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October 18, 2009

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Sales trip proves good in practice

MARTIN Liu, vice president for Amway's China operation, a leading direct sales corporation, received the 3rd Annual Harvard Business Review China Best Practice Award 2009 recently in Shanghai.

Joining Amway in 1985, Liu has worked in Amway's Taiwan division for over 20 years, making a significant contribution to the development of the company.

He was appointed to run its staff training center in 2004 and built a fully integrated system to improve the practices and skills of the sales force.

Inspired by the historic signing of the Cross-strait Seas Transportation Agreement by the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, Liu designed and planned an incentive reward trip earlier this year to Taiwan for 12,000 of the corporation's outstanding salespersons.

The trip was a very great success and caused an instant sensation in the company on both sides of the straits.

Q: Having worked in Amway for over 20 years, what is your proudest accomplishment?

A: Definitely it is the "10,000 people's trip in Taiwan" activity I was in charge of earlier this year. It was a reward trip for our outstanding salespersons, and also part of our staff training as I believe in the saying "he who travels far knows much." It was a historical opportunity for Amway, and also the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. I was very glad to see this activity helping the exchange and communication across the straits and also the promotion of brand awareness of Amway.

Q: What public reaction did this activity generate?

A: It was the first trip to Taiwan for most of our salespersons on the mainland, and they were all excited. We invested 200 million yuan (US$29.28 million) in the trip, including basic daily necessities and various gifts. With so many participants, the trip instantly stimulated the Taiwan economy and, being shortly after the new travel agreement was signed, it became historically meaningful. Newspapers on the mainland and Taiwan also wrote lots of stories and it created quite a stir.

Q: There is a saying that a financial crisis is a good opportunity for people in direct selling. Do you agree?

A: In the bad economic conditions, the advantages of direct selling are more evident because people make a small purchase and the risk is low. We are making progress in the financial crisis, but not every direct selling company will be the same because people buy on brand recognition and reputation.

Q: What are the reasons for the company's progress this year?

A: The Chinese market is one of the least affected by the depression so we have to thank that for our good results this year. Turnover in China makes up 31 percent of the company's global turnover. Also Amway in China has higher brand recognition compared with other countries in the world.

Q: What development strategies do you have for next year as the economy improves?

A: We have different strategies for different situations. Our people are optimistic so we don't wait for rain to sell umbrellas. When economic conditions improve, consumers will loosen the purse strings and we will adjust our operation and selling strategies, like launching some new products.

Q: How do you keep your sales people passionate about their job and the company?

A: I am loyal and passionate because I feel happy and comfortable working here. Working at Amway is meaningful as I meet so many kindred spirits. I don't think it is the result of staff training, as the brain drain is a common phenomenon in the direct selling industry. People have their own background and personality, so if they like Amway they will stay. And it will reward their loyalty both spiritually and materially to make them feel worthwhile. In most cases, the major reason that people stay in a company is not money, but the relationship with colleagues. Though selling is a tough job, the company environment is supportive and we like working together.


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