Ambassadors of excellence
Published: 31/10/2017 12:00 pm
As representatives of Infiniti in the sultanate, its sales team embodies the core values and outlook that make the luxury car brand unique amid peers
Infiniti, the luxury vehicle arm of Japanese carmaker Nissan, is a brand that has established a niche for itself in the premium automotive division across the world, since its launch in 1989. The brand enjoys special patronage in the Middle East owing to its cutting edge design and superb technology that provides the best in power and performance, notwithstanding a definitive style statement. But no matter how excellent a brand is, its success depends on its salesmen. A good sales team can elevate the fate of even a mediocre product, a bad team can destroy the reputation of an excellent product.
That is why Infiniti pays almost equal attention to the team that sells the brand as it gives to perfecting the brand's offerings.
It's a collaborative effort
In Oman, Infiniti has partnered with the country's leading automotive agency Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, whose sales team for the brand is rated among the best in the region.
The team, led by Infiniti business head Salah al Farsi, is made up of individuals who meet certain qualities. Farsi says, “While choosing a sales executive for Infiniti we look forward to five characteristics. The ideal candidate should be an empathiser, focused, responsible, optimistic and must have an ego-drive or a passion to excel. We call our sales executives Infiniti ambassadors as each of them represent this unique brand in front of the customers.”
After selection comes training and Infiniti has well-structured programmes for executives at all levels. There are basically two types of training and certification process. One is the instructor-led classroom training conducted either at Regional Training Centre at Dubai or at Infiniti Oman Training Centre at Muscat. Every training module is completed with a certification programme.
The second one is web-based training done through Infiniti University Online, a comprehensive product knowledge and training website is designed to help Infiniti ambassadors take their careers to the next level.
Farsi added that the team performance has been exceptional through the years and especially during these past two years, given the challenges posed by current economic conditions. The team at Infiniti Oman is comprised of retail as well as the corporate and fleet segments. And each team is tackling these challenges with innovative strategies.
Corporate clients tend to look at figures than colours, and that is what Bharath, who heads the corporate division, provides them with during sales presentations. He says, “When it comes to fleet and corporate customers, they are more rational, unlike retail clients whose choices are mostly based on emotional. Corporate customers don't make choices based on colour, they give weightage to the value proposition.
“There is stiff competition in this sector. We counter it through analytical ways such as providing a total ownership cost calculation for a fixed period of time, which will include the initial price, service and maintenance costs, resale value etc. This makes more sense to a corporate customer and helps us close deals.”
While a walk-in customer has to be handled in a different way altogether. The approach has to be more personal. Renjith Gopi, showroom manager at Infiniti Oman, says, “In retail sales, customer emotions and feelings play vital roles in decision making. We make them feel comfortable and let them open up so that we can get a better idea of what he/she is looking for.”
During the time of an economic crisis, companies resort to cutting expenses and customers start demanding more discounts and offers. The sales team will have to work out ways to keep up the performance by balancing company interests and customer satisfaction.
Bharath says, “When companies start streamlining expenses to manage economic challenges, more often than not the largest cuts will be done in the marketing budget. This in turn will affect enquiry generation. As prospects are raw materials for business, we will have to look for alternative measures to generate enquiries at lower expense. What we do here is to follow up existing customers rather than finding new ones. That way we might be able to convince them to upgrade to a new car or get references.
“On the other hand, customers start asking for more discounts and offers during such times. This increases the importance of value building. We focus on highlighting the value of buying an Infiniti product, such as its USP, features and other benefits rather than giving price discounts and gifts. This will, to a certain extent help us to retain margins.”
Building a rapport with customers is a vital aspect and that is how the retail sales team handles the challenge. Gopi says, “The market is tough and very competitive and so our strategy is to build close relationships with our customers. We treat every prospect as a target audience. We spend time to understand the customer, build a rapport with them.
It could happen that all these people won't end up buying from us, but we will be able to secure references and based on our sales team's approach these people might consider buying an Infiniti in the future.”
The digital push
Internet penetration and popularity of social media has changed the game for every industry and the automotive sector is not immune to its effects. While it helps businesses to reach out to more customers, it also increases challenges in many ways.
Ambarish Bohidar, marketing manager of Infiniti Oman, says, “One way social media can be helpful for businesses is that it allows you to 'listen' to what the consumers really want and what they know they need. You can see what people say about your products or similar ones in your industry and you can use that information to change the way you drive sales. You’ll be better able to explain products based on why the customer needs them, instead of just focusing on their function.
“Some negatives that have come out of the rise of social media in consumerism is breeding impatient customers. They are more demanding, have higher expectations and want everything as quickly as possible. They also have trust issues when it comes to advertising and instead rely on websites, like Yelp, that supply customer reviews.”
The social media influence can make things difficult for sales people too. Bharath says, “Earlier people had to come to the showroom, see brochures, talk to the sales person, take a test drive and then make a purchase decision. Now the initial stages are mostly taken care by websites and social media which give in-depth information about the cars.
“This has changed our touch points with the customer, who might only visit the showroom just once. The challenge before us is to influence these customers in the limited period of time that spend at the showroom. “
That being said, the importance of a customer service is not diminished in anyway. Bohidar says, “While upping your social media game is important, there is one component of sales will never change: Providing excellent customer service. Customer service is more important than ever to drive sales. Switching to social can be intimidating, but if you are prepared, you can use it to increase your business opportunities exponentially.”
What are the qualities that you look for in salesmen for Infiniti?
We look forward to the following five characteristics: He/she should be,
An empathiser: Ability to identify and react accurately to the behaviour and emotions of customers
Focused: Are goal-orientated and have the ability to articulate their goals clearly and assign timelines. Possess the self-discipline and conscientiousness to service customers and develop the business from that customer on successive sales calls
Responsible: Possess an appropriate sense of urgency, as exemplified in the need to see the sale progress and to bring situations to a resolution. Maintain a positive outlook towards situations and people —tends to admire, and not to criticise a lot
Optimistic: Initiative and the ability to focus on opportunities and solutions. Persistence in forcing an important issue even in the face of possible rejection
Have an ego-drive: Enjoy competitiveness and constantly look for ways to measure themselves against their peers. Enjoy sales as a profession for it provides personal gratification and ego enhancement
What is Infiniti’s training process?
At Infiniti we have two types of training and certification processes:
Instructor Led Training (ILT)
These are classroom training programmes conducted either at Regional Training Centre at Dubai or at Infiniti Oman Training Centre at Muscat. Every training programme is completed with a certification programme, where-in after successfully completing the training, every Infiniti ambassadors go through a evaluation program and upon successfully completing the programme they are certified.
These training programmes cover a wider range of topic:
- Product training
- Brand training
- Sales management
- Sales process
- Soft skills
- Talent management
- Infiniti quality standards, etc.
- Global Infiniti University Online (GIUO)
This comprehensive product knowledge and training website is designed to help Infiniti ambassadors take their careers to the next level. Infiniti University Online was developed with extensive input from retailer personnel’s, to make sure it delivers the features they want and the resources they need to succeed. This website has the content for all their online training needs. The content includes all the information related to Infiniti, its product line-up, Infiniti vehicles and competition, Automotive related materials, etc. This is a major source for reference material, such as videos, articles and printable job aids. The website also manages the Product Certification of Infiniti ambassadors. Every ambassador goes through a certification programme for each and every Infiniti model and obtains the certification.