Sales / Marketing

Universal language

by Grace Chan

Sam Cheung
president, Greater China
Photo: Lewis Wong
Education provider fosters progress and development

Course consultants in the education sector enjoy the satisfaction of helping people to expand their horizons and, often, to further their careers by enhancing their qualifications.

"They are anything but product peddlers," stresses Sam Cheung, president, Greater China, Englishtown. "Their job responsibilities encompass meeting with prospective students individually to get a full understanding of their learning needs, and offering them customised learning solutions."

The education sector is relatively immune to fluctuations in the economy, according to Mr Cheung. "We work towards the greater good. By learning English, students can look forward to a better tomorrow. Looking at it from a macro-perspective, our endeavours are also helping to boost the competitiveness of both Hong Kong and mainland China."

Englishtown, the English learning arm of EF Education First, the world's largest English-language learning institution, now operates four centres in Hong Kong and 110 schools on the mainland. The organisation is also rapidly expanding across the Greater China region with plans to open a further 800 to 1,000 schools across the border. "With 300 million potential students looking to improve their English, the mainland China market has great potential," says Mr Cheung.

Expansion is rapid and for this reason Englishtown has hired about 3,000 new staff over the last two years and an additional 1,500 will be needed in the next 12 months. The Hong Kong operation alone has taken on at least 20 new employees in recent times.

Mr Cheung emphasises that the organisation's course consultants offer intangible services, adding that they also sell "the dream of success", since English skills are essential for people looking to expand their social networks, become more competitive in the workplace and, ultimately, improve their career prospects.

Right attributes

While all sales people are expected to act with integrity and honesty, these qualities are even more important when it comes to providing educational services, Mr Cheung says. "We expect our consultants to share our mission of helping people achieve a better future through English learning."

The organisation seeks motivated and ambitious job candidates and offers the right persons competitive compensation packages. "We pay fair salaries, but also make sure remuneration is tied to performance," Mr Cheung notes.

In addition to basic monthly salaries which range from HK$11,000 to HK$15,000, Englishtown course consultants are rewarded via a cash-incentive scheme that is linked to specific performance targets for individuals, teams and centres. When quarterly and annual bonuses are factored in, course consultants can earn up to HK$30,000 per month on average.

Mr Cheung confirms that a job as course consultant entails a great deal of satisfaction. In fact, half of Englishtown's consultants have been with the organisation since its opening in Hong Kong in 2004.

The organisation's key to retaining staff goes further than financial compensation, including well-structured succession planning and a clear career path for employees. Mr Cheung remarks: "We see course consultants retention as especially important since it takes years of experience to build up their unique skills, knowledge base and professionalism."

Myriad opportunity

The education industry offers career-driven professionals excellent opportunities for promotion and plenty of scope for personal growth. "All four of our centre managers started out as telemarketers or course-consultants and then moved on to managerial roles," Mr Cheung explains.

Aside from the chance of promotion, course consultants may also move laterally within the organisation and to different EF business units in other locations. EF operates 400 private schools and offices in more than 50 countries, offering a broad range of educational services, including language and degree courses and educational travel programmes.

Mr Cheung says, "Our global network can be translated into career prospects. In other words, our employees may seek regional management roles on the mainland or look for opportunities further a field."

A university education and two years' relevant work experience are usually required of prospective course consultants but Mr Cheung points out job applicants with less experience but the right personal attributes also stand a good chance of landing the job.

All the organisation's new team members are expected to help sustain long-term business growth and must have a professional image and the ability to exercise good communication skills. They should also be able to inspire trust and present the company's learning options to prospective students.

To help new recruits set the best foot forward, the organisation arranges coaching and immerse them in a 14-day induction period which serves to increase their product knowledge and soft skills like consultation techniques and telephone manner.

Performance assessment is ongoing to ensure service quality. "Our course consultants are evaluated on the basis of measurable results, such as their success in securing appointments following enquiries," notes Mr Cheung.

Going places

  • Prospective course consultants must have integrity and a professional image
  • Attractive remuneration and incentives motivate and retain competent staff members
  • Training and ongoing evaluation enhance work performance
  • Ample chance for upward and lateral career progression

Taken from Career Times 8 April 2011, B3

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