In any aspect of sales and marketing, adaptability is essential to cope with new business strategies and the constant changes brought about by evolving market trends. It is the quality exemplified by Regine Picard, regional business development director Asia for Geodis Overseas Limited, and one which has allowed her to build a career as a sales and marketing professional in the logistics industry and taken her around the world.
Ms Picard's journey began as a student of international marketing at the Institut Superieur de Gestion in France. Her studies there gave her an understanding of how diverse businesses are run in Europe, North America and Asia, and after graduating in 1995, she lost no time in accepting the opportunity of an internship in Hong Kong. "I was determined to work in Asia right from the start, and this goal has motivated me throughout my career," she says.
Singapore was the next stop, where Ms Picard was appointed first as sales executive and later as sales and marketing manager for a Netherlands-based global freight forwarding company. Broad knowledge gained there led to an offer in 1999 to join the Paris office of a UK-based logistics firm as Asia Pacific route manager. "Working with different companies helped me to develop insights into the various business priorities and cultures within Asia," she recalls. "I was able to combine these new-found perspectives with my western way of looking at things."
However, not long afterwards, in 2001 the chance came up to return to Hong Kong as a route development manager, and Ms Picard was only too happy to accept. Two further steps saw her move in 2003 to Geodis, a French-based logistics service provider. She began as regional business development manager focusing on Greater China and the France trade lane, before being promoted to her current role overseeing business development and sales for the company's Asian offices in 31 locations and nine countries.
When approaching a customer, we have to understand the entire supply chain process from sourcing to final point of delivery
The position involves regular meetings and conference calls with international colleagues to review account development and devise strategies for business growth. It also entails managing the regional sales force of more than 120 people. "There are methodologies and clear action plans set up to motivate the sales teams and ensure they achieve company targets," Ms Picard says.
One specific challenge at present is to provide continuous training in new products and necessary skills for an expanding sales team. "We are learning from one another by sharing experiences," she notes. "My motto for daily management is to listen, understand, share and guide whenever my colleagues need my support. These are the basic communication skills for every salesperson."
While a Master's degree in logistics can be an advantage, Ms Picard notes that good geographical knowledge, genuine motivation to overcome challenges, and a flair for finding business solutions are the prerequisites for success in the field. Graduates of logistics or business-related courses can pick up practical experience through on-the-job training, while other newcomers often learn about the industry by starting in customer service or sales assistant positions. "This gives them the opportunity to interact with everyone from customers to marketing, finance and operations staff locally and globally," Ms Picard explains.
She adds that continuous learning is one of the greatest benefits of being in the sector. "In dealing with clients from different industries, we get a broad understanding of their business and logistics process. That provides us with the chance to keep learning," she says, noting that a proactive approach and receptive attitude is essential for those who want to go into the sector.
With rapid changes taking place in the global logistics industry, professionals must react quickly to keep pace with market developments. According to Ms Picard, the concept of offering a "multi-business package" has become a dominant trend. The objective is to meet a customer's every need by not only providing international freight forwarding, but also global management, express services and road transport.
"When approaching a customer, we have to understand the entire supply chain process from sourcing to final point of delivery," she says. "We aim to offer innovative solutions, as well as expertise in re-engineering logistics processes. We always bear in mind that solutions must be feasible, efficient and cost effective."
While the active expansion of the logistics industry in China is creating many new jobs, Ms Picard notes that locally recruited employees fill most openings. "However, there are opportunities for professionals from Hong Kong at senior management level with multinational companies," she says. "They must have the right skills in team management and product development, as well as knowledge of the China market and how business operates there."