United Airflow, Inc., was a manufacturer of air conditioners, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, vaporizers, and a variety of other small household appliances. The United sales force consisted of 200 people, accounting for about $125 million net sales volume annually. Thomas Rogers had been a salesperson for United Airflow for eight years, calling on department stores, discount houses, appliance stores, and hardware stores. His territory consisted of the western half of Ohio and southern Michigan. Rogers had been one of the leading salespeople for United Airflow over the past three years, ranking tenth among the entire sales force in sales volume. However, despite favorable business conditions in his territory, Rogers’s performance had fallen off, with a current ranking of thirtieth in the sales force.
The branch sales manager in Toledo, the office from which Rogers worked, had a conference with Rogers to try to uncover the reasons for the sales decline. The sales manager believed that a first step should be to compare Rogers’s daily call reports with the job description of a United Airflow salesperson.
Following is the “Specific Duties and Responsibilities” section of the job description for a United Airflow salesperson:
A. Present and potential customers
- Achieve sales volume goals as determined in cooperation with sales manager.
- Improve dealers’ merchandising methods.
- Call on dealers regularly.
- Introduce new products by discussing with dealers the new products’ selling features, new policies, and new campaigns as they apply to the new products.
- Explain United’s advertising and promotion plans and assist dealers in carrying out local advertising programs, and make sure that all dealers are aware of current United Airflow advertising.
- Provide assistance in inventory control.
- Assist dealers in training salespeople, setting up point-of- purchase displays, solving retail management problems, and provide any other assistance deemed essential for the maintenance of a long-term relationship with customers.
- Provide feedback of information relating to market trends, demand preferences, dealer suggestions, competitive strategies, and all other information thought to be valuable for the preservation of the United sales operation.
- Handle complaints with an absolute minimum of delay and make sure there is a fair settlement.
- Secure new dealers by making a market analysis as suggested on the Potential New Dealer form, including selection of towns in which there is no dealer for United products, observation of competition, selection of most desirable dealer prospect, and presentation of the United Airflow sales program.
B. Contact architects, appliance dealers and installers, contractors, and subcontractors and sell them United products, or sell them on specifying United equipment for installation in new buildings and new homes. Keep these persons informed of new developments in the United Airflow line.
C. Keep abreast of competitive practices and dealers handling competing products by checking resale practices, sales plans, advertising, and new products.
D. Prepare all reports and correspondence promptly so as to maintain their timeliness.
E. Make effective utilization of time, being sure to take advantage of every opportunity which will help to sharpen sales skills and develop better all-around selling ability.
Following are Rogers’ daily call reports for a typical week during the past several months:
Call 1. Nicholson Department Store. United customer. Took order for five Model 78 G9 small vaporizers.
Call 2. Drummond’s Discount Variety. First call on prospective dealer. Interested in carrying toasters and radios. Call back later.
Call 3. Patton and Swain, Architects. Second call. Tried to interest them in United products. Not interested.
Call 4. Hicks Hardware. First call. Tried to interest in our complete line. Possible interest in smallest air-conditioning unit. Call back later.
Call 5. Klein and Sons. Department store. Buyer unavailable.
Call 6. Poindexter Construction Co. Home builder. Completely unapproachable the moment I mentioned United Airflow. Could not get reason.
Call 7. Tufts Hardware. First call. Happy with present line of small appliances and does not want to take on an additional line.
Call 8. Ames and Wade. Discount store. Sales poor in United dehumidifiers and humidifiers, but okay in air conditioning. Thinking of dropping the poor sellers and concentrating on better selling competitors. Will let me know next trip.
Call 1. Sawyer Construction Co. Developers. Tried to interest in air conditioners for apartment building complex. Appeared interested, but said to contact the architect.
Call 2. Hennessy Appliance Outlet. Regular customer. Needed help with a new point-of-purchase display. Couldn’t oblige because of delay in getting the materials from the Promotion Department. Upset, but placed normal monthly order.
Call 3. Feinberg’s, Inc., department store. Regular customer. Business slow, but expect it to get better.
Call 4. Herb’s Hardware. Regular customer. Sales call interrupted when a long-lost pal of Herb’s appeared on the scene.
Call 5. Skinner’s Discount. Regular customer. Overstocked at present.
Call 6. Glick and Sons, department store. Regular customer. Took big order. Sales good. Complained about lack of advertising support by United.
Call 7. Cambridge Appliances. First call. Buyer too busy. Call back later. Call 8. Franklin Hardware. First call. Has nothing in this product line, but is expanding store and seems interested in carrying these products. Has been contacted by two competitors. Will call back.
Call 9. Horwitz, Inc. Regular customer. Buyer out all week.
Call 10. Drucker and Hayes. Regular customer. Small order for vaporizers.
Call 1. Bosco and Baron. Large department store. Regular customer. Carries most complete offering of anyone in territory. Reviewed advantages of United Airflow products.
Call 2. Page’s Bargainland. First call. Is in process of eliminating slow movers and not interested in taking on any new brands.
Call 3. Alberts and Machen. Architects for Sawyer Construction Co. Already placed order with competitor for 300 air-conditioning units for Sawyer’s new apartments. Expressed little interest for future orders.
Call 4. Callahan’s. First call. New discount store in Northeast Mall. Will consider. Call back later.
Call 5. Kirshner Associates. Shopping center developer. Has plans for new center. Call back later.
Call 6. Frost Brothers Appliances. Store closed. Reason unknown.
Call 7. Gridiron State University. First call. Done business with competitor for years and happy.
Call 1. Thompson’s Hardware. Regular customer. Not opened yet.
Call 2. Glenn and Driscoll. Regular customer. Buyer out.
Call 3. Frank’s Greasy Spoon. First call. Will consider an air conditioner. Business slow. Call back later.
Call 4. Callahan Excavating. Building five homes now. Would like to install United air-conditioning units but complained about price.
Call 5. Snell, Bascom, and Birch. Real-estate developers. Used to be good customers but switched purchases to competitor for unstated reason. Happy with present supplier.
Call 6. Davis Stores, department store. Regular customer. Worked with three salespeople on selling techniques.
Call 7. Hardiman’s Discount store. Occasional customer. Business booming. No order as don’t want to change anything while business is good.
Call 8. Hoffman’s House of Appliances. Regular customer. Complained about lack of good salespeople. No order.
Spent morning in weekly sales meeting at branch sales office. Made first call at 2:00 p.m.
Call 1. Vishrut’s Appliance Store. Regular customer. Took small order.
Call 2. Swast’s Appliances. Regular customer. Complained about competitive dealers’ pricing tactics. Wondered if he could get United air conditioners, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, and vaporizers at lower prices.
Call 3. Roper and Sons. Appliance store. Regular customer. Buyer out.
Call 4. John’s. Department store. First call. Buyer out.
Call 5. Jeter and Jones. Hardware store. Regular customer. No order.
Call 6. Hoffman’s House of Appliances. Regular customer. Owner-buyer out.
Compare the daily call reports of Thomas Rogers with the job description of a United Airflow salesperson. What strengths and weaknesses are apparent from the comparison? How he could do it differently?
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.