We’ve been brainstorming for a while at Tech Collective on a new direction for the publication, as we embark on a brand new chapter for the publication. We’ve had great success so far and achieved a lot of our goals, but like any good startup, we feel like we can do more.
So starting now, we’re exploring more long-form content and deep-dive interviews with great entrepreneurs, industry experts, and analysts from around the region.
On this occasion, we managed to grab William Gilchrist from Konsyg, for an exclusive chat about what he thinks about the condition of the sales industry in the region. William is the CEO and Founder at Konsyg, a Sales as a Service startup, currently based in Singapore.
Read what William had to share about sales earlier.
As an outspoken advocate of better sales practices and support for sales in Asia, we sat down with William to pick his brain and understand his viewpoints. Also, we really wanted to know what is lacking in this region and how we can change.
He shared a lot, so sit back and enjoy.
Tell us a little bit about your background Will? Where did you work and what’s your real connection to Asia?
Born and raised in a small south suburban Chicago town called Olympia Fields. At the time as a Midwestern American, it was rare for many of us at a young age to see the global world. Some of us even believed that going from New York to Los Angeles was “International” at the time. I was always fascinated with Asia as a kid, in fact, my 9th Christmas I had a “trip to China” on my Christmas list.
At 13, I was fortunate to be elected as a student ambassador to represent The United States’ youth in China for the celebration of Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997. At Bowdoin College, I majored in International Relations and focused on Chinese politics. US-China relations became a large part of my major and I spent years studying the political and cultural positions of these two nations. Two weeks after graduating from Bowdoin, I moved to Zhuhai, China to teach English in public school. After a while, I wanted a taste of a larger city so I moved to Shanghai to do media relations for an international publication. Working in Shanghai as a foreigner made me quickly realize the importance of understanding the language in order to progress professionally. So I enrolled in Cornell University and Beijing University for a graduate language program in Mandarin. I then found an opportunity to do Business Development with TSL Marketing in Singapore and from there my sales career began. After TSL, I moved to Google to work in New Business Sales and Knowledge Management for 4 years and then split a way to take my chances in the startup space. Now you can find me selling with my global team by day and on Bedok Reservoir at night.
You’ve said in interviews that Singapore and the region undervalue salespeople. Do you think this due to cultural stereotypes or a lack of knowledge? Cultural stereotypes referring to the pushy salesmen trying to sell you fake goods or someone trying to get you to buy a miracle ‘cure’ for aging?
I can’t tell you the number of times where I have heard someone say to me, “I could never do sales I am sure I would hate it,” or, “I don’t have the personality for sales, I am not aggressive enough nor am I mean enough.”
“Sales” is a bit of a bad word in this region and the idea of someone saying that they are a “salesman or saleswoman” comes with a bit of a negative connotation. I wouldn’t say this occurs only in Singapore but throughout Asia Pacific.
In my opinion, it is due to a lack of knowledge from leaders on the real purpose of a salesperson.
Companies know sales is there to “generate revenue” but very few invest in proper methods to empower their sales teams to achieve their expectations.
I think that in order to increase the sales talent pool, there needs to be a clear focus on carving out lucrative opportunities for young individuals to learn sales from more experienced representatives in the market. The current tactic for companies is to throw new sales hires into very high expectations after a 12 week “ramp up” and then place borderline cut-throat consequences thereafter. Doesn’t sound very fun to me…
Who’s at fault here? The businesses, education, governments, or something/one else?
It is a multi-layered answer which I am sure there is no way fully address in one shot, haha. Education is for sure the primary reason why sales departments struggle, but we need unpack that a bit more. Mis-education is also quite prevalent in that everyone somehow tends to think they understand sales enough to comment on it, but very few actually had to do it themselves.
There is a misconception that companies are actively allocating large budgets into sales training, and in reality, most companies provide a great deal of introductory training that focuses more on product knowledge than sales tactics. Those who do place some investment in sales training, also tend to be slow on investing in ongoing programs to fine-tune skill sets.
There is also a common misconception between sales and account management in the market. A great deal of “salespeople” made their careers managing legacy accounts or inbound opportunities. However, when people tend to think of true sales, they are most often referring to the outbound seller who operates on cold approaches.
The lines tend to blur resulting in misplacement in roles throughout various organizations, yet outbound cold-approach teams tend to gain more experience in sales tactics, but aren’t as revered as account managers who excel faster within organizations as a result of hitting “numbers”. This is a common mistake from leadership as they tend to measure the account manager and outbound seller equally. This creates a saturation of Account Managers becoming Sales Managers resulting in constant disconnects in output.
The true understanding of developing sales talent and retaining those that have talent will always be a struggle if these fundamental elements aren’t addressed. Executives rely heavily on the numbers without looking into the deeper layers on the health of their sales organizations. Incentives tend to be confusing, company leveling systems have large amounts of subjectivity relying heavily on the opinions of managers and overall bonus structures are not designed for anyone to truly knock their objectives out of the park and make large returns.
You’ve had some strong views about the technology industry in the region. What do you think is happening with technology companies here?
I think that Singapore has the chance to be the biggest player in technology for the next 10 years. As a natural Asian hub, Singapore has been able to capitalize on its position as a cultural melting pot and a key trading port resulting in a natural grooming of the best of the best talent to take on global technological aspirations from within its borders. The challenge that I see, however, is pushing local technologies to be more globally minded in their approach.
If local technologies take on more expansion and unapologetically push their technologies to the western market, then I think Singapore would be unstoppable.
Do you think there’s a fix or is this something that’ll take a long time to change in the business world?
In a Singapore sales context, I think there is a large gap of talent that is being underdeveloped. Majority of top-tier graduates are not seeking roles in sales. Marketing, engineering, and finance tend to be the more popular career professions in the region and it is stifling the chance for local companies to generate global revenue. The fix is clear, in that Singapore must create attractive and lucrative sales opportunities for its recent graduates. It also needs to provide adequate training for managers and representatives in the “art” of global sales with the purpose of taking its brands to the marketplace. This could take time, but I think that putting more focus on understanding how to sustain revenue through the use of local talent will change the trajectory of growth for local-tech.
If you could make one sweeping change that you think would set the industry on the right path, what would it be and why?
Moving away from using archaic methods to generate revenue is the primary change that needs to happen. We all know the typical story of either hiring junior talent and placing high expectations with the hope for a “super soldier” to rise from the ashes, or hiring an expensive sales leader who understands the process and then he or she subsequently hires junior reps to carry out their wishes. Both are expensive and slow-moving options that tend to provide unpredictable results.
Companies need to focus more on taking the time to develop sustainable and secure sales functions within their organizations first instead of simply “placing bodies on the problem.” Companies should also consider having more patience in building this out and change the “we need revenue NOW” way of thinking. Sales functions take time, and you need experienced minds to build it out for you.
How does all of this fit into what Konsyg does for companies?
Well, this is exactly why I started Konsyg, to help companies work through these challenges. As a sales as a service firm, we not only provide consultation, but we actively sell on our client’s behalf while building out their sales functions. Konsyg is a short-term option set out to provide long-term, sustaining results of revenue growth for technologies. Consider us more of a sales mercenary group, set out to assist in all areas of the sales process while carrying out the end to end inside, field, pre and post sales elements of any business. We have operatives globally ready to engage various markets simultaneously and provide multiple revenue streams.
After our job is done, companies are left with a fully trained sales team that has shadowed us for a year, we then remove our team and move on to the next project to enhance.
This is a new long-form interview section focused on delving deeper into industry topics and understanding the situation from a ground-up level. If you have a founder or industry expert in mind, which you believe would fit these criteria. Please drop us a message here.