There are many theories about what defines a distinguished salesperson, but at HSBC, a key emphasis is on customer needs - and the customer experience.
The five HSBC employees who excelled in this year's Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA) Distinguished Salesperson Award are united in the belief that in order to do so, it is vital to have a customer-service mindset and the willingness to go the extra mile.
The concept is strengthened by mentoring and training programmes that focus on thinking about sales and service from the customer's perspective: how customers are treated, what they need and expect, and ensuring these expectations are met.
This was uppermost in HSBC senior business development officer Vera Cheuk's thoughts when one of her customers enquired about cancelling an insurance policy. Determined to make certain her customer understood the policy benefits and details, Cheuk explained to him and his wife why it was tailored to meet the family's wealth-management goals.
Not only did the customer decide to continue the policy, he invested in five more policies for additional family members. 'This experience reminded me how important it is to understand our customers' needs and always provide clear communication,' she says.
Cheuk and her HSBC colleagues joined competition participants from different sectors and organisations in being assessed against stringent criteria including presentations and interviews. The assessment and judging were conducted by a professional judging panel representing a cross-section of expertise and industries.
Distinguished salesperson Sam Lai, an HSBC Wealth Management manager, is another professional who always puts customers' needs first. 'At all times, I try to build a relationship with my customers before introducing products. With better mutual understanding, I can provide suitable tailor-made services solutions for them,' Lai says.
He adds that HSBC training provides him with the techniques he needs to be a customer-focused salesperson. Lai says his encouragement to provide service excellence to his customers was further enhanced during a recent service exchange programme visit to Japan. 'It was enlightening to see the way service is so highly regarded in Japan,' he says.
Fellow awardee Catherine Sin, an HSBC management associate, believes a distinguished salesperson is someone who is truly versatile and adaptable. 'It isn't the product knowledge that allows a salesperson to succeed, but rather, it is the relationships, the communication and ability to advise,' says Sin. 'The key to providing good service is to always remain versatile and provide bespoke services to match our customers' needs,' she adds.
Sin says HSBC's Management Associate training programme, which ranges from frontline sales experience and back-end think-tank exploration to overseas training on group-wide strategies, not only equipped her with the necessary skill set to excel in sales, but also the values and integrity paramount to good customer service.
'Having the opportunity to rotate through strategic frontline and servicing roles means I can truly put myself in the shoes of different stakeholders,' says Sin, who feels the chance to take part in salesperson contests, and the training and support she received, have boosted her confidence.
Edward Yiu, an HSBC General Banking manager, believes an emphasis on understanding customers' needs before introducing products and services is a prerequisite for helping to build trust with them. 'Comprehensively explaining product features is also very important and it is through this process and getting to know customers' needs that I can provide advice and recommend products that suit their needs,' says Yiu.
Yiu recalls that before the 2008 financial crisis, when the investment market was hot, a retiree came to him with the intention of investing a substantial amount of his retirement fund in high-risk assets. 'Taking into account his age and risk tolerance, we discussed his wealth-management goals and found that high-risk products were not suitable for him,' says Yiu. 'Since then, we have become good friends and he often comes to me for advice.'
Before taking part in the HKMA Distinguished Salesperson Award scheme, Yiu says HSBC provided him with comprehensive training and practice sessions. Like other HSBC awardees, Yiu says the experiences shared by former awardees helped to enhance his confidence and presentation skills.
To provide good service through distinguished sales, Tim Cheng, HSBC assistant vice-president for business relationship, also believes a distinguished salesperson can identify the underlying needs of each customer. 'Customers may request a specific service from me but I often take the initiative and offer a wide range of related services and information to help them address their business-development needs,' says Cheng.
Like many dedicated sales professionals, Cheng is always looking to improve his skills and learn from others, on top of HSBC training and skills enhancement opportunities.
'I went with a friend for a late dinner. When I asked for the bill, the restaurant owner asked if we needed a ride to the nearest MTR station as it was not easy to get a taxi. We were so surprised to receive such extraordinary service from a small restaurant. I learned to be even more considerate towards my customers and think out of the box,' says Cheng.