Special Report: Motivating the Salesforce: Product knowledge key to Goodyear Challenge

Rob Stonehewer is director of marketing at Toronto-based incentive company Carlson Marketing Group.Client: Goodyear CanadaProgram: Successful Selling in the '90s - Challenge '93Although the major player in the replacement tire industry, Goodyear Canada was actively seeking new ways to sell tires...

Rob Stonehewer is director of marketing at Toronto-based incentive company Carlson Marketing Group.

Client: Goodyear Canada

Program: Successful Selling in the ’90s – Challenge ’93

Although the major player in the replacement tire industry, Goodyear Canada was actively seeking new ways to sell tires in a mature market.

The Etobicoke, Ont.-based company also wanted to ensure that its commitment to being the best-trained, most knowledgeable and most customer-focussed group in the industry was embraced by every Goodyear outlet in the country.

This was a challenge because Goodyear has both corporate and split-dealer stores.

The emphasis had to be on developing efficient training methods that not only instructed, but motivated and entertained participants at the same time.

Launched in January, 1993 ‘Successful Selling in the ’90s — Challenge ’93′ was developed to satisfy three objectives: to provide all Goodyear customer contact personnel with solid product knowledge of Goodyear passenger and light truck tires; to offer a selling skills training program which focussed on consumer needs; and to implement these solutions at the store level.

Training package

With these objectives in mind, Carlson Marketing Group (cmg) developed a sales training package which included product data sheets, a training video and manual, and a unique motivational program.

The Challenge ’93 training materials emphasized ‘needs-based selling,’ in other words, they helped identify customer purchasing priorities.

Product profiles

Included were product profile sheets with detailed information on Goodyear’s complete line of tires, the training program ‘seven steps to a satisfied customer,’ which covered every stage of the sales process, from greeting the customers to completing the sale, and the ‘TireFinder’ guide, a proprietary training tool to assist salespeople in matching the right tire to the customer’s needs.

But the key element pulling everything together was the challenge aspect of the program — a team-building question-and-answer exercise designed to reinforce Goodyear’s training efforts and to motivate staff to greater heights.

Previous programs

Team-based competition had been used successfully in Goodyear’s previous two training/motivational programs.

Challenge ’93 took this proven formula for success and expanded on it.

Employees were given a ‘challenge test’ comprising case studies and a series of questions pertaining to the training activity.

Their answers were then submitted to cmg for scoring and evaluation. Each team member who participated in this stage received a recognition award.


For the second round of the program, a questionnaire was created with 20 multiple choice questions on product knowledge, selling skills, and customer service.

This time, the employees in each outlet were encouraged to work on the questions together, then phone in their answers to a dedicated interactive voice response telephone line.

The scores from this segment were used to determine the top 19 teams in each district; these teams would then qualify for the championship round.

(Seventy per cent of qualifying points were derived from second-round results, 30% from first-round results.)

Championship round

Three team members from each qualifying outlet were picked to attend the championship round.

Organized with cmg’s partner Toronto-based NTN Interactive Network,, the championship round pitted the qualifiers against each other in an entertaining and fun interactive video computer quiz.

Once again, the emphasis was on product knowledge, selling skills and customer service.

Regional and national events were held in sports bars across the country. At one point, there were 40 teams of three going head-to-head to determine the best Goodyear outlet in the land.

The winners received distressed leather jackets bearing Goodyear’s corporate colors and the glory of being crowned national champions.

Was the program a success?

The answer is in the numbers.

Registrations for the program were 22% higher than for other programs run in previous years.

Increased revenue

In 1993, Goodyear sold more tires and increased its revenue substantially. As a result of these factors, the program was recently repeated and expanded for 1994.

In the service-conscious 1990s, it is essential that an organization prepare its employees for that all-important moment of truth with the customer.

Getting ahead and staying ahead of the competition requires an investment in training as it should be: educational, refreshing, rewarding and fun.

Toss a healthy dose of friendly, team-based competition into the mix, and you’ve got the ingredients needed for a truly memorable and motivational training program.