SPECIALTY SPORTS INC.
Specialty Sports Inc. (SSI) is a California-based supplier of custom-made novelty sports items such as bobble-head figures, caps, sunglasses, and sweatshirts. Most of SSI's sales are to medium-sized businesses that use SSI products in employee motivation programs or as specialty advertising giveaways. SSI has been in business for 40 years, and has an excellent reputation as a reliable, competitive supplier. SSI has built a successful business across the United States. SSI sales representatives are knowledgeable and can advise their customers about how to use specialty advertising to build employee morale, introduce new products, and reinforce brand images.
Jeff Weatherby had recently been assigned to the Indianapolis territory. Although this was his first sales job, he felt confident and was eager to begin. Jeff had just completed SSI's training program and had a good understanding of SSI's products and the sales process. For most sales situations, SSI's sales trainers had recommended the use of an organized sales presentation in which the salesperson organizes the key points into a planned sequence that allows for adaptive behavior by the salesperson as the sales call progresses.
Jeff had been in his territory for 60 days, and he was enjoying his job. Days passed quickly, and he was never bored. He had landed some major customers, but was frustrated at how long it took some customers to make a buying decision. Overall, he thought he was doing a good job and the feedback form Felicia Jameson, his sales manager, had been consistently positive. Jeff tried to be honest with himself as a way of improving his performance, and he was not happy as he reviewed today's last sales call.
Jeff had called on H2G, a large manufacturer of garden tools. He intended to sell H2G several specialty advertising items to be used as giveaways at major trade shows in the coming year. After researching H2G on the Internet, he arranged a 4:00pm meeting with Greg Cox, the director of marketing. Throughout the day, Jeff was running late due to an unexpected snow storm and heavy traffic. He called to let Greg know that he would be late, but the best he could do was to leave a message. Jeff arrived 15 minutes late, and was relieved to be shown into Greg's office without delay.
Jeff apologized to Greg about running late, and was surprised to learn that Greg had not received his message. Jeff was irritated that his message had not been passed along, but Greg did not seem to mind, indicating that he had plenty of time to meet with Jeff. Given this signal, Jeff decided to give Greg an overview of SSI's capabilities and success stories. Fifteen minutes later, Greg interrupted Jeff and the following dialogue ensued.
Greg: Thanks for the overview, Jeff. I had a pretty good idea what SSI offers, but some of what you told me might be helpful. What have you learned about H2G that makes you think that SSI would be a good fit for our trade show programs?
Jeff: Well, I know that H2G participates in two national shows and several regional shows every year.
Greg: That's right, and we work really hard to stand out at those shows.
Jeff: What works well for you in terms of standing out at the shows?
Greg: Having a terrific, eye-catching product display is key. Doing a lot of pre-show communications to be sure key buyers visit our booths, and being sure we have enough people on hand to sustain a high-energy atmosphere during the show.
Jeff: How about specialty advertising to spice things up, maybe add to the fun element?
Greg: I am not sure what you mean. We have wasted a lot of money on giveaways in the past and I don't believe that it differentiates us from our competitors.
Jeff: That's because you haven't worked with SSI. We're the best and I can fill you in on how we can add sizzle to your trade shows.
Greg: O.K., but I just remembered that I need to pick my daughter up after her piano lesson. With the snow and traffic, that leaves us about 15 minutes.
Jeff proceeded to describe how SSI works with most of their customers to supplement trade show communications. He felt rushed, as there were a lot of alternatives depending on the customer's budget and objectives for each trade show. About 10 minutes into his monologue, Greg told Jeff: "Thanks for coming today. We will talk about this internally and I will get back with you if we decide to do more with specialty advertising this year. I really do have to run now. Sorry."
As Jeff drove home, he realized that he had never asked Greg about H2G's trade show objectives or their budget. With the abrupt end to the meeting, he also failed to try to get another appointment with Greg Cox. Jeff realized that his call with H2G was not his best performance.
If you were Jeff's sales manager, what would you recommend he do to improve his chances of succeeding?