Special Report: Motivating the Salesforce: Nissan urges reps ‘beyond selling’

Shelley Sparrow is the Nissan Canada account manager with The Communique Group, a full-service communications company in Toronto.Client: Nissan CanadaProgram: Nissan Club ExcellenceNissan Canada wanted its sales force to 'go beyond' selling products to selling total customer satisfaction.The objectives of the...

Shelley Sparrow is the Nissan Canada account manager with The Communique Group, a full-service communications company in Toronto.

Client: Nissan Canada

Program: Nissan Club Excellence

Nissan Canada wanted its sales force to ‘go beyond’ selling products to selling total customer satisfaction.

The objectives of the Nissan Club Excellence program were simple: to recognize and reward sales consultants and sales managers for their sales achievements, the provision of customer satisfaction, and the length of service within the Nissan family.

Secondary objectives

Secondary objectives were to improve the profile and self-image of sales consultants within the company and the automotive industry.

Nissan’s history of motivational programs was impressive but there were a number of areas in which previous programs had fallen short of the mark.

Club Excellence, developed with the assistance of Brian Sweeney, corporate manager of sales at Nissan, was based on extensive research which showed that communication was as important as the launch and eventual reward.

Participants indicated that on-going communication reflected a high level of support from Nissan Canada and this, in itself, was a motivator.

The program, which was designed to be national and long-term, required communications that were timely, consistent and uniform in all regions.

The Club Excellence program, now entering its second year, comprises the following elements:

- A teaser video sent to all locations to announce the program;

- A pre-launch letter from Sweeney;

- A ‘launch in a box’ sent to each area general manager to ensure a consistent, simultaneous national launch. The box contained a customized three-ring binder in which materials sent over the course of the program could be collected, a Nissan compass with an information card that outlined Nissan Canada’s vision, values and the direction to ‘go beyond’, pledge forms to be signed by each of the participating sales representatives, and an introductory video to assist each area general manager in preparing his or her own launch meeting;

- A senior executive telephone campaign. Nissan’s senior executives undertook to call selected achievers during the program. This personal touch provided an impetus at the mid-way point;

- A bi-monthly newsletter which included Club Excellence updates, stories about customer satisfaction, selling tips and news of program rewards.

- One page profiles of top performers in which they explain their sales and customer service philosophy.

- A gala awards evening.

Once Nissan had established a line of communication with participants it was able to fine tune the program throughout the year.

The company was able to add monthly incentives when appropriate, highlight specific achievements by individual members of the sales team and report on service initiatives.

Adapting to change

In short, the program was designed to adapt to changing sales environments without losing its integrity.

Pre-program research also played a role in developing and determining the reward and recognition celebrations.

Club Excellence has four achievement levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Financial rewards are a key element of the program. Material rewards include Club Excellence achievement pins, business cards, trophies, jackets and trips.

But rewards are only one element of the program. Research showed the circumstances in which a sales consultant receives an award is as important as the award itself.

To this end, Club Excellence awards nights are held in three regions: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, and are hosted by Nissan management, including the company’s president and chief executives.

Club Excellence achievers and their spouses gather at The Four Seasons hotel in their respective cities for dinner, dancing and the awards ceremony.

The program has proved successful and has been expanded in its second year. Feedback from sales consultants and dealers Canada-wide has been positive.

Although the program elements may not appear radically different from other recognition programs, the combination of communication, recognition and reward has helped build team spirit and open a line of communication with the sales team.