Selling with your heart - and head
As two of the select winners in this year's HKMA Distinguished Sales Person Award, Suki Cheung and Kelvin Lo, both account managers at UPS Hong Kong, represent the next wave of the city's top draw: its driven and indefatigable soldiers of commerce. They talk about their career highs and plans with Rex Aguado.
How did you start a career in sales?
Lo: To many, sales is a challenging job, but I decided to take it on and have never looked back since. I learned that I needed to understand my customers. That motivated me to read and research on various industries and that has kept me growing.
Cheung: My passion for sales began when I was in high school when I worked part time in fashion retail. I enjoyed interacting with customers. As a salesperson at UPS, I have learned various skills, such as handling disagreements, communicating with clients, selling and negotiating.
What were the initial challenges?
Cheung: Selling well during a boom is easy. The greatest challenge is selling during a recession. In 2009, during difficult times, I focused on maintaining a strong relationship with my customers and supporting them. That year, I was awarded the UPS World of Champions bronze award, which is given to the top sales employee of the year, globally.
What are the secrets to being a good salesperson?
Lo: One has to be a good listener and a great communicator. Understanding my customers' needs and their industries can help build solid relationships, even with demanding clients. I also know them at a personal level. Our relationship goes beyond the business side and I have even become friends with some of them.
I also believe a good salesperson should be very hands-on. I like to take care of my customers throughout every step, from billing inquiries to recommending specific products.
Cheung: One has to be a reliable and trustworthy partner who helps clients achieve success. When facing demanding customers, I see it as a good opportunity to sharpen my interpersonal skills, such as handling objections and negotiation techniques. Most importantly, I see this as a chance to build a stronger relationship.
Are local companies adequately assisting students interested in sales and marketing?
Lo: We have a Buddy Programme to help newcomers become familiar with the UPS family. Long-time employees serve as mentors, to promote a smooth transition. Ongoing training is useful for refreshing and honing our selling and presentation skills. It also boosts our confidence in handling customer inquiries and concerns.
Cheung: I agree with Kelvin - UPS sees nurturing talent as a priority. We believe it is important to help newcomers become reliable and trustworthy salespersons. Working at UPS is similar to living in a big family. We share ideas and concerns to come up with the best solution.
How will the award affect you? What are your plans?
Lo: The HKMA Distinguished Sales Person Award has been a great inspiration for our sales team. Since 2003, we have had 15 winners who have shared with us their sales techniques and encouraged us to do better. We see them as our mentors. And as a team, we are highly motivated, hoping that we will also be winners some day.
Winning the award is certainly a milestone in recognising my passion for work, life and career. We are still learning and growing. Now we have the added responsibility to encourage the rest of the sales team. I sincerely hope that each one of them will win the award one day.
Cheung: The award highlights my passion and dedication for my work. After all these years, with the ever-changing business environment and updated UPS products, I continue to stay ahead of the curve by growing with new knowledge and skills.
For me, the sharing sessions with other UPS account managers who have previously won the award were very valuable. The sessions provided the opportunity to understand how we have improved the customer business processes. I look forward to our sharing sessions with team members and I hope to encourage them to work toward winning the award together.
What tips can you share with those interested in sales and marketing?
Lo: Listening and understanding are the keys to success in this industry. I recommend that young people keep an eye on the market environment so they may gain more knowledge and become stronger sales professionals.
I started working for UPS as a telesales representative and quickly advanced to major account manager. I have learned many key lessons along the way. For example, each customer has a unique set of needs and it is imperative that we take the time to understand their business process. This understanding has allowed me to provide the right solutions to improve my customers' experience with UPS and streamline their supply chain.
Also, being a salesperson can be a stressful job. In order to maintain a healthy work-life balance, it is a good idea to begin practicing stress management techniques and to discover your preferred methods for managing stress early on.
Cheung: I believe a strong passion for sales is my greatest strength, because it drives me to be dedicated to my customers every day. I would encourage young people to try working in sales early on to understand whether they have the passion for the job.