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Honda’s Sales Academy

First tranche of sales staff complete IMI-approved training programme.

As part of its ‘return to normal’ after Covid-19, Honda UK has launched a massive new in-house training programme for its dealer network, reports Alan Dowds. But unlike most training – which is often new product-based and aimed at technicians – this is aimed at the folk who bring in the cash: the salespeople.

It’s an all-new course, focused around a remote online learning platform, and is accredited by the Institute of The Motor Industry (IMI), a first for the motorcycle trade. As well as online learning, the course also uses work-based tasks to supplement the syllabus and put it into practice on the shop floor. And it aims to bring Honda’s sales techniques bang up to date, with a strong focus on areas like social media, online communications, remote selling – vital parts of the modern so-called ‘hybrid selling environment’ – as well as the traditional sales skill set.

“We can do virtual or face to face. It’s six two-hour sessions in a month and it doesn’t impact the dealer’s time too much. Plus, they don’t have to send staff away for two days,” said Honda’s business planning manager Andy Mineyko.

Honda delivers the training via a new virtual classroom setup, and the delegates are then offered one-to-one coaching on the follow-up dealer-based learning tasks. The programme concludes with a face-to-face review session at Honda UK.

Andy Mineyko first took us through the thinking on the new programme running back in February. “We’re doing a fair bit of training for dealers on sales, looking at process really. We’d often recruit people, give them a desk and a phone and say ‘good luck!’. But now people want a better experience. So we have a sales academy with an external trainer, and we’ve just run the first round of sales academy training. It’s about prospecting customers, keeping in touch with customers, getting the skills to keep in touch.

“Ten people did the first course, and they were mostly fairly experienced people getting a bit of a fine-tune. But the next round will focus on new salespeople starting in the industry.”

This isn’t the first time Honda has run its own sales-focused training program, but it’s the first such course in more than a decade. Developed in collaboration with Alan Scott Consulting, the Honda Sales Academy covers areas including “enquiry management, post-purchase behaviour and blended prospecting and is truly forward-thinking in both its hybrid delivery and its content.”

And the firm is keen to underline the bespoke ‘bike’ nature of the course – it’s not simply been borrowed from the car side of the business. “This is a custom made course for motorcycles,” a spokesperson told BDN. “We were very careful about not copying and pasting an automotive course for our network. Deliberately we chose Alan Scott to develop and deliver the course. Alan is a biker, and an NT1100 customer so understands better than anyone what customers expect. Couple this with his vast experience working with Honda in the past as well as other marques, the Sales Academy is a course developed specifically for an experienced motorcycle sales person.”

Alan Scott, the curator of the programme, also gave us his take on how the course works. “Combining virtual and physical learning online, in the dealership and in the classroom, this uniquely blended approach offers all of the benefits of a well-structured virtual learning environment supported by specific industry content and reinforced with work-based learning tasks and classroom-based workshops. Creating a demanding and rewarding programme that leads to incremental motorcycles sales, improved customer service and retention, and an industry recognised IMI professional achievement award.

“This approach provides learners with a recognised award for their efforts whilst minimising the cost to the business with minimal time out of the dealership, learning tasks linked to new sales and reinforced with a highly engaging and fast-paced final workshop to cement new behaviours”.

The Sales Academy runs alongside Honda’s existing training curriculum, based at Bracknell. That includes the usual new product technical training – both online and in-person – as well as Honda’s core Repair Technician training, which is a three-day course. The Honda Institute also offers a top-quality apprenticeship programme which is recognised throughout the industry and by external educational authorities.

One of the first scheme graduates, James Bruno from Fowlers Honda, told BDN how the course went for him. “The Honda Sales Academy course has changed my perception of how an effective sales team should be run. A few simple changes in process and approach can have a massive impact on the customer experience. That word ‘experience’ is what really stood out to me: making the customer experience better will lead to higher sales figures and higher profits, and we now try to put it at the centre of every decision we make.”

The second Honda Sales Academy began in April, and there’s now a waiting list for future programmes. Meanwhile, the firm is also working on an introductory course, called the Honda Sales Experience, which will be available to all new starters, and act as preparation for the more advanced Sales Academy training programme. The Sales Experience will kick off later in 2022.

Honda UK’s head of motorcycles, Neil Fletcher, told us his thoughts on the new scheme. “I’m so excited that our first Sales Academy Graduates have taken their learnings back to the dealerships and look forward to seeing the results. I believe the Sales Academy is an important investment in our network and our joint future, mirroring one of the four pillars of Honda’s European Business Direction; People. Honda UK will continue to invest in its people with the continuation of the Honda Sales Academy as well as new future programmes to come.”

The class of 2022
The first Sales Academy concluded in February with nine candidates (below) successfully completing the programme and earning their IMI Professional Development Certificate from across Honda’s dealer network:

  • Adam O’Sullivan, North West Honda Super Centre
  • Benji Pascall, Bridge Motorcycles
  • James Bruno, Fowlers of Bristol
  • James Newsome, Nottingham Vertu Honda
  • Jess Hitter, Lings Honda
  • Lewie Rhodes, C J Ball
  • Mikey Doble, Dobles Motorcycles
  • Sarah Budden, Smiths Honda
  • Steve Cox, Miles Kingsport

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