Climbing the Ladder

May 14, 2014
By Yao YaoEditor: Frank Zhao
Climbing the Ladder
Peng Lei joined Beijing White Collar Fashion Company (White Collar) 16 years ago.  [Women of China English Monthly/Zhang Ping and Peng Lei]

Peng Lei joined Beijing White Collar Fashion Company (White Collar) 16 years ago. She began her career with the company as a saleswoman, and she worked her way up — at one point she was an account director — through the ranks. Now, she is the company's vice-general manager. Peng's experiences reflect her development from an average worker to a senior manager, and the transformation of her thoughts and attitudes.

Passion for Work

Peng's life has changed considerably over the years. She had been employed by a company for two years, and she had no interest in leaving her job, but when she was offered a job interview at White Collar (a company about which she knew nothing), a friend, who was a store manager for the firm, advised her to grasp the opportunity, and to learn everything possible about both the job and the company.

"I had not met her for more than one year. I felt that she was full of passion when I talked with her. Her passion had an influence on me. I also wanted to change myself," Peng recalls. She went to the interview, in one of White Collar's franchised outlets, and that interview gave her a chance to learn about the company. "The salesmen in the store were handsome and gentle. The music, the decorations, the atmosphere … and the polite service staff were all different from other brands' stores. The brand's positioning was high quality, which was welcomed by intellectual women. What impressed me a lot was the marketing mode, the focusing on the customer's experience," Peng says.

"The first time I went to the company, the interviewer and I talked on the sofa. A glass coffee table was in front of us. Through the glass top, I could see the table's legs clearly. The interviewer told me that White Collar was a transparent company, just like that table. Every employee was working hard. You could only do what you should do," Peng recalls.

White Collar was different from the other brands with which Peng had made contact. Peng liked the company's transparent work atmosphere, so she accepted a saleswoman's position.

White Collar was established in 1994 to fill a void — the provision of high-quality clothing and high-level, one-on-one service to entrepreneurs, politicians and celebrities — in a niche segment of the market.

Her new job gave Peng renewed passion for work. "I love marketing. I do not think it is easy to become a good saleswoman. You must have knowledge about many fields. For example, many of my clients … are high-end customers, including officials, artists, entrepreneurs and cultural figures. If you are not well-cultivated, and do not have enough topics of conversation or professional skills, it will be hard to satisfy them," Peng says. "To become a specialized salesman of a high-end brand, you must have intelligence and charisma. To be a salesperson, you must first promote yourself, and then you must promote the products. If you cannot promote yourself, how can you promote your products?"

Peng initially had a difficult time adapting to her new responsibilities. "I could not make use of my past experiences. I was a little frustrated at that time. I thought that I was quite qualified … but, in fact, I was not. I made some mistakes, and I even cried when I was scolded by the clients," says Peng. "I had tears in my eyes, but I continued to serve the clients. Putting customers first is correct in the service industry. Do not be irritable, and keep calm during every occasion. It is not easy to satisfy every client … but you should try your best … As a salesperson, or as a manager, you must have your own methods for serving clients. You cannot say you have no idea, then how can you serve them?"

Always Smile

One might describe Peng as a woman who was born for marketing. She is full of passion and power, especially if you raise the topic of marketing with her. "The people around me consider me to be a person who is able to think for others. Making a sale is a process, during which you make the stranger depend on and trust you, but the relationship cannot be established in one meeting. When you first meet a customer, you recommend clothes to her, and she leaves satisfied with the clothes she has purchased. Then, you should do the after-sales service well. After you serve her more than three times, she will find you when she comes to the store. In fact, customers not only have a need for the product, but also a spiritual need. Products and services are both important," says Peng.

When she creates value for White Collar, Peng also realizes her own value. "I only feel that the company is good, and I learn a lot from my job. The customers are well-educated and cultured women. I learn a lot from many of my customers. The process of working is also a process of learning," says Peng. Despite her many promotions, from sales consultant to office director, then to account director, and finally to vice-general manager, Peng has continued to serve customers on the sales floor.    

"I still make sales because I love this work. Some customers, especially regular customers, are used to finding me … They think I know their styles. When they stand before the mirror, and when they tell me they like the clothes, I am content," says Peng.

She describes herself as a simple, optimistic person, and she has a simple approach to the way she treats people and solves problems. "Sometimes, when I am not happy, I become happy as soon as I see one of my customers. Clients often say I am excited and full of energy. Maybe I was born for sales. My customers wonder if I ever feel tired … In fact, I do feel tired sometimes, but being full of passion is state of work. Just like an actor who must perform, for me, work is also a stage. I should perform on my stage, and I should release my passion," says Peng. "I am lucky to do what I like. I want to try my best … I can say I do my best, in everything."

Being Needed    

White Collar hosted the opening ceremony of China Fashion Week in November 2002. That was the first time the company had hosted the event. "It is a chance for a company to appear on the stage, and to reflect the value of its brand. So, it is not a simple fashion show," says Peng. She was responsible for organizing — including inviting important clients — a reception. All of the workers tasked with organizing the event tried to think of every detail, and they worked hard to avoid making mistakes. Peng had tears in her eyes as she watched the first model walk — in step with the music — along runway to open the show.

"I was proud (that I worked at) White Collar. I was honored to be a member of the industry … At that moment, I thought the show deserved all of my efforts," says Peng. "I can remember my feelings … I had a sense of pride."

Peng likes sales, because selling helps her to improve herself so she can meet every challenge. "One of the management modes at White Collar is knowing marketing, regardless of what position you hold. All workers … are trained to make sales. They should know how to display clothes, how to deliver clothes … They should know the features of the clothes, and the characteristics of the customers. The first thing we should do is sell, and the second thing is meet the demands of the customers. So, every worker should go to the stores and become familiar with the customers and the products," says Peng.

Miao Hongbing, president of White Collar, once said, "Peng's passion for work is reflected from head to toe." In recent years, Peng has spent more time with her clients and colleagues than she has with her family. She never refuses the requests of her customers. "I like having contact with the customers. My customers believe that they can find me any time. They trust me. I am happy to be needed," says Peng.

(Source: Women of China English Monthly November 2013 Issue)


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