accounts. He finds challenge and inspiration in people with different perspectives, and in digging deep to find the true e-commerce challenge. Time to talk to Gijs.
Tell us about yourself and your role at Emakina.
I am responsible for Sales & Accounts. That means that I focus on new clients, and also find ways to support existing clients. I help them identify their issues, and of course figure out how Emakina can help. That could mean that I gather the right team of experts to answer a client briefing, or it could be consultative selling. In that case, we help the client identify pain points or problems that are much bigger than just their own department. An important part of my job is to find stakeholders within a client’s organisation, so that everyone embraces, and supports, the bigger picture.
You’ve switched from Head of e-commerce at Emakina to Head of Sales & Accounts. Could you tell a bit more about that?
Sure, it was quite a natural move actually, as people in Sales & Accounts sell very much from knowledge. It’s not about checking off a list of clients and telling them about the solutions we have in our toolbox. That’s not what we do. As Head of e-commerce, which might be a bit of a confusing title, I was the first point of contact for e-commerce services. I sold services to new clients with an e-commerce challenge. Either they didn’t have a platform yet, or they had one that wasn’t performing.
But not only that, I was involved in questions like “How do you get your organisation ready?”, “How do you set up your technology?”, “How do you work on your brand?” and “What does it look like from an operational standpoint?”. The domain just broadened and as I also got responsibility for existing clients, this was a very logical step in my career. It also required a bigger Sales & Accounts team, so we got more people in which gave me the chance to take on a leadership role.
What’s the most important lesson you learned in your career so far?
Saying that the client doesn’t get it, is wrong. The client just has a different perspective. Trying to convince a client that their perspective is not right, is not the way to go. It is our job to give the client insights which help them adjust their perspective. That’s when we add value.
Do you have a sales guru, or a book that everyone in sales should read?
I don’t have a ‘sales guru’, but I find people who think about how to make a message stick very interesting. I recently read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It teaches you to get to the essence of a message. In sales, it means being able to describe a problem in only a few sentences and prove it so that your client feels understood. That’s a skill.
What’s the best thing about working at Emakina?
To me, e-commerce means innovation and making a difference. I enjoy having conversations about creating solutions that help organisations make more money, instead of talking about cutting costs. For example, we can negotiate service level agreements, but the issue is that the client is losing money when there’s a problem in the checkout flow. We need to fix that. Now. That’s how you build relationships with clients, and that’s why they stay with us for a long time. And it’s also why I am here.
In just 5 years, we’ve grown from 50 to 160 people. Our projects have grown from small ones to extremely large ones. Emakina is growing, and that means that there’s always new people with new characters and new skills coming in. I enjoy that diversity, it provokes new thoughts and ideas. To make things happen, you need people who want to make it happen. Experts who want to dive into new things and solve complex problems. I love being part of that.
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