Openings in the field of sales and marketing may be on the up, but that does not make employers any less selective about whom they take on. The incorrect idea that "anyone can sell" is definitely a thing of the past, as major companies realise their success and reputations depend largely on how well sales teams present products and represent the organisation's core values. Therefore, stricter recruitment criteria are being set and additional resources devoted to training programmes which give staff specific job skills and an introduction to the guiding corporate philosophy.
Fuji Xerox (Hong Kong) Limited is a case in point. As a leading provider of integrated document management solutions, they regard having well-trained staff as a major competitive advantage. The company strongly believes in providing new recruits with a comprehensive induction programme and giving all employees extensive opportunities for continuing professional development. They do, however, have a policy of only hiring salespeople with some previous experience in the field.
"That could be in retail, telemarketing or customer service," says Judy Chu, development and training manager for Fuji Xerox. "The main thing is that they know how to deal with customers, have a proactive personality, and take an aggressive approach to sales."
Since part of company's business is selling IT solutions, a better than average knowledge of systems is a clear advantage for any candidate. Ms Chu adds that proficiency in Cantonese and English is essential, but additional training will be provided, if necessary, for those whose jobs also require knowledge of Putonghua.
Salespeople should understand the company they are applying to
The in-house training programme is specifically designed to get entry-level salespeople off to a flying start. The length varies, as do the modules, depending on which department new recruits are set to join. Trainee telemarketers, for example, study for three weeks and those going into direct sales for five. The initial focus is on basic product knowledge plus presentation and demonstration skills which are always job-related. Each trainee's progress is closely monitored in weekly meetings with a supervisor, and assessments, in the form of written tests and role-plays, are conducted to ensure everyone meets the required standards.
A key theme running throughout the programme is to explain the company's culture and spell out expectations. "We are a quality-based organisation in a unique industry and must be constantly responsive to technological advances," Ms Chu points out. "Two messages are delivered to all staff from their very first day in the company. One is that they must learn to adapt to change in a highly systematic way, the other is they must always put our customers first."
Ongoing support for employees is also high on the company's agenda. After the initial training course, junior salespeople receive continuous on-the-job training and coaching from their line managers. In addition, regular seminars and special briefings are organised to keep them up-to-date on the latest product knowledge and industry information. Anyone looking to take relevant external courses or extra qualifications is encouraged to do so and, if the directors approve, can get financial assistance from the company.
"All employees are expected to keep abreast of market trends whether through formal education or simply by picking up a newspaper," says Ms Chu. "It is a responsibility all of us have to recognise, especially in a business environment and a part of the world which are moving so rapidly."
Professionalism and dedication are certainly required, but all the hard work does pay off. New salespeople are put on full salary when they start the training programme and, upon successfully completing it, become account executives. If they perform well, they can expect an attractive remuneration package, generous bonuses and promotion to account manager grade within three years. Some sales professionals also take the opportunity to switch between departments as a way of broadening their experience. "Changes in technology and the fast-paced nature of the industry mean that people with ability and initiative will always have the chance to get ahead," Ms Chu notes.
As Fuji Xerox does not currently recruit any salespeople without a background in the sector, Ms Chu recommends that young graduates should first gain experience in a solid sales job and set themselves a medium-term career goal. "Being able to analyse things from the customer's perspective is the prerequisite for success in sales," she says, "but not everyone realises it when they start out."
Also, for anyone who is thinking of remaining in sales but changing industry, it is important to have a reasonable understanding of the sector they plan to get into. As Ms Chu points out, every career move is unique for an individual and it is best to be as sure as possible about any contemplated change of direction. "Do as much research as you can," she recommends. "If you are thinking of applying to Fuji Xerox, try talking to people who are already in the document solutions industry. Be clear about what we do, and make sure the company seems like the right fit for you."
- New sales recruits expected to have previous experience
in the field
- Emphasis on training in job skills and understanding the
- Need to keep fully aware of changes in technology and
the overall market
- Generous remuneration packages and opportunities for early
- Interested candidates advised to do detailed background
research before applying