Sammy Leung was fascinated by cars from an early age, so his choice of career was almost a foregone conclusion. As the current senior sales manager at Inchcape Motors Limited, he finds himself in the fortunate position of working in an area about which he has always been passionate and in which he has excelled, despite the inevitable ups and downs of the sector.
"My father was a dealer for Ford and, when I graduated from high school, he advised me to get into the same profession," Mr Leung recalls. He was initially helped by an introduction to Dah Chong Hong, the local distributor for Honda and other vehicles, but was then basically thrown in at the deep end. "I hadn't a clue about what to do or how to sell," he says. "Back then, no one taught you about sales techniques and customers were regarded as all the same. The main qualification for a salesperson was to own a shirt and a tie, and if a customer asked for a discount, we'd simply say the particular model was out of stock."
However, as Hong Kong's economy took off in the early 1980s, demand for cars soared in a way reminiscent of what is now happening on the mainland. Mr Leung prospered, as first-time car buyers lined up to test drive the latest models, with few concerns about price or after-sales service.
Work hard and use your brain
The situation was too good to last and, when political uncertainty returned in 1984, car sales fell rapidly from 500 to a few dozen a month. "That caused me to take a good look at my career and personal finances," Mr Leung says. He concluded that things would turn around and therefore decided to stay in the field, but he also took a course and became the first pan-Asia chief instructor for Honda.
As Inchcape's current senior manager for the showrooms of both Mazda and Jaguar, he has found that self-discipline and good time management are vital. "The company provides the products and a platform for business, but it is up to you to make the most of it," he says. Tight control of finances is also important in a sector where a huge amount of cash can change hands.
Mr Leung notes that agreeing a price is not the same thing as closing the deal, since the follow-up documentation and registration can take a further week. During that period, a responsible salesperson should check all the details and resolve any outstanding queries. To offer complete after-sales support, the company has also introduced a "one-stop, one-call" service.
"A customer just needs to pick up the phone to get an answer to any question," Mr Leung explains. "Good service brings referrals, which lead to more sales. That is why we have made a strategic investment in the after-sales side of the business."
With a personal sales record of over 60 cars in a month and over 10 years' management experience under his belt, Mr Leung now mentors new staff, while still pursuing opportunities for further education. A few years ago, he completed an MBA, which taught him the theory to go with his practical knowledge. "I like to explore new concepts and ideas," he says. "All through my career, my bosses have encouraged me to do this and it is an important part of enhancing individual skills and overall service."
As a keen believer in self-motivation, Mr Leung advises young people to "work hard and use your brain." He is a fan of movie star Stephen Chow and often finds inspiration in films such as The King of Comedy. "Any salesperson dealing with a customer is playing a certain role and must be able to play it well. That is one sign of a good professional," he says.