Colonial Heritage Furniture Company: Manufacturer of Traditional American Furniture – Opening a New Account

The salesperson in this case, Jack Leonard, was employed by the Colonial Heritage Furniture Company, an old and well-known manufacturer of tra­ditional American furniture. The prospect, Frank O’Keefe, was the owner and manager of O’Keefe Home Furnishings, a medium-sized, high quality retail furniture store in Waco, Texas. The sales interview recorded here took place late on a Wednesday afternoon.

Leonard: Mr. O’Keefe? Good afternoon. I’m Jack Leonard from the Colonial Heritage Furniture Division of North Carolina Wood Product Indus­tries. (Hands prospect a business card.)

O’Keefe: Hmm! I’ve heard of your line. Caswell Interiors are your exclusive franchised dealers in Waco, aren’t they?

Leonard: Well… that’s what I’m here to see you about, Mr. O’Keefe. We are interested in opening a new account in Waco, and we would like very much to have our line represented in your store. You see, Mr. O’Keefe, we feel that Caswell is not doing a good enough job to warrant an exclusive franchise. Waco now has a population of over 150,000 and 10             we think more Colonial Heritage Furniture should be sold here.

O’Keefe: About three years ago, when I was interested in handling your line, I wrote to your firm. The answer I got was that Caswell was your exclusive dealer here and that I could refer my customers there if I so desired.

Leonard: Three years ago, we had just opened their account. It would not have been fair to sell you any merchandise at that time. They gave us a large opening order with the understanding that they would be our only agency in the city. But they have done very little with our furniture, and conditions do not seem to be improving. We have been extremely patient and understanding with them. We missed a lot of business because we were loyal to Caswell. After three years’ time, we feel justified in opening another account.

O’Keefe: If they couldn’t do anything with your furniture, why should I want it? I thought it was a good line to handle, but if Caswell has done as little with it as you say, evidently it isn’t.

Leonard: It’s true Caswell was unsuccessful with Colonial Heritage, but I am certain you would do very well with it. (Looks around store.)

I see you feature all the other well-known brands of traditional fur­niture Caswell didn’t. It was the only traditional furniture they car­ried. They specialize primarily in modern furniture, so they have given little attention to our line. Customers like to buy where they can look over a large selection. You can have a much wider selec­tion by adding our lines to your stock. To assure sales acceptance, each furniture line is consumer tested before it is introduced to our accounts. Our furniture is advertised in seven magazines: House Beautiful, House and Garden, Better Homes and Gardens, Living for Young Homemakers, Good Housekeeping, for the southern market in Southern Living, and for the Texas market in Texas Monthly. We have a complete assortment of furniture—living room, dining room, and bedroom to match each of our lines. This helps you obtain a larger share of the Colonial Heritage business.

O’Keefe: All the brands I carry are mine exclusively in Waco. If I can have Colonial Heritage exclusively I’m interested. But I don’t want it if it is going to be sold in anyother store. My advertising and promotion would help Caswell’s business. As long as Caswell has your brand, there is no advantage in my having it. With all my other brands, once a sale has been made on certain pieces of furniture in a line, it is more than likely that the customer will fill out their furniture needs with matching pieces in the same line in my store.

Leonard: I agree. I would close their account today if it were the right thing to do. But that would cause Caswell to have animosity toward you and toward Colonial Heritage. I would prefer dropping them more gradually. If you take on the line, I think it only fair for me to go to Caswell right away to inform them of the fact. If they want to discontinue handling my line, that will be fine for you and for me. If they decide to keep it, I will see that their name is removed from our mailing list, and I will not call on them personally in the future. Their only way of ordering will be by mail or at the furniture mart, and, since they will not be up to date on current information, merchandise, and prices, my line should die a slow death in their store. They will be anxious to close the account.

O’Keefe: I don’t know what lines and pieces within lines would prob­ably sell much better than others, and I don’t want to tie up any money in slow-moving stock.

Leonard: I’ll make an exception to company policy in your case and take back any items you find are not selling for the first six months. I want to do everything in my power to work with you and build up a fine trade for Colonial Heritage Furniture in Waco.

O’Keefe: Sounds fair enough to me, but if you want me to do a real selling job for Colonial Heritage, how about giving me some ideas for pro­ moting your furniture? I’ve been using the same ads and displays over and over, year after year, and I’d like some new and different ideas on the display and promotion.

Leonard: It will be a pleasure, Mr. O’Keefe, to be of assistance to such an alert business man. First of all, here is a promotional program directed at all new households in your community. It involves mailings to all new residents in the community, identified through arrangements with realtors, welcome wagons, and major employers, and to prospective brides, identified through engagement and wedding announcements. Second, is the development of card files on past customers with records of past purchases. Before Christmas, birthdays, and anniversaries, letters are written to each customer with catalogues and suggestions of fill-in purchases. We have standard letters for a number of occasions that can be typed on programmable typewriters for newcomers, brides to be, and so forth.

O’Keefe: I’d like a copy of each of the letters, and I think the purchase record cards are an excellent idea. If they’re not overly expensive, I’d 75 like to order a thousand.

Leonard: They’re only 5 cents a card, or $40 for 1,000. Would you like that many?
(Gives letters to prospect and puts order pad on counter.)

O’Keefe: By all means, they’ll be very useful.

Leonard: Here is another idea introduced by Colonial Heritage Company. (Pulls an adout of briefcase and places it on the counter.) This is a most effective way to advertise. It is similar to the testimonial ads featuring 80  movie stars and athletes, but this one has a photograph of one of your own customers, with a write-up about the customer and a pic­ture of an attractively furnished room in the customer’s house that features your furniture. This tells readers where they can select their furniture—often with the hope that their pictures will get in future ads.

Here are a few examples that some of my accounts have been using. (Shows additional examples.) If you like, you may keep these samples. (Hands samples to prospect.) They will give you an idea of the layout and copy of such an ad.

O’Keefe: Now that’s a very good idea. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m sure, we canmake use of it in our ads right away.

Leonard: I think it will be very attractive in the newspapers, and it should be an excellent way to keep your name in the public eye. We have a film in color, twenty minutes long, entitled, “Furniture and decora­tion make a home a Showplace,” that you can borrow any time. It is a good movie to show at women’s clubs, at high school sorority meetings, and at classes of home economics students. Perhaps you or one of your employees can introduce the film and answer ques­tions after it is shown to each group.

O’Keefe: I’ll make a record of that. It could be useful.

Leonard: Fine! Please give us a week’s notice for delivery, if you decide to use it.

O’Keefe: Thanks. I will.

Leonard: Now here are some very effective booklets by B. J. Valenti, part of a series entitled “Sell Traditional Home Furnishings.” (Hands book­lets to prospect.) One is on the policies and history of the Colonial Heritage Furniture Company, another is entitled, “Planning Sales to Promote Furniture,” one is called “Displaying to Promote Furniture,” and one is a sales manual, “Modern Selling of Furniture.” Those an my personal copies. Unfortunately, these are all out of print. If you and your employees would like to read them, I’ll be happy to lend them to you. I’ll pick them up the next time I call.

O’Keefe: Well, I doubt if I’ll have time to read them, but I would like the rest of my people to look them over. I’ll see that you get them back on your next trip.

Leonard: Thank you. There is a very good pre-Christmas coffee and end table promotion that you can probably use. I’ll send you some liter­ature on it in plenty of time for Christmas. The local brides-to-be are offered a free consultation by your decorator on their first home or apartment. This plan really helps you make a whale of a lot of sales. I suggest you give this careful consideration. It has been a real moneymaker for many of our customers. With a good follow-up, I think it will bring in a lot of business.

O’Keefe: It sounds interesting. I’ll keep it in mind.

Leonard: And now—last but not least—we have a truly wonderful plan, one that will establish your store permanently as Waco’s leading furniture dealer. It is a timeconsuming, costly promotion, but it is one that will bring you immeasurable goodwill and future business. The plan I am referring to is a room decorating contest and exhibit It is a contest in which you contact officers of all the local ladies’ clubs and suggest that each group submit a winning room in a home. The vari­ous clubs compete for cash prizes to be given for originality, beauty, and style. This winning room is described and shown in pictures in the local newspaper. These furniture promotions have been tremen­dously successful all over the country. When and if you are ready to plan one, just call on me to help you organize it. I helped run the contest by Thompson and Randolph. Here is the photograph of the write-up of the winning room. (Shows photograph to prospect.) Their trade has really gone up since that contest. This booklet will give you many of the details. (Hands booklet to prospect.) It also suggests that you write to some of the furniture retailers who have used the promotion for their advice and suggestions. Well, what do you think?

O’Keefe: That’s certainly an original idea. Right now I don’t think I want to plan anything that expensive. But, perhaps after Christmas, when business is slow, I can plan a room decorating contest.

Leonard: Surely. Just call on all your sales representatives for assistance. I know they’ll all be glad to help make it the success it should be. Now, about that opening order?

O’Keefe: I don’t know exactly what I want. What do you recommend?

Leonard: If it’s O.K. with you, I’ll write my own order. It will be a small one. I’m more interested in repeat business than I am in loading you up with a large opening order. I can bring in a copy of the order I write the first thing tomorrow morning, and you can confirm it then. (Leonard looks at clock on store wall.) I see it’s closing time, and I don’t want to take any more of your time today. Besides, I want to decide carefully on the lines that should be the best for you.

O’Keefe: That will be fine. I’ll be seeing you in the morning any time after 9:30.

Leonard: Thank you very much, Mr. O’Keefe. (Shakes hands.) It’s been a pleasure talking to you, and I know you will always be pleased that you took on the Colonial Heritage line. Goodbye, see you in the morning.

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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