The #1 Car Salesperson in Japan
Sojyo Inoue, Tokyo, Japan
He has created an astonishing record in the history of car sales and was rightfully declared as the “No. 1 Car Salesperson in Japan.” Sojyu Inoue, 60, who works in the Toyota sales office of Toranomon, Tokyo, Japan has to date, achieved an all time sales record of 5,700 units of cars. In business of car trade, a salesperson is considered “good” if he is able to sell 48 units of cars a year. A “very capable” salesperson would reach a target of 60 units a year. On the average, even if one sells as many as 60 units a year, he will take up to 95 years to achieve the impressive record of 5,700 units. Amazingly, Inoue has sold 5,700 units within a relatively short period of 30 years!
Inoue’s achievement is even more remarkable when considered in the light of market report for the year 2003. From the trade statistics, the registration of new cars (inclusive of all passenger and small cars) in Japan was 4.3 million units in 1990. The figure dropped to 3 million in 2000. There was a decrease of more than 30% throughout the last decade.
Despite the odds, Inoue was able to maintain his sales record of 200 units a year and he even hit his all time high of selling more than 300 units a year. Despite the bad times for the car market, his sales actually increased.
What was the secret of his outstanding performance? Inoue attributed his success to the three “secrets” he held:
Setting high targets
Courage and high spirits
Prompt action and response to the situation
“When your target is low, your performance will drop. But when your outlook is nailed at higher targets, you will set off with the determination to achieve that target. This is very crucial. Moreover, customers are always impressed by a salesperson who sounds encouraging and cheerful. We are humans and would naturally love to foster pleasant human relationship. A cheerful salesperson puts others at ease and can convince the customers. This is human nature!”
“Apart from that, being effective is very important. Prompt response will mirror your sincerity. Therefore, a salesperson should maintain good rapport with the manufacturing and service divisions of the company. Excellent human relationships will prove to be invaluable when there is an emergency or when urgent assistance is needed.”
How did Inoue develop these qualities?
“From Soka Gakkai of course! I was determined to wholeheartedly put into practice, the guidance of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda.
During my youth, I was a Young Men’s Division chapter leader for 12 years. Throughout this period, I fought with my entire life.”
Never Regress Even a Little
Inoue was born in Kanuma City, Tochigi Prefecture. He took up a car maintenance and repair course from a professionally recognised institute in Tokyo. Upon his graduation, he was employed by his present company and was assigned to the service division.
Through the introduction of a friend from his hometown, Inoue took faith in Nichiren Buddhism in 1962 when he was 19. In 1968, being a member of the Soka Gakkai Young Men’s Division, he had the opportunity to take a commemorative photo with President Ikeda. His dream was fulfilled in his first encounter with his mentor. His heart burned with the passion of youth.
“After the photo-taking session, Mr. Ikeda told me that there is infinite potential in a human being. I was convinced that as long as I had faith, my life would be geared towards a promising future.”
He resolved to be the most outstanding person in his field of endeavour. This was the driving force that led him to become the top salesperson in Japan.
At 28, he was transferred from the service division to the sales division. His cheerful disposition made him stand out in his job.
Every Person is Important
However, it was never easy for Inoue to juggle between his career and Soka Gakkai activities. This is true even up to today. However, Inoue always chants with the determination of “never retreating” as he strives to create the greatest value with his time.
A former manager of Inoue who knows him well recalls, “For an ordinary person with a typical time management skills, it is impossible to produce such excellent result on a consistent basis. He must have utilized much more wisdom than others in using his time effectively. These efforts were never obvious from appearance.”
Inoue’s forte is his excellent rapport with his customers. For a typical trading business with 300 customers, it seems sensible to be able to maintain good customer service and good results, but the number of customers under Inoue’s account is over 1,500.
With only 24 hours a day, how was Inoue able to maintain good relations with his huge network of customers?
Besides discussing about cars with his customers, Inoue actually spend a lot of time discussing affairs of daily life with his customers. Through their conversations, for instance, if he knew that his customer was not feeling well, he would recommend effective remedies that he had learned from his friends in the medical profession. When a customer was involved in a traffic accident and faced difficulties in solving the case, he would volunteer to assist. In short, he shows painstaking concern and care for all his customers.
Hence, his relationships with his customers are rock sturdy. When friends or relative of customers intend to purchase a car, Inoue is the first person that would cross their minds.
Some of his earlier clients who had prospered in their business also provided Inoue with business. Some of them purchased large quantity of cars up to 50 or 100 units from him for their companies.
“To me, this is the manifestation of the outlook that “each person is equally important” as taught in Soka Gakkai.”
In the office where Inoue worked, there was one particular wastebasket layered with a plastic bag. That was the dustbin beside Inoue’s desk. The cleaning lady layered it as a gesture of appreciation to Inoue, who never failed to warmly greet her everyday. Occasionally, Inoue also give her tokens of appreciation for her assistance.
Inoue confidently says, “This might sound a bit like blowing my own trumpet, but I could grasp the basic personality and character of a customer through a brief ten-minute conversation.”
It is not how much time we spend in each encounter, but whether we could treasure every single person we meet. Business magazines introduced Inoue as a person who “surmounted the recession” and as “the best car salesperson in Japan.”
It is not a surprise that he is a much-wanted employee. Established corporations from various sectors other than car companies including departmental stores, publishing firms as well as rent and lease companies have all tried to rope him in to their fold. He has often been invited by the universities to speak to business students on his trading philosophy.
The following words are written inside Inoue’s business dairy: “Life is like a battle between life and death. There is no other alternative but to fight this battle, through endless painstaking efforts.”
The moment we say, “This is enough,” is when we are contented with our present situation, and marks the beginning of our “defeat.”
“In fact, all these are Mr. Ikeda’s guidance published in the Seikyo Shimbun,” Inoue explains. “The contents of Seikyo Shimbun touch people’s lives and are inspiring. It is my daily source of life-force. I will be left with nothing if Mr. Ikeda’s guidance is taken away from me.”
Employer Does Not Want Him to Quit
As a tribute to the contribution of the company’s sales personnel, those who could surpass the sales target of 3,000 units will have their names inscribed for posterity on a stone-tablet at the office.
Nevertheless, Inoue remains modest about his achievements. He continues to strive for higher goals to achieve 6,000 and then to go on to achieve 7,000. Certainly, his employer would never want him to retire. Hence, a year before his compulsory retirement age, his company promoted him to be a Director, with remunerations of an executive director. Such promotion is the first of its kind for a salesperson in the history of the car industry.
Inoue always tells himself, “Each person has boundless wisdom. I wish to leave behind an unbreakable record!”
The dream of this crème de la crème salesperson is like the bright sky of an early spring that extends infinitely into the horizon.