Since joining software technology company Salesforce more than two years ago, Mr Elvin Xiong has been stretched and challenged in ways he never imagined would be the case for a young professional.
He was eight months into his role as an enterprise commercial business development representative with the Singapore office when the pandemic broke out, forcing companies to go digital at a breakneck speed. Business-software providers such as Salesforce saw record sales as companies had to quickly embrace digital technologies such as cloud computing to ensure business continuity and to reach more customers online.
An Indonesian who came to Singapore to study in 2013, Mr Xiong was assigned clients from the Indonesian market. He recalls: "At first, sales were difficult as most businesses were not ready for work from home/remote work settings yet. So, it was very difficult to reach or even set up meetings with customers especially if they were contactable by office phone numbers only.
"However, as time went by, and the world shifted to digital, the queries were through the roof. Convincing customers was easier than before as they had become more receptive. At its peak, I had five to seven back-to-back meetings and demos per day and numerous calls even after working hours."
His sales figures skyrocketed and he has won three quarterly MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards for helping his team to achieve millions of dollars worth of sales.
Mr Xiong, who oversees the fast-growing Indonesian market, and is assisting his senior manager to support a team of six, now has his hands full helping companies to transform their business digitally by adopting Salesforce's proprietary CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.
Salesforce CRM, he explains, helps businesses streamline and automate their processes. By implementing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), sales, marketing, and service teams can work in sync and prioritise important sales and customer data with more width and breadth. It frees up their time, so they can focus on getting new clients and better servicing existing ones.
"In short, our CRM solution enables companies to focus more on growing the business, rather than managing it," the 27-year-old says.
Mr Xiong says the friendships and connections he made during his time spent at the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU) have been the secret sauce to the success he enjoys in his sales role.
"JCU gave me an opportunity to build friendships with students from across the globe, who then went on to excel in various exciting careers in different countries. Many international students I got to know were also scions of conglomerates, who are now keen to work with me to drive technological innovation at their companies," he adds.
Carving out new opportunities
When Mr Xiong was considering degree programmes in 2013, he realised that having more than one specialisation was necessary to boost his employability. He decided to hedge his bets and pursue a Bachelor of Business with a double major in Marketing and Hospitality & Tourism Management. Thanks to JCU's fast-paced programme, he graduated in 2015, two to four years earlier than his peers.
On why he opted for a double major combination, he says: "I have always believed that Marketing is applicable across all businesses regardless of size. Whether it's a hawker centre or tech giant, there will always be a need for marketing and branding. Such talent and expertise will be highly sought anywhere."
"As for Hospitality and Tourism Management, learning good hospitality skills is also essential for doing good marketing or sales. Mastering an additional skillset and competency could also help one to secure a career in another industry upon graduation."
While Mr Xiong's studies were not directly related to IT, it helped him build a foundation of basic skills needed to succeed at the workplace. By delving into actual business case studies and application cases for his assignments, he gained deep insights into global business practices.
In addition, he learnt to work well in a team, and honed his analytical and logical thinking, as well as research skills. He put these to good use especially when preparing for job interviews.
"Before my job interviews, I would usually spend many days doing intensive research on the company, industry, and competitors to boost my knowledge and familiarise myself with the environment," he says.
"During the interview, I showcase my communication skills, market knowledge and enthusiasm for the role by problem-solving a few case scenarios.
"Last but not the least, it is important to present yourself as a fun go-getter who works well in a team."
Mr Xiong's supervisor, senior manager (sales development) Patrick Pham, attests to the young salesman's resourcefulness and aptitude, having worked with him closely for the past year.
He says: "Elvin is so easy to work with as he is strong in execution, results driven, and displays ownership and accountability in his work. Above all, he is selfless and collaborates very well with other team members, partners, and solution engineers. There is no zero-sum game in his approach, everyone wins."
As Mr Xiong enters his third year with Salesforce, he remains hungry for success and is looking forward to taking on more people-leader or managerial roles.
He says: "I constantly strive to motivate and inspire my team members to collaborate on more initiatives, and to drive better sales numbers together."
Visit JCU's Accessible 24/7 Open House for more information on their business programme.