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Sales / Marketing

Personality comes first in sales recruitment

by Carmen To

Traci Chow, sales manager (take home trade section), Carlsberg Hong Kong

New focus on partnerships can boost retail sector

If one thing counts above all else in the field of sales it has to be having the right personality for the job. More than education, training or experience, it is the ability to connect with others and remain upbeat and optimistic when things aren't going quite right that sets the best salespeople apart.

"This is a people business in which building a cordial rapport with customers is crucial for success," says Traci Chow, sales manager for the take home trade section of Carlsberg Hong Kong. "It is also important to have sound communication and presentation skills in order to persuade customers to buy into your ideas."

In fact, Ms Chow started in engineering, but was given the chance to transfer to sales because the company's general manager thought her fun-loving and outgoing personality would be a great asset for the department. This decision coincided with broader changes in the way sales procedures were being handled and with a programme to enhance overall standards.

"Now, our salespeople are not only bringing in revenue for the company, but also helping retailers to expand their turnover and range of products," Ms Chow explains. Behind this is a concept known as category management, which aims to build up a certain sector of the trade. This places more responsibility on the shoulders of the key account sales team, since a few major customers, including supermarkets and convenience store chains, generate a higher proportion of sales.

Each of these customers is also more sophisticated and demanding. In dealing with them, the sales team must balance company requirements with customer needs. When doing so, their main duties will include negotiating trading terms on a yearly basis, jointly planning and running promotional campaigns to boost sales, and strengthening long-term business cooperation.

Ms Chow believes that hitting sales targets and being able to outdo the competition is a reward in itself for all the hard work. "Ideally, we want to create 'three wins' which benefit retailers, ourselves as the supplier, and the consumer, who will get better value products as a result of our efforts to put together the best deals in the market."

She adds that the company's preferred strategy is to grow along with their clients and to adjust sales strategies as the market develops and volumes increase. This, though, depends on retailers and suppliers working closely together for mutual advantage. "When the power of retailers exceeds that of suppliers, they generally use their bargaining power to dictate the market, which doesn't necessarily benefit the customer," she says.

Sales positions are usually an excellent place to start for university graduates because they provide exposure to many different aspects of a business. "Also, it doesn't matter too much what subject you have studied," says Ms Chow. "We look for people who are proactive, sociable, communicative and responsive to change." Candidates should be resilient enough to deal with setbacks and have a good feel for business priorities. People with a good grasp of numbers have a head start, while some knowledge of the principles of marketing may be an advantage, but is by no means essential. The usual entry positions with Carlsberg are as key account executives or business development officers.

Ms Chow notes that the China market is still developing. Suppliers and retailers do not collaborate there in the same way as in Hong Kong, which means that negotiations are based more on price alone than on a combination of other factors. "We always bear in mind that purchasing managers working for mainland retailers may have a different approach to the business," she says.

Sales positions are usually an excellent place to start for university graduates because they provide exposure to many different aspects of a business. "Also, it doesn't matter too much what subject you have studied," says Ms Chow. "We look for people who are proactive, sociable, communicative and responsive to change." Candidates should be resilient enough to deal with setbacks and have a good feel for business priorities. People with a good grasp of numbers have a head start, while some knowledge of the principles of marketing may be an advantage, but is by no means essential. The usual entry positions with Carlsberg are as key account executives or business development officers.

Ms Chow notes that the China market is still developing. Suppliers and retailers do not collaborate there in the same way as in Hong Kong, which means that negotiations are based more on price alone than on a combination of other factors. "We always bear in mind that purchasing managers working for mainland retailers may have a different approach to the business," she says.



Taken from Career Times 24 February 2006

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