American Machine and Foundry Company: Industrial Manufacturer – Proposed Establishment of Formal Training Program

R.R. Woodruff, vice-president of marketing of the Bowling Products Divi­sion of American Machine and Foundry Company, was faced with a deci­sion regarding a proposed new training program for bowling products sales personnel. American Machine and Foundry Company, an old estab­lished manufacturer of several lines of industrial products, had gotten into the bowling market early through the acquisition and manufacture of the first commercially practical automatic pinspotter. The introduction of the automatic pinspotter resulted in a revolution in the bowling industry. Pin boys had always presented a managerial headache for bowling center operators. Unskilled and low-paid, they were unreliable and inefficient employees with a high rate of absenteeism and job turnover. Elimination of pin boys through the use of automatic pinspotters solved an enormous managerial problem and made it possible for bowling center management to expand the size of the typical establishment and devote more time to improving customer service.

In the new millennium, the bowling industry increased enormously in size, and bowling became a major American participation sport. Then, the expansion of the new centers reached a peak, and although expansion continued, it was at a slower rate. As the bowling industry developed and changed, the role of AMF in the industry also grew and changed. AMF gradually broadened its bowling product line to include bowling lanes, seating and other bowling center furnishings, and a complete line of balls, pins, and other items of equipment for the bowler.

The only major competitor in the industry, the Brunswick Corpora­tion, was three years behind AMF in getting an automatic pinspotter on the market; this delay had allowed AMF to capture about half the market. As the market for new bowling installations moved toward saturation and sales of basic equipment dropped to a somewhat lower level, competition became increasingly aggressive. Even so, bowling products still generated about one-third of the company’s $400 million annual sales and more than half the $20 million earnings.

Until recently, bowling division products had been sold by two groups of sales personnel. Equipment, including pinsetters, bowling lanes, and furniture, was sold by bowling equipment salespeople. These people spent part of their time seeking new sources of capital that could be sold on the profitability of building new bowling centers, but they also called regularly on existing lanes to sell equipment for modernization. Supplies, including pins, balls, bowling shoes, lane finishes, and the like, were sold by supply sales personnel who called on bowling centers. Both groups of sales personnel operated out of district sales offices under the direction of district managers. In turn, the fifteen district managers reported to five regional sales managers. In recent years the bowling industry had ceased to be a growth industry, and a larger share of AMF booking sales was concentrated in supplies instead of equipment. As a result, the two sales forces were reorganized into a single sales force of one hundred, with all sales people responsible for selling both equip­ment and supplies.

At the time of the reorganization, it became necessary to provide a program of retraining for the new combination salespeople. Many of the former equipment salespeople had started as supply salespeople, so they needed only a brief review of the current supply line. Most of the ex-supply salespeople, however, were almost completely unfamiliar with the equipment line. Many items of equipment were complex, and their sale or lease required extensive negotiation. For these reasons it would not be easy for the salespeople to train themselves on the new line.

G.Lindsay Crump, vice-president of marketing development, arranged for the development of a two-week retraining program for all sales personnel. This was scheduled in several sessions at the training center in Fort Worth, Texas. This well-equipped training center had origi­nally been established to provide training in bowling center operation for owners and managers of centers. It was located in the same building with a company-owned bowling center, which provided a laboratory for the training program.

Crump suggested to Woodruff that it was time to develop a formal training program for new sales personnel. AMF had never provided formal training for newly hired people. When the company first moved into the bowling business, there was no time to develop salespeople; capable peo­ple, experienced ones when available, were hired and started immediately on the job. Informal training was provided by sales executives and other experienced sales staff. The sales force had grown so large that normal

turnover required the annual indoctrination of enough new salespeople to make it possible to offer formal training classes at least twice a year. In addition, the product line had become so complex that formal training offered an efficient way of presenting product information to large num­bers of new persons. Top management agreed with Crump’s suggestion and asked him to submit a proposal for the training program.

Before he could arrange for the actual development of the new pro­gram, Crump needed to make several broad decisions. These included reaching answers to the following questions:

  1. What should be taught? What information and skills should be provided in the formal training program, and what should be a part of informal training?
  2. How long should the formal program last?
  3. Should formal training be preceded by some sort of indoctrina­tion?
  4. Who should teach in the formal program? (Alternatives included experienced salespeople, sales managers, and professional teachers.)
  5. What teaching methods should be used?
  6. Should the formal program be followed by a period of apprentice­ship? How might this be achieved?
  7. How should coordination be achieved between the formal program and on-the-job training?

Soon after the problem was recognized, Crump arranged a meeting with the director of the training center and with the sales manager, Howard Smith, to prepare a proposal including answers to the questions he had posed.

Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.

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