Technical terms in the telecommunications industry can scare laymen away, but Byron Chiang, assistant general manager (AGM), corporate market, New World Telecommunications Limited (NWT), thinks that an outgoing personality is more important than a technical background for a salesperson.
With an educational background in electronic engineering, Mr Chiang agrees that technical people may find it easier to familiarise themselves with the service their company is providing and pick things up. "If you are diligent and willing to learn, you can always acquire the necessary knowledge and techniques while working," he says.
An outgoing personality is very important because telecoms salespeople often come across difficult clients, who mercilessly criticise every proposal on the table. "We need someone who is willing to speak up and face challenges," he notes.
Joining the industry 15 years ago, Mr Chiang witnessed its most prosperous days and his career path has been smooth, winning promotions with almost every change of job. He explains that industry deregulation has brought many opportunities to Hong Kong, as many foreign carriers have set up their businesses in the SAR. Although development has slowed down and competition is keen, the prospect is still promising, he says.
About three years ago, he joined NWT as its AGM, managing two business teams. One corporate team is responsible for selling all kinds of services, such as telephone lines, IDD and networking, to a number of assigned clients. Another team focuses on data solution selling.
"We need someone who is willing to speak up and face challenges"
His philosophy is to be close to the market. He believes that, in such a competitive and dynamic environment, it is important to listen to clients - and therefore insists on meeting at least two clients a day in order to communicate with them personally, hear their comments - both good and bad - and understand their needs. "This can, in return, help us to enhance our services," he says.
On every working day, office hours are reserved for client services, while team meetings are held outside these hours. During meetings, Mr Chiang shares his sales experiences with his team and helps them fine-tune their account development plans. He and his colleagues also put their heads together to formulate solutions and design tailor-made services for clients by employing internal resources.
In addition, he always tells his colleagues that they are not selling products to the clients. Rather, in his opinion, they are doing something more meaningful - providing services and solutions to clients to help reduce their operating costs and enhance their work efficiency. One successful example is an information service provider which managed to reduce its operating cost by 40 percent after using a service called MPLS IP-VPN, a service launched by NWT, the first FTNS operator in Hong Kong to deploy this technology. "We manage to create a win-win situation. We have the business and they achieve their goals," Mr Chiang says.
In addition to earning a reasonable remuneration, another reward is, perhaps, making new friends - according to Mr Chiang, many clients have become his friends.
Willingness to communicate with clients and understand their real needs is also a must. "Sometimes, what the clients want to do is not what they are discussing with you on paper," he says. As clients may come from different backgrounds, ranging from IT directors with PhDs to administration managers who know nothing about IT or telecoms, good salespeople should therefore be very flexible.
In Mr Chiang's opinion, the best candidate is perhaps someone with experience, good references and some of the necessary skills. Although numerous jobseekers are on the market, he says it is not easy to find suitable candidates. Experience is an advantage, but fresh graduates still have opportunities to enter the industry. At NWT, for example, considerable in-house training is available to newcomers. They are also coached by senior colleagues for one month, during which time they are accompanied whenever they present proposals to clients or deal with tenders.
As a result of the current economic globalisation, Mr Chiang also expects more companies to expand their business and the telecoms industry to benefit from this trend, thanks to its essential services. Consequently, he anticipates more job opportunities in this field.
Mr Chiang believes that, in the lead-up to the deregulation of the industry in mainland China in 2005, job opportunities will increase as many foreign carriers will set up their networks in this huge market. However, at present, while the fixed network still operates as a monopoly in the Mainland, companies such as NWT can only set up offices in preparation for future business and concentrate on providing cross-border services. With offices in big cities and provinces such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, some NWT employees need to travel occasionally to mainland China.
However, Mr Chiang is optimistic about the development of the Mainland market, as spending on telecoms services and solutions is now very low. His company therefore has very aggressive plans for this market. As Hong Kong people have long been used to the industry's pattern, their experience and expertise can certainly contribute considerably to this new market, he concludes.