Creating and Developing a Strong Chinese Sales Team


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Creating and Developing a strong Chinese sales team requires an understanding of what motivates Chinese employees, as well as a small selection of KPIs that will have maximum affect on output.

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  • This presentation was given at the Shanghai Business Review luncheon on April 26, 2011. Attendees consisted of China-based, local and expatriate, senior managers and directors.
  • An introduction to my background in China For more information visit: ClarkMorgan Corporate Training website: Network HR magazine archive: Spark China Innovation Series: Selling Big to China book:
  • During my time in China I witnessed (and survived) two major business challenges – SARS and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). My company survived both, and has since gone on to be more profitable than during the ‘easy times’. The reason for this is that my team and I analysed how to improve the effectiveness of our sales team, who were regionally located (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong), and made up of relatively young Chinese. Today, I believe that my sales people are some of the best in China (head hunters lay off!)
  • However, before I start talking about how I developed my Chinese sales people, I want to emphasise one important, and mostly overlooked condition of the expatriate manager. We think that poor sales is due to poor salespeople. This is only partially correct. However, ‘we’ the expatriate are part of the problem. This is most due to conditioning, about what qualities are important in a leader. These qualities have been handed down to us from business schools and teachers, mostly from the US and Europe.
  • Here are the common traits of a great leader – but according to Western opinions.
  • The problem is, “This is China” And although everybody who arrives in China is aware of different customs and norms, many do not know the qualities that Chinese appreciate in a leader.
  • So what are the top 10 qualities that Chinese look for in a leader? Here we go…
  • We surveyed 206 Chinese white collar workers, from multinational companies, located in Tianjin, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou and asked them: “ What are the 5 qualities of a great leader” Notice, that we didn’t ask, “what are the qualities of your leader?” or “what are the qualities of a leader in China? ” We wanted to think very openly about the leadership that they want to experience, no matter where they are or were, since many Chinese are ‘returnees’ where they may have worked overseas. Consequently, we didn’t want them to overlook leadership qualities that they appreciated outside of China. As you can see from this this bar chart, the two most common traits in a leader were ‘compassionate’ and ‘authoritative’. In many ways, these are bi-polar qualities, which makes it extremely difficult for one person to display, simultaneously. Rather, it looks like Chinese look to their leaders to be a kind of teacher – tough and caring at the same time. This is reflected in the current PRC government leadership, with Wen Jiabao being referred to as compassionate with his nickname of ‘Uncle Wen’, and the tougher and rigid Hu Jintao. The two are a perfect pair – according to this research. Only two qualities from the Harvard Business School list were similar. Perspective = vision? Open-mindedness = Open Minded I believe one other lesson to be gained from this list, is number six, ‘intelligent’. Being the smartest person in the room is not necessary for Western leaders. They surround themselves with experts, and their effectiveness is more linked to the ability to balance judgements. However, in China, leaders are expected to be the ‘most’ intelligent in the room, which can lead to some obvious problems, since one person couldn’t know everything. Nevertheless, many Chinese leaders, fearing a loss of face for not knowing, will delay their response or worse, guess. Rather than turning to others in a boardroom to gain their input, the quality of ‘intelligence’ increases the possibility of error and decreases the efficiency of decision making. And since ‘decisive’ is number ten in the list, the chance of guessing is even more likely!
  • Now that you are aware of the top 10 qualities of a leader, according to Chinese white collar workers from multinational companies, you can start to make a change in your own management style. Now become harder, get softer, or be more decisive! Forget what your MBA taught you! Now let’s look at another alarming issue, that is the very low engagement (motivation of staff under employment) of Chinese, according to two sets of independent research from BlessingWhite and the Hay Group.
  • With Chinese employees ranking very low, in terms of engagement, we can’t expect them to self manage. This is particularly true for the 80s and 90s generation, who have had life pretty hunky-dory, many with three sets of carers (grandparents x 4, parents x 2), and a education system that encourages rote learning, rather than independent thought. So when engagement is low, the key is to manage via KPIs
  • So what are the top five KPIs that you should be applying to your sales team? The following list is based on my 10 years of leading Chinese across the country, and making a ton of mistakes in that process! These five qualities now feature on posters on the walls of all my four offices. What are they? Here we go!
  • I am amazed at how little some salespeople know about the products and services that they sell. Mind you, because I am in sales, I tend to quiz service staff more than the usual customer, and generally I am unimpressed. That’s not to say that sales ability in China hasn’t improved over the 9 years that I have lived here. It’s just nowhere near international standards quite yet. That means, if you manage a sales team in China, conduct regular service and product knowledge tests with your team. Don’t assume that they know as much as you do, so find out. A simple pop quiz this Monday will prove me right or wrong about their ability.
  • Goodwill is vital in sales. I’ve heard that it occupies as much as 37% of the pie, in terms of a successful sale, and while I am sure this percentageg changes with each contract, there is no doubt that it is important. Unfortunately, charisma is not easily learnt – although, I do believe it can be. Ever heard of a shy salesperson? Unlikely, and yet many great salespeople started off in their lives as shy. They grew out of it, and grew into their charisma, most likely by mirroring others around them.
  • In my book, ‘Selling Big to China’, I highlight the importance of uncovering needs, and the method in which these needs can be uncovered. This technique is called funelling and unfortunately, again, few salespeople have been taught this invaluable skill. Luckily I learnt it early into my career (13 years ago). In a nutshell, it involves first asking open non-leading questions, followed by open leading questions, and finally closed leading questions. Interspersed between the questioning you summarise what the client has said, and therefore clarify your understanding, while building goodwill through the use of positive language.
  • In China, many people believe that  guanxi is vital to be a great salesperson. I disagree. Guanxi will get your career started, but two years later, if you don’t have the quality of persistence to gain new business then you would have dried up all of your connections. At ClarkMorgan we measure this quality in the form of the Quality Score. This record measures the amount of smart legwork that our salespeople are making and given them a running total based on 30 days. It’s a requirement that all sales staff maintain a Quality Score of 1000 points or more, and they achieve this by e-mailing (1 point), making phone calls (5 points), attending networking events (15 points) and having face-to-face meetings (20 points). 1000 points shouldn’t be difficult to maintain, as it is only 50 points a day (50 x 21 working days a month). It is easy to see which salespeople will excel, and who will bomb-out, from this metric. 
  • And finally, sales staff not only have to get their clients signature on the dotted line, they also need to follow through with their promises. Any gap between promise and delivery will damage the probability of repeat business, and will all know that it costs 5 to 20 times more to secure new business than simply maintaining a pool of delighted customers.
  • And if you’d like to learn more, please visit or my blog at
  • Creating and Developing a Strong Chinese Sales Team

    1. 1. By Morry Morgan Creating and Developing a Strong Chinese Sales Team
    2. 2. Morry Morgan <ul><li>10 Years in China </li></ul><ul><li>Co-founder of ClarkMorgan Corporate Training </li></ul><ul><li>Managing Editor of Network HR Magazine </li></ul><ul><li>Co-founder of Spark China </li></ul><ul><li>Author of “Selling Big to China” </li></ul>
    3. 3. Learn From Failure SARS GFC
    4. 4. You Are Part of The Problem “ ” Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team
    5. 5. Harvard Business School Leadership Qualities Capacity for passion Perspective Creativity Organization skills Teamwork Persistence Open-mindedness Integrity
    6. 6. <ul><li>Manage Chinese Differently </li></ul>
    7. 7. 10 Top 10 Traits of a Team Leader 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    8. 8. 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Chinese Qualities Qualities  Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team Compassionate Authoritative Visionary Charismatic Open Minded Intelligent Good Communicator Responsible Motivational Decisive
    9. 9. Caring Considerate Sensitive kind Compassionate 1
    10. 10. Powerful Strong Authoritative Strength 2
    11. 11. Strategic Foresight Visionary 3
    12. 12. Friendly Charismatic 4
    13. 13. Open Minded 5
    14. 14. Smart Intelligent 6
    15. 15. Good Communicator 7
    16. 16. Responsible Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team 8
    17. 17. Motivational 9
    18. 18. Decisive 10
    19. 19. <ul><li>China has the lowest engagement (17%) and highest disengagement (29%) of all regions surveyed globally. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- BlessingWhite 2010/2011 Global Employee Engagement Research </li></ul></ul>“ ” China’s Engagement Challenge Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team
    20. 20. “ ” China’s Engagement Challenge <ul><li>Mexico ranked highest (75.8%) and China ranked equal third last (63%) alongside the UK </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Hay Group employee engagement index </li></ul></ul>Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team
    21. 21. 5 KPIs For Your Sales Force Top Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team
    22. 22. Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team Product Knowledge
    23. 23. Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team Ability to Build Goodwill
    24. 24. Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team Ability to Uncover Needs
    25. 25. Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team Legwork (Checking)
    26. 26. Creating and Developing Strong Chinese Sales Team Follow Up on Promises
    27. 27. <ul><li>ClarkMorgan Corporate Training </li></ul><ul><li>Free Call (in China): 800 820 5501 </li></ul><ul><li>Outside China: +8621 5403 5500 </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail: </li></ul><ul><li>Blog: </li></ul>