New technologies and services have dramatically increased the complexity of the mobile market in the last 10 years.
"In the early days, a customer would walk into a shop, sign a subscription and that would be it," says Charles Henshaw, director and chief executive officer at China Mobile Peoples Telephone Company Limited (PEOPLES). Nowadays, customised service plans, innumerable products and complicated add-ons have made the sales and marketing side of the business far more challenging.
The first thing is to package these various options in a way the customer can understand. The trick is to make the features relevant to daily life and to assess what the subscriber may need and be willing to pay for. "Creativity is the key for our marketing team to package services in a way that is attractive enough to make people come to us," says Mr Henshaw.
To promote creativity, the company welcomes candidates from different backgrounds to join the marketing team. "You must have input from a lot of different angles and points of view," he explains, adding that the essential thing is for employees to contribute ideas and fit into a team dynamic to work towards a defined goal.
With this comes a degree of freedom to encourage staff to innovate. "People go into marketing because they can start with a blank piece of paper and create something, like an artist or a musician," Mr Henshaw explains. "Some companies have too many corporate guidelines or a set way of doing things."
Once the marketing team has come up with ideas for packaging the services, the sales team must communicate them to customers. This involves learning fast and knowing how to highlight the relevant features. "We don't want the type of salesperson who just talks about price," says Mr Henshaw. "They must explain the uses and qualities as convincingly as possible."
To equip the sales team with all the necessary information, PEOPLES has set up an in-house training centre. This provides product knowledge and IT skills, as well as communication and customer service skills to make the right impression on clients. It is made clear that the goal is not to make one-off sales, but to win customers who will become long-term network users.
One unique aspect of the company's approach is to have more face-to-face interaction with subscribers. This usually happens when subscribers come to one of the 47 shops to pay their monthly bill or check their account. Such visits provide an ideal opportunity to introduce new products and services, as well as to form stronger relationships.
Within the company, special emphasis is placed on teamwork, not just between the sales, marketing and customer care divisions, but also with the product development, IT, engineering and finance teams which support them. "We are all in the same building, allowing us to meet regularly and that creates a very good team dynamic," says Mr Henshaw. "We only have around 650 people, but have achieved a great deal because of our closeness and efficiency."