My goal is to expand our territory
I head up the Business Development team in Northern Mindanao and the Visayas area of the Philippines. I’m actually from Northern Mindanao originally, and I was the pioneer for Quipper in this area. I was asked by our Country Manager if I would like to take on the Visayas area as well, and of course I said yes.
One of my goals at Quipper is to help expand our territory. It’s a challenge to expand into new areas unless you already have several big schools that have accepted your product. I believe with how well our product works and with the quality of content, we can eventually expand it to every part of the Philippines. It’s nice to see that we are already in every key city.
We’d like to move faster, but there are some major obstacles in our way
Before joining Quipper, I was a regional sales manager for an education publishing company. I used to sell educational textbooks. It’s the first time I’ve worked for a tech company rather than a traditional publishing company. Decision-making here tends to be a lot faster. I’m also given the freedom to think for myself. Management is not controlling, and you’re free to execute as long as it’s within the rules.
The number one challenge we have to overcome is that parents are very traditional. They were not very accepting of e-learning prior to Covid-19. They wanted their children to read books, to actually flip pages. Also, when you go into schools, there’s still a lot of infrastructure that needs to be upgraded, like internet access points. The Philippines is not as advanced as other countries, so we can only target schools that have that infrastructure in place. When I joined Quipper, there were two or three schools in Northern Mindanao that were already using iPads, so we initially focused on those as our main targets.
Schools want to modernize, and that’s where Quipper can help
Our main focus is on senior high schools because the students are mature enough to handle the internet. The bulk of our sales are grades 11-12. In the Philippines we’re a B2B company that targets mainly school principals and local education officials. But our job also involves talking to parents to explain why the school is getting on board with e-learning and how it will help their kids at the same time. In our culture, parents believe that education is the best thing they can give their children, and that if their children study hard they can get on in life.
Nowadays, of course, schools don’t have a choice. Covid-19 dictates that all schools have to move towards e-learning. But prior to that, it was more about tapping into the interest of their students. Teachers often struggle to engage students, but they can always get their attention with technology. We encourage schools to position themselves as leaders in terms of e-learning. That has been an enormous help in spreading Quipper to new schools.
We have a lot of competitors in the Philippines. All the big educational publishers have developed their own e-learning platforms and they already have the trust of schools. We had a lot of catching up to do at first. I think Quipper came along and offered something new. Our main strengths are the quality of our content and the dedication of our support team. Some of our rivals just sell their product and provide some training, but then disappear completely. That has made some schools wary of e-learning. But at Quipper we provide ongoing support, both locally from my team and remotely from our Manila office.
I have to balance my own needs with those of my team
There are six people in my team, including Sales Officers and Support Officers. We don’t have a physical office in this region, so we hold meetings at home or at our partner schools. I also speak with my team a lot on the phone. We have an additional two people in the Visayas area. It’s actually quite far away and involves crossing a small sea.
The tricky part is juggling a manager role with a sales role, because I also have my own KPIs. Northern Mindanao is big geographically and I sometimes need to drive for 4-5 hours to visit a school in another big city. If someone on my team calls me for advice on a school negotiation, I have to pull over to the side of the road. I had to learn how to manage my time so as not to sacrifice my own target for theirs, which of course is part of my target as well. I accepted the job as a regional manager, so I need to figure out the right balance.
It is such an honor to be chosen for the MVP award. At the same time, I’m humbled because I did not earn this on my own, but with the help of my teammates, my manager and my country manager, who along the way helped me out in every way they can. They continuously supported me and never doubted what I can do for the company and our clients. Sometimes in sales, you need to get very creative as you can easily get stuck when it comes to clients’ policies and objections. That’s when the support of management really comes into play.
The advice I would like to share with colleagues
My advice for new managers is to have a listening ear. When you go into a new team, even as a leader, there are always people who know more than you do. You should start by listening and observing. When I joined Quipper, I was new to e-learning. I asked my manager every possible question about who is in charge of each team. So my advice is to become an expert in the company you’re in first, then start to find your management style.
Also, be aware of what motivates you and use it to your advantage. I love what I do here and not a single day is boring. At the same time, when you’re working on your own your greatest enemy is yourself. I travel a lot for work and sometimes have to drive for six hours or more. What I do is look forward to a restaurant along the way, or I buy a CD and listen to it in my car. If I have to stay overnight in another city, I pick a restaurant I haven’t been to before. I give myself little things to look forward to just to keep myself going.
Of course, we get sales commission too. Quipper’s reward system is good, which is one of the reasons they could pirate me. (Laughing) ‘Pirate’ is a word we use in the Philippines when we hire someone from a competitor. However, sales is never easy as there are many stumbling blocks. Little routines and rewards keep me organised and keep me going, so I can be effective even when I’m working on my own.
* The business (including business name and business description), people and titles introduced in the article are those at the time of the interview. It may be different at this time.