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Apr 01, 2022
Pursuing carbon neutrality hand-in-hand with customers and society
Driven by a passion to help society and the pursuit of pleasure
Automotive & Life Solutions Div. Kimihiro Igami
Following his career in sales and business planning at a household goods manufacturer, he joined Denso mid-career in 2013. Formerly a sales representative for Denso EcoCute, he is currently involved in the launch and sales of the carbon-neutral business.
Kimihiro Igami is in charge of strategic measures for launching carbon-neutrality-related business at DENSO Corporation as well as related sales operations. He visits many customers to look for future partners to achieve the carbon-neutral society. This project has been his lifework, and motivates him to enjoy his work. We hear his passions to his work in this interview.
Contents of this article
Working together with project partners toward society-wide carbon neutrality
— Thank you for taking the time for our interview today. I hear that you visits many customers to look for future partners in order to achieve carbon-neutral society. When did you embark on these efforts?
Igami：We embarked on it in July 2021. I had been involved in sales of the EcoCute until then, but in April 2021 I was assigned to the carbon neutrality product sales. We were able to get things started in July after I managed to prepare it in three months.
— It is impressive for you to get started with preparation just in three month! You did it with a great speed, didn’t you?
Igami：With help from the business unit and our clients, we were able to finish initial preparations in time. The products we are promoting right now will actually be complete in 2025 or later. In general, a company completes products first and then approaches potential partners and customers. However, we wanted to establish the long-term partnership with our customers to achieve the carbon neutrality, and this is why we tried to get ready as soon as possible in so-called the first year of carbon neutrality.
— In other words, you’re not only working to expand sales, but also creating products together with customers?
Igami：That’s right. Even if DENSO achieves carbon neutrality as a single company, the impact on overall CO2 reductions throughout society would be negligible. That’s why we chose to work with a wide range of partners toward the great goal of worldwide carbon neutrality.
— Compared with standard sales activities, do these co-creation activities require different types of communication between the parties involved?
Igami：We talk about the products plans with our customers in their early stages, and feedback the results of opinion exchanges and demonstration experiments to the plans. When developing products, it’s important to work with the people who will actually use them.
— I assume that you have a variety of customers in their business conditions and sizes, so you can’t use the single type of approach every time.
Igami：That’s right. We have exchanged ideas with about 50 different companies, and their thoughts and proposals have helped shape the direction and strategies that DENSO has adopted. Going forward, I want to focus on providing ways for new partners to join us in our carbon neutrality efforts without pushing themselves while enjoying the process. If we force people to make too many sacrifices or suffer too many constraints in the pursuit of carbon neutrality, we’ll never achieve the goal. The process must be sustainable.
The importance of close communication with partners. Sales activities that leave “gifts” with each customer
— As I listen to you talk, I can tell how much you value your customers’ perspectives. What things do you focus on most in your sales activities?
Igami：In all of our sales efforts, we try to provide every customer with something useful they can use, which might be called “gifts”. This approach is important to us, as it makes potential partners want to meet with us again, and to work with us in the future. In short, it leads to new collaborations.
— “Gifts” is a great way of putting it. What types of gifts are you giving with your current promotional efforts?
Igami：Not all of our customers are familiar with the concept of carbon neutrality and the efforts involved, so we try to make our proposals as easy to understand as possible. This means that, rather than immediately explaining some product at first, we start by outlining current conditions in society regarding carbon neutrality as well as future predictions such as how the world will change and what people will demand in response with the carbon neutrality. Then we start discussing the efforts under way at DENSO and our proposals.
— I agree that sharing an understanding of the future makes it easier to understand what needs to be done now. I imagine this approach also makes potential partners trust DENSO more.
Although this is the first time to talk with you in person, I don’t feel the usual stiff formality or discomfort when meeting a new person. Have you always been good at interpersonal communication?
Igami：Not at all! Actually, I’m not very talkative in general; I tend to be somewhat reserved and keep to myself.
At my previous job in Osaka when I was still a novice in sales, I was assigned to make a sales pitch at a shop whose owner was intimidating. I dreaded that first encounter, and when I arrived at the parking lot of the shop, I just sat in my car for a while, and was unable to open the door and get out because I was so nervous [laughs].
— Looking at you now, that’s hard to imagine! How did you overcome the fear?
Igami：I realized that the key to interpersonal communication is trying to get to know and like the other person, and the first step to liking another person is to find things you can respect about them. No matter who you’re dealing with, I believe you can always find some admirable quality.
If you’re able to build a good relationship with someone whom other people find difficult to deal with, that’s a big accomplishment and puts you in a very strong position. Moreover, these relationships can give you a much wider range of information and helpful advice.
— Is that what happened with the intimidating customer in Osaka?
Igami：Yes. At first, the owner seemed annoyed that I was there and treated me as a nuisance. However, in the end, he was actually asking why I hadn’t been visiting more often. And when I was reassigned and thus no longer needed to visit that shop, they held a farewell party for me, and I realized that we had built interpersonal ties which transcended the standard work relationship. This experience taught me how rewarding and fun sales work can be.
Hope to see the achievement of carbon neutrality. Igami’s motivation for devoting his life to carbon neutrality in Japan
— Carbon neutrality is a daunting goal that’s hard to grasp. How did you feel about it?
Igami：For me personally, this was the perfect thing to devote my life to. I was thrilled when I was assigned to handle carbon-neutral product work, because I had always wanted to do work that contributes to all of society.
— What made you start thinking this way? DENSO is involved mainly in B2B (business-to-business) operations, so contributing to society seems like a very distant and unattainable goal for us.
Igami：I attended a management training school in my 5th year working for my previous company. One of the instructors there told us, “We work in order to serve society as a whole.”
— Those are inspiring words. Did you feel that way at the time?
Igami：When I first heard that, I was not really interested in it. I was involved in sales at the time, simply selling physical products to customers. But when I started to think more deeply about the purpose of my work, it hit me: rather than simply generating revenue for the company, what I really wanted to do was to return those profits to society. I realized that companies whose employees simply work for their own financial gain or higher salaries for their own will eventually be seen as no longer necessary or useful in the eyes of society.
At DENSO, many of our customers are automobile manufacturers, which sell their cars to ordinary people. DENSO may not be selling our products directly to them, but we always have to try to think of them, and to find ways of returning our profits into them as their values. That’s why I was genuinely happy to be reassigned to carbon-neutral product sales.
— We tend to focus on achieving the goals of our tasks at hand, but you realized you should pay your attention to why and for whom you were working, didn’t you?
Igami：Exactly. However, if operations are not organized and executed well, all that effort will be wasted, regardless of however lofty goals you have. Thus I also pay a lot of attention to the right balance between them.
If you only focus on competition and sales at hand, that’s all you’ll be able to do. That’s why I try to envision the future, while taking a step back and viewing the big picture.
— In other words, you want to contribute to both DENSO and society as a whole, as you mentioned earlier. I can see you’re dedicated to carbon neutrality, not just for the sake of appearance. Working together with others to achieve carbon neutrality is a life goal for you, isn’t it?
Igami：I often wonder what the end of my life will be like. In order to feel that my life has been worthwhile when I look back on it, I think it is important to feel that I really contributed to something. If I could say to myself “We did it! We achieved carbon neutrality in Japan in 2050!”, then I could die happy.
— You’re far too young to be thinking about such things!
Igami：Then I’ll stay alive until I see the achievement of the carbon neutrality with my own eyes! [laughs]
Achieving full potential by one’s interests. Workstyle he wants to spread.
— Your passion and motivation have enabled you to boldly pursue this project in line with your life aspirations, and they are highly impressive. What do they come from?
Igami：Well, I think they come from my interest and curiosity to this project. The more I get involved in carbon neutrality measures, the more I become interested in it. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing my job, but like doing my hobby out of personal interests.
As my fascination grows, studying and working hard no longer feels like a burden or a chore. This positive outlook helps me organize my knowledge, and by continually bringing together and interlinking what I learn, I am able to come up with innovative ideas.
Everyone finds almost all their job hard, but if you can find something you love in your job, even if it’s just one tiny part, then you will feel more motivated.
— In other words, even if you don’t like your job, you can find at least one thing that you do like, can’t you?
Igami：Yes, you got it! In my previous job, I hated going to work every day, but eventually I realized there was one part I did enjoy. It was organizing sales floors and product displays at customers’ shops. No matter how tough my job was, I always felt motivated in that one. And as my clients began receiving positive feedback from their customers, clients began asking for me all the time, no matter the costs involved.
My clients said “I will adopt your sales floor ideas to organize it” and “Please propose your ideas however much it costs to organize.”
I realized that I’m happy and can have good results when I do my job with my interests.
— Many employees in DENSO may wonder what they work for. If they could find their interests in their jobs and could fulfill their potentials, it would bring impressive results.
Igami：I agree. I want everyone in my company to find their interests in their jobs and to utilize those to help them work better. That’s why I’m trying to help them fulfil their true potential. Everyone here in DENSO is highly talented in their own ways, so if they are able to find their interests in their work, I think they could make some real differences that change the world.
— I think that your passion to contribute to society is combined with your interests in your job, and it keeps you highly motivated. Thank you for talking with me today. We look forward to your powerful success!
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