One year as an Innovation Specialist

I have been an “Innovation Specialist” for a whole year now. Pat on the back for me!

One year and ten days to be exact. I thought now would be a good time to review the year, go back through my diary and see how much my job, the industry, the infrastructure and I have changed.

As the cliché goes, it’s good to look back in order to see how far you’ve come….

A few things have been quite timely for me also. The Motorline group has taken on two new Specialists at our Maidstone and Dartford sites- I have decide to mother them both and Nissan has also announced an upgrade option of the battery and therefore the range of the LEAF.

The product is expanding and I now have a team, but it wasn’t always that way.

The role is very different to anything that the -very established- automotive industry has experienced. I was ‘fortunate’ to have come from a car sales background so I understood how the showroom dynamic works. I understood that I was no longer a Sales Executive, I had to do things differently but it was very difficult to break the mould that everyone else in the showroom expects you to do (this includes the workshop, service and admin as well as sales).

This is the first of the suggestions I would make to Nissan; the management need to understand the role of the Innovation Specialists. Fortunately for me, my senior managers are very understanding and allow me the freedom to develop the role, however, I know this isn’t the case in every dealership. Often Sales Managers get the Specialists selling any type of vehicle like Jukes or Qashqai’s or use them as the driver or general ‘useful’ person. This is often interpreted as a lack of respect for the specialists. They describe feeling low and down. This is not what they were employed to do. When you are new in a job it is quite difficult to say ‘no’ to a manager. Managers need to understand the role and expectations from the outset.

I am proud of how I have managed to stand strong in my role and assert myself as a different part of the showroom although still a part of the team. It took a while to build the respect from my colleagues and show them that I was an asset. The questions like “what exactly do you do?”, “where have you been all day?, “did you enjoy your lie in?” have depleted as they witnessed the enquiry level increase and targets being hit.

I spend a lot of time out of the showroom, bringing business in, whereas, Sales Executives must spend as much time as possible in the showroom to catch any business. Both roles are equally important.

Hopefully these statistics speak for themselves:

Therese's Stats

(I will add that the 2015 figures are now quite out of date- need to add quite a few more units to that column!)

Initially I was responsible for the entire sales process. This was going well until I sold too many cars (oh the irony!). An Innovation Specialist should be out of the showroom as much as possible, this makes it difficult to organise finance, cleaning and delivery of cars. I decided that it was time to split the sale with the Sales Executives. I now have a great working relationship with the Sales Executives who are confident with the LEAF and are happy to finish off the order.

This process also makes sure that the customer is totally satisfied with their purchase. I spend a lot of time with them at the first stages making sure they fully understand the car. They take the vehicle away for 4 days. When they come return, I introduce them to the Sales Executive who will look into figures for them. I am there for handover and everyone wins.

If I am asked to describe myself, the word ‘confident’ usually slips in amongst the babble. However, this job has really tested that description. Going to networking events on my own is really one way of character building. I find it quite terrifying to mingle with people when you know no one. I can happily stand in front of a group of people and do a presentation, but I find sophisticated small talk tough. Having said that, networking is the thing that I have got the biggest results with getting my business further. Yet again, a cliché is true, “people do business with people.”

There is a lot of freedom in this role. A lot of room for suggestions, growth and development. I keep this momentum by researching and reading about entrepreneurs. People who think differently. I try to keep as open minded as possible, consuming a TED talk at least once a week about all sorts of topics. You never know where inspiration may strike.

When I started the role, our Sales Performance Manager at the time (Jon Davies, then taken over by James Standing) started Innovation Specialist meetings. We sometimes meet once a quarter or once a month depending on availability. These are vital at keeping our “mojo” going. We find out we have similar complaints and successes and although we go on a bit, it is revitalising to realise we aren’t alone. I am forever indebited to our SPM’s for keeping us excited!

This role has got a lot of potential. I am delighted that the team has grown, only emphasising that we are important parts of the dealership now. I am excited to have been a part of this exciting new adventure for the brand from the beginning and, again, as cheesy as it sounds, I’m looking forward to see how things develop.

Hey! While you’re here why not check out some of my stories that have made it to press so far:

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