Sales / Marketing

Fresh talent can shine in the shipping industry

by Nicole Wong

Dominique Lovichi, vice president, Asia Regional Office, CMA CGM & ANL

Experience not essential for those with the ability to sell

The logistics industry in Hong Kong has undoubtedly been booming in recent years, creating a wealth of career opportunities for experienced professionals, as well as for younger people who want to break into the field. With the relentless growth of the China market, all the signs point towards continuing prosperity for the sector, and the leading companies are therefore on the lookout for high-calibre salespeople to promote the next phase of development.

Dominique Lovichi, vice president of Asia Regional Office, CMA CGM & ANL, notes that the shipping industry has been actively expanding in the last few years and that there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for manpower. "There is plenty of room in the industry for young graduates to join, too," he points out. "Since no academic courses focus on the shipping industry, the main players are keen to recruit young talent and groom them to become outstanding sales representatives."

As one of the world's major shipping lines, CMA CGM & ANL looks for experienced professionals with good knowledge of the international market. The company also welcomes those without previous industry or sales and marketing experience, as well as fresh graduates and people with a background in public relations or customer service. "We value newcomers to the industry provided they are hard-working, willing to learn, and motivated to make a contribution to the company," Mr Lovichi says.

Since the shipping business requires a certain amount of specialised knowledge, CMA CGM & ANL provides comprehensive training to get new recruits off to a flying start. This includes skills in selling and customer service, essential industry information, the company's organisation and structure, and intensive language courses in Chinese and English. Recruits also receive mentoring from senior sales and marketing staff who provide practical advice and pass on their experience.

Employee mix

At present, there are regular entry-level openings for sales representatives for the Hong Kong and China markets, and for customer service representatives, who handle client enquiries and take care of various back-office functions. Depending on performance, employees have the chance to follow a structured career path and may be able to get broader international expertise through transfers to the company's worldwide offices.

"We consider it crucial to have employees of all ages and different levels of experience, as it keeps our company's culture fresh and alive," Mr Lovichi explains.

As the leading players explore and compete for new markets, employees must keep pace with market trends and developments and be ready to upgrade their skills. According to Mr Lovichi, sales staff should take the initiative to learn about and participate in evolving business strategies. Since sales and marketing responsibilities will continue to change in a multinational company, it is also vital for employees to have an open mind and to be adaptable.

Mutual growth

"Our staff are all dedicated professionals who are proactive, efficient and proficient in their knowledge of our services," Mr Lovichi adds. "Junior employees are also expected to build up their knowledge of management principles, since we emphasise the mutual growth of the company and its staff. As members of a team, they should aim to develop their own careers and become future managers."

While having a wide network of personal contacts is generally an advantage in the sales and marketing profession, Mr Lovichi believes newcomers to the shipping industry can initially count on the client base of whichever company they join. "It is the managers' job to help junior salespeople acquire product knowledge and establish contact with clients," he says. "More senior salespeople, with the essential selling and people skills, should be able to utilise the existing client base plus their own contacts to bring in new business."

Since real proficiency in the sector is grounded in experience, most sales and marketing professionals in shipping view their work as a long-term commitment. Persistence is often the key to a successful career. "It is a real intellectual effort to communicate with all kinds of customers and adapt to different circumstances," Mr Lovichi says. "To become a good salesperson for both the company and the customer, young people should enhance their knowledge and presentation skills over time, and have the passion necessary for a long career journey."

Career compass

  • Increase in the demand for sales and marketing professionals within the shipping sector
  • Training is provided to give recruits the specialist knowledge and skills they require
  • Applicants do not necessarily need previous sales or shipping experience
  • Employees must keep learning and show initiative to achieve personal development
  • Newcomers in sales positions can expect to work with an existing client base
  • A long-term view is needed in order to achieve career progress

Taken from Career Times 09 September 2005
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