Story | 04/26/2024 07:41:48 | 4 min Read time

Behind the scenes: Experienced German sales team understands the customers’ struggles

Sara Steensig

Editor, Tulus

UPM Plywood serves its Central European customers from Hamburg. The sales team consists of experienced professionals, who are always there for the customers but also for each other.

In Hamburg, Germany, a team of ten seasoned professionals and one newcomer assists UPM Plywood’s customers in Germany, Austria, Poland and their southeastern neighbours, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia. 

Area Sales Director Matthias Raffius heads the team with five Sales Managers; Martin Hoffmann, Pasi Kiimalainen, Jens Schaufert, Joachim Stinsky and Henning Reck, who joined the team in 2023, and five Sales Specialists; Matthias Gol, Miriam Kracht, Evelyn Rode, Dirk Schomann and Gabriele Wiese. (From left in the main picture: Evelyn Rode, Pasi Kiimalainen, Matthias Raffius and Martin Hoffman.)

Some take care of certain geographical areas, while others are specialised in particular end uses. Common for all team members is that there is no such thing as a typical day: Sometimes they travel, some days they work from home or meet at the office in downtown Hamburg. 

“My days are mainly influenced by the customers’ needs,” explains Sales Manager Pasi Kiimalainen, who tends to industrial customers and traders spread across several countries. He has worked for UPM in Hamburg since 2001 and before that for UPM Plywood’s predecessor Schauman Wood during his studies in the 1990s.  

Strong team spirit 

Just like Pasi, most of his colleagues have been working in Hamburg for more than 20 years, so UPM Plywood and the team must do something right, notes Area Sales Director Matthias Raffius, who supervises the team with a 26-year-long career at UPM behind him. 

“We’ve known each other for so long, we respect each other and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses; you know when it might be better to just let someone do their work instead of starting to small talk,” Matthias describes. 

Pasi highlights the team spirit: “Despite different markets and end use areas, our team is very harmonious. We support each other.” 

Supporting customers through tough times 

UPM Plywood is a premier supplier of plywood in Germany, Austria, Poland and the neighbouring countries to the southeast. In this area, WISA products are particularly popular as vehicle flooring in the transport industry. A lot of WISA panels are also sold to the construction business and traders.  

Looking at the area they serve, Pasi and Matthias pinpoint some strong current trends: Generally, the use of wood is growing as sustainability becomes a major concern of lawmakers and companies. At the same time, the plywood market is turbulent with illegal wood entering the European Union from Russia and increasing global competition. UPM Plywood has, however, remained a leading plywood provider in the area.  

“What makes the difference is the service we can give to the customer. Our experience is a major strength: we have deep and detailed experience in the whole field of where our products are used. It takes time to build up this level of experience,” Pasi notes. “Plywood might sound like a simple product, but its applications are very versatile and can be very technical.” 

The sales team in Germany adds value to their customers’ business by “supplying them with what they need when they need it at a reasonable price,” as Matthias puts it. At the same time, he stresses that UPM Plywood’s customer relationships are much more than just transactional. They are partnerships. 

“It’s about giving and taking, and both sides must be committed,” Matthias says, and Pasi takes over: “We always maintain an open dialogue with the customers, also in tight situations. So far, we have been able to keep a steady supply, so they can keep their business running.” 

Excellent service 24/7 

To maintain an excellent service level, UPM Plywood’s experienced team in Germany is looking for new talents to gradually walk in the footsteps of the team's experienced members.  

Digital tools, such as the online customer portal My WISA, are also increasingly used to further heighten the service level. The first customers will have access to the portal soon. 

“It widens our service as a lot of information is available 24/7. Now, the customers can get an answer at 10 o’clock in the evening, but we will also be there to answer the phone the next morning. It won’t replace the people,” Matthias assures. 

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