High performing sales professionals remain in constant demand in today's robust business environment. In order to attract individuals who display superlative levels of talent, employers need to offer attractive remuneration packages, an optimum working environment and comprehensive career prospects.
"Sales professionals are a key business driver because they present the company's products to a wide range of customers who have very specific needs," says Benjamin Tong, assistant director, BIS (business imaging solutions groups), Canon Hongkong Co Ltd, a wholly owned company of the world famous digital electronics producer Canon Global.
According to Mr Tong, imaging solutions today include a vast array of advanced hardware and software. "Traditionally, imaging solution products were limited to photocopiers. Now, the ranges include both hardware and software, which incorporate advanced computer technologies, complete with after sales services tailored to customer needs. In the past we effectively sold a machine part; today, we sell entire document management solutions (DMS)," Mr Tong says.
As a result of such evolutionary changes, sales professionals now require a unique set of skills to excel in the field. "Our industry is both knowledge-based and customer-oriented. Moreover, teamwork is essential for effectual solutions selling. While sales staff continue to remain the initial contact point for customers, technical staff are now involved to design feasible solutions for clients," he adds.
Canon's sales team conducts a thorough needs assessment for each customer, leveraging on the assistance of the Canon system support team responsible for solution implementation. Extensive discussions ensure an all-encompassing solution is customised for the client. Proposals are then drafted detailing the types of hardware and software needed, as well as financing plans.
"DMS proposals need to be accompanied by clear feasibility and customisation documentation. Each customer is at a unique developmental stage with specific financial and technological requirements. There is no panacea. By incorporating Canon's diverse product range, we can devise optimised solutions for every customer," Mr Tong remarks.
Regarding DMS products, Canon currently enjoys a considerable worldwide market share. Available lines include multifunction printers, large format printers, document management solutions, scanners, fax machines, micrographics equipment, projectors, communication cameras, digital cameras, calculators and electronic dictionaries.
Every piece of Canon equipment is the result of tireless research and rigorous testing. As advanced computer technologies are incorporated into each product, sales staff must undergo comprehensive pre-sales training before discussing merchandise merits with customers.
The pre-sales training aims to equip sales professionals with product knowledge and soft skills such as sales and account maintenance. "Our aim is to establish long-term relationships with customers. Besides formal training sessions, coaching by managers is an additional way to facilitate knowledge and skills transfer," notes Mr Tong.
Canon Global employs more than 110,000 people worldwide. Its management believes culture and diversification are pivotal to company success. Mr Tong explains, "Our parent company understands local culture. For example, Canon Hong Kong has taken steps to integrate the company into the local community. Also, a policy of internal promotion is adopted. This is positive news for staff who now feel assured they have the opportunity for promotion to senior levels."
Commissioning the best
Lucrative remuneration packages are in place to attract the kind of talented professionals Canon covets. New employees are entitled to a three-month non-repayable guaranteed commission, which is, according to Mr Tong, very generous. A rewarding commission scheme, overseas incentive trips and further education subsidies are company policies.
"Incentive trips not only lift staff spirits but also strengthen bonds. Furthermore, we encourage staff to enrol in educational programmes. When staff progress towards managing corporate accounts, they require ever greater levels of sophisticated knowledge to evaluate situations from a micro perspective. Players in the field need to remain highly professional because they engage with the management teams of many different corporations," Mr Tong elaborates.
To ensure staff exposure to the full range of products and services at Canon, a sales professional starts out by servicing small- and medium-enterprises since their requirements are usually not as complicated as those of larger corporations. A system support team is on hand to provide sales staff with knowledge and services necessary for meeting more specific customer needs.
Mr Tong notes that although a career in sales at Canon is a rewarding one, it takes certain attributes to succeed. "You must demonstrate a passion for knowledge, team spirit and sound business acumen," he concludes.