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Dealer Training Programs: ANew Trend

In India, the corporate training market was pegged at Rs 25 billion (by the end of 2004) and was growing at a rate of 30% annually. Though sales training was not a new concept in Indian industry, the trend of extending sales training initiatives to business partners was slowly catching up. The automobile companies were among the first to inlplement dealership training programs. For example, when Maruti got the highest rank in customer satisfaction in the JD Power Asia Pacific India customer satisfaction index (CSt) study in 2000, it launched 'Project Hat Trick' in consultation with NIS Sparta, a leading training and consulting organization. The project aimed at creating excitement among the service staff (of the dealers) and also imparting the knowledge and know-how required to satisfy the customer. As part of the project, the service supervisors were trained on the aspect of customer delight and managers were

were

trained on leadership and business planning aspects. The service mechanics

given training in the areas of self-empowerment and behavioral interventions. This

also belped to bring aboUl attitudinal changes in the dealer segment to meet the demands of customers. Consequently, Maruti received the award for the next two

consecutive years.

Speaking on the issue of training in the automobile sector, Mr. Vijay Kohli, Vice- President, NIS Sparta, said, "Training in this sector is also quite different from others

as here the customer expects sales executives to know the features, advantages, and

benefits of each and every part of your vehicle. Not only that, the customer also expects the executives to know even the technical side and the product advantages

over others to make hislher decision."t

The program helped thc company to rctain the top position for the three consecut;ve years starting from 2000. In 2002, it topped in four out of five factors of the customer satisfaction index (CSI) and received highest score of 124 as against the industry average of 118.

Consumer appliances manufacturers were also focusing on these areas in light of cut- throat competition, increased customer expectations, and the increased complexity of the product line. For example, Philips India Ltd. (Philips) a leading consumer appliances company, launched a dealer training program in 2000 called 'Unique Selling Program' (USP) aimed at creating awareness about its products among the

dealer sales personnel as well

program consisted of the following elements - role play, presentations, hands-on demos, and group working. The role players enabled the participants to comprehend the features of the products thoroughly. The hands-on demos trained the participants on conducting product demonstrations to the customers. In the group working module, participants wcre allowed to team up with other members and conduct demos without the help of the trainers. Through this program, Philips aspired to enhance the salesperson's selling skills, communication skills, and sales closing techniques. The company conducted 40 such training programs covering 25 cities across India. The program was a success as it helped the 'cmnpany to improve its market share in big

as. to enhance

their soft-selling skills. The training

"Training Helped Maruti Bag Customer Service Award," The Hindu Business Line,

January 9, 2003.