Sales / Marketing

Workforce segmentation creates irreplicable success

by Ada Ng

Aaron Yim
managing director
Ricoh Hong Kong
Photo: Nolly Leung

Office solutions giant scans industry from inside out to outside in

Streamlined office equipment solutions make everyday business processes and procedures a breeze for employees.

Aware of the increasing importance of ensuring customers stay abreast of the efficacy of the latest office equipment solutions, Ricoh Hong Kong has invested heavily in sales operations infrastructure and quality process management to bring the most effective machinery to clients' work space.

"Emphasising process management is our work culture. We not only value high productivity, but also the means of achieving excellent results," explains Aaron Yim, Ricoh Hong Kong managing director. "We look at every detail in the sales cycle, from sales preparation and training to identifying potential customers, fostering long-term relationships and maximising quality after-sales service."

While Ricoh's account executives are given target customers, a dedicated sales team provides a level of service which reaches beyond closing sales transactions and monthly targets. "This is one of the ways that differentiates us from our competitors, many of whom continue to employ the traditional direct sales approach," Mr Yim remarks.

Driving performance

Established in 1963, Ricoh Hong Kong has led Hong Kong's copier market for eight consecutive years since 2000, according to research consultant IDC. While many peer companies focus on meeting monthly and quarterly targets —p ushing sales performance by box prices and short-term sales incentives, Ricoh aims for performance consistency, according to Mr Yim.

Achievement drive, the psychological force which targets accomplishment, is critical to overall selling success. In view of this, Ricoh has implemented an annual award scheme to recognise consistent performers who work hard throughout the year. "The scheme is both equitable and realistic. We evaluate sales staff with differing periods of service using a quantitative approach based on annual sales targets," Mr Yim explains.

Alongside monetary rewards, Ricoh promotes internally while other peer companies tend to look beyond their own workforce to fill managerial positions. Mr Yim stresses that this promote-from-within policy maintains and consistently improves employee self-esteem levels and shows recognition and appreciation of loyalty.

A member of the sales team with a few years' experience can take on the responsibility of commercial account manager serving customers in the SME sector. Strong performers are then given promotional opportunities to become enterprise account managers taking care of multinational clients. Supervisory roles are then assumed when enterprise account managers become sales managers and then section managers, Mr Yim notes.

Coupled with the company's annual performance scheme, Mr Yim says short-term and ad-hoc incentives such as overseas trips boost morale and encourage staff to keep up the hard work.

Despite such a meritocratic performance reward system, Mr Yim adds that, "There is no individual hero in our company because without a supportive team, nobody could achieve strong results. The overall team target supercedes individual incentives or annual performance awards at Ricoh."

All-round knowledge

Any comprehensive sales operations infrastructure must feature superlative training resources. "Our account executives have first-class product and industry knowledge to explain to customers how we differentiate ourselves in the market," he says.

Besides self-study using Ricoh's e-learning platform, sales staff undergo regular training to expand their product knowledge and enhance soft skills. "Training initiatives include technology and software application updates so our people remain at the cutting edge of what is wow and what is now," Mr Yim explains.

Interestingly, Mr Yim values listening skills over presentation skills as he feels that fundamental to successful selling is a clear understanding of customer needs. Furthermore, in a bid for sales staff to understand each client's industry "from inside out to outside in" Mr Yim says the company has recently segmented the sales force into different industry sectors. "Through segmentation, a more in-depth understanding of the printing, copying, faxing and scanning specifics is possible, be the customers from the logistics, garment or education sector," he explains.

Mr Yim points to the elementary changes in the copier industry of late. "We're now penetrating the printer market as well as undergoing document colorisation reform with our multifunctional copier devices," he says. "Our sales staff today offer consultant services to optimise costs, enhance office efficiency and add value to our customers' enterprises."

For youngsters who are keen on breaking into the field, Mr Yim says perseverance, listening skills and self-motivation are essential. Office experience, especially industry specific, would also be a plus point.

The drive to achieve with confidence at all times is a basic requirement for successful sales executives. "Once you overcome these challenges, it is plain sailing at Ricoh," he concludes.


Taken from Career Times 05 September 2008, p. C3
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