IT / Telecom

Broadband industry set to tackle the vast SME market

by Ada Ng

Steve Lam, sales and marketing director, Hutchison Global Communications Ltd

While multinationals reap tangible benefits of fast and reliable communications, there is huge market potential among smaller enterprises for broadband marketing

Hong Kong is without doubt one of the most dynamic and vibrant Internet market places in Asia. Despite service providers crowding the market with fierce price competition and value-added services, particularly in the residential broadband sector, an abundance of growth opportunities can still be found in the commercial sector. This vast area has yet to witness mass adoption of broadband Internet access (BIA) in the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment.

While BIA has completely penetrated multinational companies (MNCs) and large local firms, the bulk of SMEs that are the backbone of Hong Kong enterprises have yet to hook up to broadband. "I don't think the broadband market is saturated, especially when you consider that perhaps 50 per cent of the 300,000 SMEs in Hong Kong have yet to wire-up to broadband Internet access," says Steve Lam, sales and marketing director of Hutchison Global Communications Ltd. The SME sector will definitely be a hot spot for growth in the next few years, he says. More corporate sales opportunities and supportive roles in the broadband industry will open up as service providers step up their marketing efforts in the highly competitive realm of bandwidth enhancement, content provision and value-added services.

Operating one of the most extensive fibre optic networks in Hong Kong, Hutchison Global Communications (HGC) is well equipped to further extend its reach in the SME market.

The next few years will see expansion of broadband and value-added services to many SMEs

Riding on reliability

By partnering with system integrators, says Mr Lam, these firms could ride on HGC's reliable Metro Ethernet service to provide various e-applications that serve to lower costs and enhance the workflow efficiency of SMEs. "Given that SMEs form the bulk of [Hong Kong's] business enterprises and that most of them don't have a professional in-house support team, we are here to help them set up and activating e-applications that best fit their needs," he says.

In particular, the e-trading or business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce systems that support channels of communication between trade partners and automate different levels of trade processes, would definitely be an asset in encouraging SMEs to subscribe to HGC's broadband services, says Mr Lam, adding that BIA services should now be a necessity rather than a luxury. SMEs are expected to dicker for more efficient services, especially when prices drop [for them] to more affordable levels.

While a big chunk of new businesses will be brought in by the SME segment, Mr Lam believes a balance should be struck between existing MNC clients and SMEs to seize maximum revenues in a maturing, but as yet unsaturated market. Mr Lam says HGC, which has a significant share of the MNC broadband market, would further serve such global players by providing a reliable network that would attract their value-added services (VAS). "For existing large corporate customers, we aim to increase their VAS usage in order to strengthen our average revenue per unit," he says.

Mr Lam says last year's Sars epidemic had indeed reinforced the need for remote communication access via broadband services. Since Sars, multinational companies have devoted greater resources to contingency planning and remote communication. Many such preparations focus on developing the capability to continue operations through back-up or remote Internet access facilities. Alternative means of communication, such as video-conferencing, interactive live web presentation or remote access are obviously valuable to big corporations for continuity of communications and international data-sharing. HGC, which has a strong foothold in the banking and public broadband sectors, also has a dedicated corporate sales team that can tailor usage plans to suit large organisations.

With more than 20 years' experience in the corporate sales discipline of the information technology and telecommunications industry, Mr Lam says constant exposure to the modus operandi of major companies and industries is always an eye-opening experience for him. He stresses, though, that other than typical monetary rewards such as commission, bonuses and promotions that a corporate salesperson can expect, the non-monetary rewards are key drivers that retain young men and women in the field. "Being a corporate salesperson, you are a leader; you can tap into vast resources and help bridge two main parties, your client and your company," he says.

Know your client

"You must always be capable of understanding clearly your clients' needs and then combine available resources with the best of broadband services and applications to satisfactorily serve them," Mr Lam explains. "It's an especially satisfying and rewarding experience when your clients put their trust in you to implement the system you propose to sell them," he adds.

The key attributes of a successful corporate sales person are hard work, self-motivation and determination to help the industry expand. Fresh graduates, preferably with a university or associate degree, can start as an account executive and acquire industry knowledge and sales techniques through HGC's comprehensive business trainee programme and on-job training opportunities. An account executive should be able to move on to account manager then grow further to unit manager overseeing their own team.

Apart from a vertical career path, Mr Lam also says a horizontal move is available for sale personnel who are interested in other HGC functions such as international sales, wholesale and other supportive roles such as engineering or marketing. He adds that corporate sales personnel with HGC find their work experience satisfying and rewarding, mentioning that one of the current holders of the HKMA Distinguished Salesperson Award is HGC account manager Kenneth Lam.

The knowledge tree

  • Believe in the huge marketing potential that IT and Telecoms offers
  • Study the partnering system to enhance the broadband sales push
  • Understand the many industries you encounter and how they work
  • Gain client trust and you'll accomplish an important sales objective

Taken from Career Times 20 August 2004
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