Sales Policies

CENTROID COMPUTER CORPORATION: THE NEW SALES

MANAGER

Centroid Computer Corporation is a Dallas-based manufacturer of personal computers, monitors, interactive terminals, disk drives, and printers. In the past five years, Centroid has expanded into the development of a variety of software packages for small businesses. The firm’s growth in the past three years can only be described as explosive—Centroid sales have grown from less than $32 million to over $98 million. Centroid distributes its products through office supply wholesalers and large retailers. It also has a sales force of fifty-two salespeople who call directly on small businesses up and down the East Coast. Most major metropolitan cities have at least one Centroid salesperson assigned, and a few have two. There are four regional sales managers and one national sales manager.

Six months ago Alan Champion was promoted to regional sales manager for the southeastern region. Alan grew up in Athens, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Georgia. He spent two years with IBM as a salesperson and then joined Centroid three years ago. He was based in Atlanta and has consistently been among the top five salespersons in the company, winning sales awards every year. Alan’s region includes Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. As regional sales manager, Alan must supervise fourteen salespeople in the seven states. He is also permitted to do some personal selling himself, but his primary responsibility is managing the sales force. Since being promoted to sales manager, Alan has spent a great deal of time in the field working with his salespeople. His years of selling computers have given him many innovative ideas, and he wants to pass along his insights so that all his salespeople can perform better. Alan typically spends two or three days per month with each salesperson, showing them how to best approach customers and negotiate sales.

Since Alan was such a “supersalesperson,” his national sales manager saw little need to train him after his promotion to sales manager. Besides, the company is so busy handling the rapid sales growth that little thought has been given to training needs for sales managers. The firm has been promoting outstanding salespeople like Alan to sales manager mainly because it knows people like him can teach the sales force how to sell. In the past few months, the national sales manager has received a couple of complaints from salespeople in the southeastern region about Alan’s spending so much time with them. In fact, they said that several times, Alan actually made the sales presentations to their customers for them. Some salespeople say that he is confusing their customers and belittling their efforts.

One of the salespeople complained that she now has a credibility problem with several clients. She stated, “When we made sales calls together, he would allow me to take the lead and handle the call as I normally would. And that was fine, but the perception of the prospects was that Alan was there to observe and evaluate me. Three of my most promising clients asked why Alan was not satisfied with my performance.” Other salespeople offered similar comments and even reported that if Alan disapproved of their presentation, he would take over right in the middle so that “it was clear he was there to teach me a lesson.” One salesperson said that Alan’s manner was so negative that one of her customers asked: “Was your boss here to help you sell us equipment or to put you in your place?”

Questions

1. Do you believe Alan is doing a good job in his new sales management position? Why or why not?

2. Describe the functions Alan should be performing as sales manager. What should the approximate allocation of his time be in performing these functions?

3. Do you believe that Alan’s behavior will have a long-term negative effect on those salespeople who have had a problem with his way of field supervision and training? If so, what could Alan do to moderate the situation?

4. How could technology be used here? As the national sales manager, how would you handle this problem with Alan?

5. Do the issues in this case raise any ethical concerns that the national sales manager should consider? If yes, how would you suggest handling those concerns?

Case prepared by Andy Wood, West Virginia University.

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