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Top sales talent's hefty price tag

Published on Friday, 21 Sep 2012
A Shanghai boutique worker uses her sales charm.
Photo: Reuters

In an increasingly uncertain financial climate, job security can look less than absolute, so it's good to know that there are some industries that appear to be at least somewhat recession-proof.

The luxury goods market is one of these, and especially in Hong Kong, where mainland Chinese visitors have buoyed this retail sector for some time.

These days, companies around the globe are having trouble attracting the right people to sales positions, and if they do make a hire, they're having trouble retaining staff.

The job-specific skills learned by salespeople in the retail sector - at all levels, from shop-floor to executive marketing positions - are hugely desirable in almost any other industry. As a result, sales professionals have a highly transferrable and marketable skill set.

Everything from inventory management and one-on-one customer relations to marketing and management experience are part of the valuable raft of abilities that even entry-level salespeople learn and develop, which explains the sector's high labour turnover rate.

In any case, the industry rewards people who are outgoing and personable, with a keen sense of organisation and, above all, creativity.

"In today's challenging business environment, sales is one of the most essential functions in most companies," says Veerapaneni Devi, a senior research analyst at Mercer, in the firm's latest 2012 Sales Salaries Around the World report.

"It's also one of the most in-demand skill sets. Organisations worldwide indicate that they are having difficulty both finding and keeping sales talent. That makes it all the more important to have an equitable, competitive pay strategy for your sales professionals," she adds.

As the power and potential of online purchasing grows, many companies are struggling to fit this phenomenon into their traditional sales models. It is therefore important for dynamic, creative sales and marketing employees to move their companies from traditional, outlet-based models to a more proactive approach that actively seeks out new customers and markets.

Familiarity with online sales models and techniques, including the increasingly ubiquitous social media space, will be of key importance for sales and marketing executives in the coming years.

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