For fixed-line, mobile and broadband Internet services, the general view of the industry is that the Hong Kong market is already mature. One of the usual measures-the rate of penetration's high and, in order to achieve further significant growth, industry players are therefore looking at ways to boost revenue through sales of special value-added services.
"The period of fast growth for the telecom industry is over," says Tony Cheung, Wharf T&T's vice president of consumer market. "Hong Kong is now a replacement market in which companies have to compete fiercely and concentrate on attracting customers from one another." He confirms that this has prompted operators to develop more specialised value-added services, such as mobile email and content on demand, with the intention of creating new niche markets. Mr Cheung believes this will be the predominant trend until the applications possible with ultra-broadband services, such as 3G and WiMax, are accepted by mass market consumers and are then able to drive substantial further expansion in the sector.
From a development point of view, there are currently more opportunities in the fixed-line business, which was opened to competition after the mobile communications market.
According to Mr Cheung, it nevertheless takes time for companies new to the fixed-line market to reach individual customers and promote their services. "Because of the huge demand for mobile services, operators can simply open a retail outlet and customers will come in and sign up," he says. "However, for fixed-line services, we need to knock on the door of each company or household to introduce our offer and explain how to switch to another service provider."
There is more focus on niche market
Variety of roles
Since the telecom industry includes a matrix of different services, there is a corresponding variety of opportunities for people working in sales. They can be broadly classified by market segment in terms of the type of service offered. They can then be subdivided into consumer and business sectors and according to the distribution channels used - telesales, direct sales or channel sales.
"In the last decade, the telecom industry has generated ample job opportunities," notes Mr Cheung.
He believes that the area of business sales is the most challenging, with the need to serve major corporate accounts and provide technical solutions to help clients handle a large volume of calls per day. Wharf T&T has achieved notable success with their own corporate accounts which include multinationals, large financial houses, insurance groups and major Internet service providers (ISPs).
To win such deals and have the chance to mastermind large-scale communications projects for major clients requires sophisticated planning and the ability to design the right solutions. It is not simply a matter of competing on price, but also depends on the quality and reliability of the proposed solution plus the value-added services provided, says Mr Cheung.
In such cases, salespeople must have patience, be attentive to detail and have good analytical skills in order to identify all the customer's needs.
Since those assigned to corporate sales have to meet the senior management of large corporations, they must have good communication and presentation skills and be fluent in both English and Chinese. They need good written language skills for drafting proposals and are expected to have an outgoing personality together with a proactive and hardworking approach to their responsibilities.
Of particular importance is to have the commitment and dedication to maintain long-term relationships with clients and develop ongoing business opportunities.
Mr Cheung stresses that corporate sales may not be an immediate option for fresh graduates because, in addition to a university degree, Wharf T&T requires candidates to have at least several years' experience in sales or marketing in the telecom or IT industries. This requirement ensures they have the basic knowledge and maturity to command expertise in selling solutions.
University graduates may, though, get a good start and acquire relevant experience with SMEs, which represent around 90 per cent of commercial ventures in Hong Kong, and are known to have a great demand for salespeople, says Mr Cheung. He also suggests that newcomers to the telecom sector should focus initially on sales of voice services because data services like Metro-Ethernet, virtual private networks and video conferencing entail an understanding of far more complicated technologies.
Even during the economic downturn, salespeople were in demand in the telecom industry. The residential market has the largest number of vacancies and is often considered a good place to start as there are few barriers to entry. One concern for Mr Cheung, however, is still the comparatively high staff turnover rate caused by competition from other industry players and from the retail sector generally.
Despite the continuing boom in the telecom sector in mainland China, there are few genuine opportunities for Hong Kong sales professionals to work across the border.
According to Mr Cheung, "There is an abundant supply of capable local salespeople in China, who have excellent connections and understand the market over there. Anyone moving from Hong Kong may have trouble succeeding and is likely to find that average levels of pay are lower."
Eye on niche markets
- Leading operators are focusing on building up niche markets
- Many specialist areas within telecoms for salespeople
- Constant demand for recruits with some industry experience
- Residential sales regarded as a good place to make a start
- Further expansion predicted once 3G and WiMax applications
attract more customers