Rapid advances in technology in the last few years have presented sales people in the field of mobile telecommunications with new challenges on a regular basis. Handsets, services and customer expectations continue to change, so selling the vast array of products, prices and service packages now on offer requires in-depth knowledge and real professionalism.
"New devices and services keep popping up," says Irene Leung, general manager of corporate and business sales for Hong Kong CSL Limited (CSL). "Therefore, we give employees training in hard skills and product knowledge about once every two weeks and in soft skills about every three weeks."
The training covers three main areas — account development, presentation skills and understanding data solutions. Both in-house and external courses are arranged to give different perspectives on corporate and retail sales and how to deal with individual customer needs. "Data solutions is an important issue for us because many more people are using hand-held devices for services such as email," says Ms Leung.
She adds that corporate clients usually expect services to be customised, which can involve the sales team doing a detailed analysis of daily business operations. They must assess the effectiveness of the client's current technology, consider the costs for any recommended upgrade, and be able to explain each aspect of the implementation process.
"In the corporate sales department, team managers take an active role in deciding about budgets and course content for future training programmes, since they know in exactly which areas employees need to upskill," explains Ms Leung. The whole team will attend a training session together, and managers will later reinforce the main points to ensure new skills are put to good use in the workplace.
Team managers take an active role in deciding about budgets and course content for future training programmes
Staff are expected to participate actively in each class and, subsequently, to give feedback reflecting their own opinions and, where appropriate, the reaction of customers. In this way, future training can be modified and made immediately relevant.
Matthew Wong, a corporate sales manager, was very impressed by the course he recently attended on coaching techniques. "It did not just teach a set of steps to follow, but helped us to reflect on our own approach to leadership with interactive sessions and getting us to show how we handled real-life cases," he says. In his view, this approach made it easier to understand the concepts being taught and to put them into practice when back in the workplace.
Besides receiving classroom training, staff also have the opportunity to learn by handling different projects. "For example, each sales team will focus on an industry, such as logistics, which has immense needs for new mobility solutions," says Ms Leung. "They will conduct extensive market research to identify the growth potential, key players, current operating environment, and the challenges likely to be encountered." With this information, they can come up with a plan to meet service needs and improve CSL's market share. This requires an analytical mindset to interpret the various findings and come up with proposals. The team's best ideas are adopted and their effectiveness is reviewed, usually every quarter, by measuring sales growth in the specific industry and assessing how the market has changed.
Learn from peers
"There are no examinations or written reports to complete after in-house training classes, so we can concentrate just on learning," says Quinny Lau, a senior account manager in corporate sales. She notes that sales people may have different ways of dealing with clients and handling problems. However, coming together in training sessions makes it possible to share ideas and learn from peers.
"In one exercise, each of us picked a potential client to develop," Ms Lau explains. "Colleagues then gave feedback on sales planning and the best way to make an approach, so the whole team helped in achieving success."
Depending on a candidate's previous experience, the entry-level positions in CSL's corporate sales team are as account managers or account executives. Induction training teaches new joiners about company policies and, in particular, the privacy ordinance, since the job will almost certainly involve having access to clients' confidential information. All trainees also go through a three-month programme led by personal coaches. These are senior account managers ready to share their experience of everyday operations and dealing with customers.
More recently, the company has also made available external courses in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and encouraged staff to take MBAs.