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Where Are All The Good Sales People In Singapore?: William Gilchrist of Konsyg

Preparing a sales force for the new tech wave.

“We can’t find sales talent.” — This is the most common refrain coming from a review of 30 different tech startups across the island.

Singapore in its 51 years has become a hub of tech innovation in the east. Its 5.3 million population sits as a global tech player eclipsing its neighbours double its size. CEOs are created by the day as they develop disruptive products for the world to see. According to a Straits Times article released last March, Singapore is one of the top stages for tech startups in the world, highlighting its strong engineering and growth talent.

“The experience levels of Singaporean talent was found to be comparatively strong, with 80 per cent of engineering and 74 per cent of growth teams boasting at least two years of prior start-up experience compared to the global averages of 72 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively. Start-up founders based in Singapore were the youngest in the world, with a median age of 28 years. “ - Ann Williams, Singapore overtakes Silicon Valley as No. 1 for global start-up talent

Yet, as Singapore emerges looking to produce its global unicorn, filling the sales roles to accelerate these efforts remain a struggle.

“We can’t find sales talent.” — This is the most common refrain coming from a review of 30 different tech startups across the island. The issue of finding and retaining sales talent is the quiet Achilles heel of Singapore’s desire to be a true oasis of start-up talent. Even companies such as LinkedIn listed in their “The Top Skills That Can Get You Hired In 2017” blog did not have sales related skills in their top 10 for Singapore.

Why is this the case? Some say that culture is an influence given Singapore’s lack of home-grown sales talent. This perspective is a two dimensional answer in a three dimensional arena. A survey from indicated that out of 700 participants, when asked, “Which statement best describes your perception of corporate sales people?” 64% answered that they believed that sales people are under “constant pressure to meet quarterly sales targets, leading to pushy behaviour and sometimes unethical decisions”. To add to this perception, only 4% of the survey participants indicated that they would pursue a sales related role in their career. To solve this complicated challenge, Singapore needs to take a page from its own tech innovation landscape and apply it to the world of sales.

The majority of university graduates gravitate towards engineering and marketing roles, leaving tech sales distant on the list of career aspirations. CEOs are pushed by investors to prove out their technologies by producing revenue. As a result, sales managers are pressured to not only sell as reps themselves, but hit high target expectations at scale with little time to develop their talent. New sales hires are met with archaic on-boarding training Frankenstein-ed from western methodologies, leaving companies in a state of unease in developing effective sales processes customized for this market.

Kyle Hegarty, Managing Director for TSL Singapore writes about how companies need to re-think their management approach in a multipolar business world. He says: “sales environments have more uncertainty now than ever and if this isn’t managed correctly, you end up with sales people who don’t have the confidence to aggressively pursue their markets.

We need to act early to have an impact in selling within this complex and uncertain ecosystem. Singapore is in a unique position with its proximity in Asia Pacific and ANZ. Unlike the west, the tech sales rep of Singapore must develop a global, multi-market perspective upon inception.

William Gilchrist is the Founder of Konsyg - Singapore’s Enterprise Sales as a Service provider. In this series on, he plans to further the dialogue of sales in Asia Pacific.