Next-generation sales support tool and training program designed to activate the “brain” that have allowed Toyota dealers to phenomenally increase their sales performance
Japan’s industrial sector is now faced with a host of urgent issues, such as labor shortages due to the declining birthrate and aging population, the Government-led work style reform calling for shorter working hours and the need to improve labor productivity. How should individual businesses address these issues? Here are innovative cases of two Toyota dealers achieving significant results by introducing our next-generation sales support tool and training program based on cognitive science.
WorldVision – a tool to promote the purchasing behavior of customers
Like houses and real estate, automobiles are among high-ticket merchandise. Persistent sales activities and price negotiations with individual customers have been common in the past.
Domestic sales of new cars, however, have been flat in the last 10 years at around 5 million units a year. No substantial growth can be expected any more.
How will automakers survive this harsh market environment? Toyota dealers are famous for their outstanding sales capabilities. Being the top runner, though, they feel a strong sense of crisis about the future. Amid these circumstances, a new initiative, launched by two dealers, is now attracting attention.
It all started six years ago, when Yamaguchi Toyopet, which had never ranked high on the list of well-performing dealers, recorded the biggest sales growth rate from the previous year in the country.
Mr. Haruhisa Urabe, the Representative Director and Chairman of Yamaguchi Toyopet, tells the inside story of what happened at his company
“There used to be a deep-rooted tendency among sales people to put great emphasis on mettle. In contrast, European automakers were beginning to use advanced tools for their sales activities, which made us realize that we needed some weapon of our own too. That was why we decided to develop a new sales support tool integrating cognitive science and IT through collaboration with APA, a think tank dealing with the development of leading-edge cognitive computing and AI technologies.”
And thus was born the WorldVision, a sale support app for tablet devices. Based on the scientific knowledge concerning the cognitive function of the human brain, the information about the key points such as available vehicle models and related services (loans, insurance plans, etc.) is compiled into a video of approximately eight minutes. The eight-minute-long video is further divided to content streams of four categories – highlight, detail, objectivity and innovativeness – each lasting two minutes. These video and audio contents guide the user in a natural manner through the buying process of memorizing, making choices and taking action.
At Yamaguchi Toyopet, introducing the WorldVision brought about a huge change in its sales activities.
Mr. Urabe says: “We would often have difficulty in making customers fully understand the features and value of the car we were trying to sell. It was not easy to convince them that the car was worth buying. But this tool has changed all that. All you need to do is have the customer tap the screen of a tablet device and, whether you are a new recruit or even a receptionist, you can do sales smoothly with a fairly high level of expertise. The tool has significantly helped us standardize our sales activities.”
The other dealer that participated in the development of the WorldVision was Nagoya Toyopet. Mr. Ichiro Oguri, the Representative Director and President of the company, also attests to the effectiveness of the WorldVision, saying: “Top-performing sales people can sell cars without this tool. But, for other members of the sales force, that’s another story. The more you use the tool, the better sales performance you can achieve. We are impressed at how the WorldVision has enabled us to level out the differences in sales capabilities among sales people and push up the average performance on a company-wide basis.” Now, the Toyopet Channel Operations Division of TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION is deploying the WorldVision nationwide.
WorldVision Café – extremely effective in changing the mindset of employees
In addition to the WorldVision, which has achieved substantial results as a sales support tool, the two dealers have adopted the WorldVision Café, a human resource training program that is based on cognitive science just as the WorldVision tool is.
The training is conducted for five hours straight. It consists of three types of activity: a lecture by a lecturer, a work session in which participants write down their ideas about a specific theme mentioned in the lecture and a sharing session in which each participant discusses what he or she has put down on paper with several other participants who sit next to him or her in turns. Participants repeat these three activities in combination 10 times or so at a brisk pace in a relaxed atmosphere, helping themselves to boxes of chocolate and candy prepared in the hall.
While it may seem very simple, the training, elaborately built on the knowledge of cognitive science, produces an astonishing effect.
In a nutshell, the program activates the brains of participants and makes them look back on their goals in life. That helps them realize what their daily work and the relationships with people they meet through work mean to them. This realization makes these individuals naturally willing to work together with peers to attain the shared targets.
Mr. Urabe says: “Initially, 200 employees of Yamaguchi Toyopet and several other organizations took part in this training program. Then, our group companies joined in one after another. Now, more than 95 percent of our workforce have received the training. The greatest benefit we have gained from the program is the much better atmosphere that we now see in our offices. With employees doing their work cheerfully and vigorously, our business performance is picking up steadily. Moreover, not only have our sales of cars increased, but communication among the top management of the group companies has dramatically improved as well.”
Mr. Oguri says: “I received the training together with executive officers of Nagoya Toyopet. It was different from any training program I had attended before where you just learn what you are taught. This program makes you review your way of thinking and how you see things, and that helped me realize a number of things. Also, since the training proceeds at a very fast pace, all you can do is write or say what you really feel at the bottom of your heart. This method is entirely new in that it allows you to trim what is unnecessary and shape up the essence of your being. By the way, the next day after I received the training, I played golf and had my best score of 71.”
The two companies featured here have cherished human-oriented corporate culture since their foundation, and that is why these dealers did not hesitate to introduce our next-generation sales support tool and training program.
In order to improve customer satisfaction (CS) and employee satisfaction (ES), it will be increasingly crucial to apply the knowledge of brain science and other scientific findings. The cases of the two dealers provide a lot of insight for us.