Closing the sales gap: innovating the sales process and generating new orders

How TÜV Netherlands unleashes a commercial revolution in an international organization and achieves sales growth. 213% growth in website traffic, 860% lead growth, 213+ customers through inbound marketing.

TÜV Netherlands, a recognized certification body and part of the international TÜV NORD GROUP, needed to achieve growth ambitions and face competition. This case study is a snapshot of TÜV Netherlands between January 2016 and April 2018 that shows how the company launched a pilot project for new business activities, unleashed a commercial revolution within the international group and saw its revenue grow exponentially.


TÜV Netherlands: the beginning

Hanover, 1855. These are the early years of German industrialization. A steam boiler explodes. People who were working nearby are killed and injured. The incident made the need for regular inspections of steam boilers in Hanover and the surrounding area painfully clear. The establishment of the "Dampfkessel-Überwachungs-Vereins" (DÜV) was not long in coming.

In the years that followed, inspections extended to vehicles and elevators and the organization slowly grew into a technical inspection association (Technische Überwachungs-Vereine). Today we know this organization as the TÜV NORD GROUP, a recognized service provider with expertise in virtually all aspects of technical safety, environmental protection and conformity assessments of management systems and products.

In 1981, TÜV Netherlands was founded as part of the international group. To this day, their mission is to guarantee the safety, quality and reliability of a wide range of products and services for various sectors in the Netherlands.

The challenge

TÜV Netherlands experienced declining growth in the Dutch certification market and increasing competitive pressure. This situation forced TÜV Netherlands to find effective ways to explore new growth opportunities and optimize their commercial processes.

The solution

Initiating a commercial transformation through a new business pilot project, aimed at revamping the sales process and generating new orders. This included integrating marketing and sales, implementing an inbound sales methodology and improving cooperation between these departments.


What would you do if customers stopped calling you from tomorrow?

In Germany, TÜV NORD is still the "Coca-Cola" of certification bodies. At the time of TÜV NORD's renowned headquarters, customers found their way to the authority almost automatically. And because many norms and standards require manufacturers to be certified, the phone at TÜV NORD practically never stands still.

Although TÜV Netherlands also enjoyed a constant flow of customers, the company was aware that the Dutch market is very different the German one. In the Netherlands, the market growth for certifications slowly declined. New entrants were also disrupting the market and putting pressure on prices. Today, customers can choose to whom they entrust their certifications and inspections.

The future suddenly looked very different for TÜV Netherlands. The company had to meet the growth ambition of the TÜV NORD GROUP for the Dutch subsidiary, but also faced 25 to 40 competitors, who were rapidly expanding their sales teams. TÜV Netherlands decided it needed to thoroughly review the way it had set up its commercial organization. The harsh conclusion: if the phone stopped ringing tomorrow, TÜV Netherlands did not have its organization in order to close the sales gap.

The implementation of a new website starting in 2015 turned out to be the start of a real "commercial transformation" within TÜV Netherlands. This case study is a snapshot between January 2016 and April 2018 that shows how the company managed to increase its sales with a pilot project for new business activities in an international organization.

"If we wanted to achieve growth goals and objectives, we needed to add more value to marketing and sales for potential customers throughout the buying process. We had to start selling the way customers buy today." - Edwin Franken, director of TÜV Netherlands

The gap between Marketing and Sales

Edwin Franken, director of TÜV Netherlands, concluded in January 2016 that his organization's commercial way of working was no longer sustainable.

Edwin: "Our sales and marketing teams did not know how to make the most of their potential in this digital age, to put it mildly. Our marketing department, which did not even exist until 2010, had one person and was not equipped to actively support the growth of TÜV Netherlands. The employee was stuck in a communications-oriented role and mainly produced flyers and brochures for Sales."

Sales was reactive. Their daily work was mainly administrative in nature. Edwin: "We didn't have the right processes in place to add value to customers during the buying process - from first contact to closing the deal. Let alone that Sales knew how to actively enter new markets and contact prospects. However, given the large number of competitors, this was absolutely necessary."

Edwin also had to take into account that TÜV Netherlands is part of a large international organization. Edwin: "To achieve the goals I had in mind for TÜV Netherlands, we had to operate within the existing framework of the international organization for IT, branding, processes and so on. Even if you all belong to the same organization, there are inevitably differences in culture and working methods. We couldn't ignore that."

A 'new business' pilot: a bold step

Edwin was determined to form a commercial team within TÜV Netherlands that was equipped to acquire new customers and would use the opportunities of the digital age to do so.

Edwin: "It was clear to me that measurable lead generation had to become the main focus of Marketing if TÜV Netherlands wanted to remain relevant in the future. At the time, we didn't have a solid strategy or roadmap to achieve that goal. But the insight alone was very valuable. I also knew that Marketing and Sales would have to fully integrate their processes at some point. If we wanted to close the gap, Sales had to implement a way of working where they had to add value for potential customers very early in the buying process: they had to sell like customers buy today. But we weren't that far along."

Since they had to start somewhere, TÜV Netherlands decided to start with Marketing. Edwin: "I asked my colleague to think about a 5-year strategy. The new website that was planned was obviously the most tangible starting point. To gather valuable input for our new approach, we asked almost all Business Units within TÜV Netherlands for their insights. We asked BU Managers one simple question: "what do you need from our marketing department? We used the answers for a gap analysis."

Edwin was very aware that he had to find a way to work with the IT systems that were already being used within the TÜV NORD GROUP (including ERP systems). In addition, his marketing and sales teams had to be willing to change their skills and mindset for his plan to succeed. And, most importantly, the sales team had to assess and reform existing processes to close the gap. A new method was needed for Marketing and Sales to work together and attract, nurture and share leads.

Edwin: "We wanted to become the leading certification authority online. If we wanted to achieve this ambitious goal, we had to do more than the resources we received from the international TÜV NORD GROUP. So we took a bold decision: TÜV Netherlands started a pilot. This allowed us to achieve our goals and still operate within the existing framework of the international organization."

"The implementation of an inbound sales method led to a systematic improvement of agreements between sales representatives and integration of Marketing and Sales." - Edwin Franken, director of TÜV Netherlands

The commercial transformation of TÜV Netherlands

To run a pilot project in an international organization and increase revenue through new business activities, TÜV Netherlands partnered with Webs.

Together with the Webs team, Edwin implemented a new website and an inbound marketing strategy. They used HubSpot Marketing Automation software to measure ROI from start to finish.

Edwin: "Webs brought together all the puzzle pieces we had collected and worked with us to create a solid growth plan. They implemented and integrated the HubSpot software alongside our existing tools so there was no negative impact on the international group. They really helped us shape our pilot. Over the past two years, our colleagues have worked closely with consultants, copywriters, designers and technical specialists to develop physical campaign materials that allow us to generate leads and measure and improve results."

When Marketing passed on the first qualified leads to Sales after six months, TÜV Netherlands also implemented an inbound sales strategy and the HubSpot CRM.

Edwin: "Our management team saw that inbound marketing was working. The request to work on a fully integrated marketing and sales organization came from the team. That's when we started inbound-sales: selling the way customers buy today."

Key milestones in the first year

  • Establish a clear growth plan for a pilot - in addition to the international organization's existing infrastructure (such as a greenfield project).

  • Implementation of closed-loop reporting and a mindset of continuous improvement.

  • Periodically share inbound motivations, methods and results to remove friction and get the whole organization on board.

  • Establish marketing and sales funnels and roll out an online (content) strategy to attract more and better leads online.

  • Implementation of a set of marketing and sales tools to generate more leads and close deals more efficiently.

International rollout of inbound

Since January 2016, TÜV Netherlands has been working hard to implement the new strategy and tools to achieve goals. And not without results:

  • A successful pilot for new business activities was set up in an international organization.
  • The headquarters in Germany asked TÜV Netherlands for help with the international rollout of the project.
  • Some other international branches have now also implemented inbound and HubSpot.
  • Marketing and Sales are integrated and working together to attract leads and close deals.
  • Every new employee of TÜV Netherlands is trained in the inbound methodology. 'Inbound' is fully integrated into the way of thinking.

Edwin: "Webs worked with TÜV Netherlands to implement a future-proof marketing and sales process. Implementation of an inbound strategy in our organization has already shown a tremendous increase in traffic and leads in the first year and a half. Using the inbound methodology, we formulated goals and sharpened the role of Marketing in our organization. Where Marketing used to just cost money, it now makes money. Thanks to Webs, we have gained a better understanding of our target markets and customers, and can help them meet their challenges."

Edwin: "The implementation of an inbound sales methodology led to a systematic improvement of appointments between sales representatives and integration of Marketing and Sales. The result was growth of our organization and more efficient follow-up of commercial opportunities."

The figures between 2016 and 2018 show that TÜV Netherlands has made a lot of progress in developing an inbound organization:

  • More traffic : a 213% growth in the number of website visitors, most of whom came from the TÜV Netherlands blog and optimized web pages (organic search results).
  • More leads: an 860% growth in the number of leads (from 30 qualified leads per month to 288 leads per month), achieving success with a comprehensive guide for the Quality Assurance Manager and with the organization of knowledge sessions.
  • More customers: +12% revenue from new business in 2017 (213 new business customers thanks to inbound marketing and sales)

Plans for the future

Professionalizing TÜV Netherlands' commercial team is obviously not a project, but an ongoing process. Edwin: "We are now focused on thoroughly following up on leads we attract online. In addition, we continue to use insights from inbound marketing and sales to develop new markets. We want to increase our quote scoring rate to 45% and customer retention to 95%. In addition, we want to leverage HubSpot's capabilities even better than we do now. Together with Webs, we are doing everything we can to move the international TUV Group forward and achieve our joint growth goals and objectives."